If your home has an air conditioner that is more than a few years old, it most likely uses a refrigerant called R-22, which is more commonly called Freon. This once-common refrigerant is rapidly becoming quite rare.
Freon is a chemical known as an HCFC (hydrochlorofluorocarbon). HCFCs work well for cooling the inside of your home, but when released into the atmosphere they can contribute to global warming. Freon’s impact on global warming is 1,800 times as large as that of the same quantity of carbon dioxide, and it is also known to damage the ozone layer. So, as part of the Montreal Protocol, Freon and other HCFCs are being discontinued as air conditioning refrigerants.
The first step in that process was to stop making air conditioners that use Freon. New A/C units today use more environmentally friendly refrigerants. However, most existing air conditioners still use Freon, which means they are impacted by the current phase-out process of reducing and eventually stopping the production of Freon. In the past few months alone, these heavy cuts in production have led to Freon shortages, and there hasn’t always been enough R-22 to service all the air conditioners that still use it. These Freon shortages have also caused the price of Freon to go through the roof, and it now costs two to three times what it did in 2011.
Homeowners with R-22 air conditioners are left with three options:
- pay much, much more for Freon as it becomes a rarer and rarer commodity.
- convert their A/C units to run on a different refrigerant such as R-410A.
- replace their A/C with a new system that does not use Freon.
Because R-410A is much cheaper than R-22 and because new air conditioners are usually more energy efficient, the long-term costs of a new system can often be cheaper than repairing an outdated A/C.
For more information about your air conditioner options, please feel free to contact us.