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Everything You Need to Know About the Impending Freon (R22) Phase Out

Do you have an older air conditioner model? If so, it might be time to start looking for a newer model. Why? Many older air conditioners use a refrigerant that will soon be illegal – and unavailable. To avoid air conditioning interruptions, here’s what you need to know.

What is R22?

R22, also known as Freon, is a chemical substance that cools the air your air conditioner outputs. It was at one point the leading AC refrigerant in the residential heating and cooling industry but has recently been targeted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as unsafe for the environment.

When and why is R22 becoming illegal?

R22 has been recognized worldwide as a chemical that has harmful effects on Earth’s ozone layer. The U.S. EPA has initiated a phase-out of R22 and many other non-eco-friendly chemicals as part of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement aimed at preventing ozone depletion. The phase-out makes R22 illegal, and it will not be able to be manufactured or imported into the US.

R22’s phase out began in small steps over a decade ago, but it will be enforced legally starting January 1, 2020. After that date, air conditioners that use Freon will not be able to have their refrigerant stores replenished during maintenance and emergency repairs. To be clear, only the R22 chemical itself will be illegal, not the air conditioning units that use on it.

How do I know if my air conditioner uses R22?

Freon was used in most air conditioners between 1950 and 2010. So, if your air conditioning system was manufactured before 2010, there’s a good chance it uses R22.

To definitively find out the type of refrigerant your system runs on, look at the AC’s nameplate (usually found on the outdoor condenser of the system). Or, look in the system’s user manual. If neither of those are viable options or you still can’t find the refrigerant type, reach out to your local Alliance Expert technicians – we can tell you if your system uses R22 with a simple inspection. 

What does this mean for my air conditioning unit?

If your unit runs on R22, the phase-out means that your air conditioner becomes obsolete. Its refrigerant cannot be replaced during maintenance or emergency repairs come January 1, 2020. That’s obviously a problem: The refrigerant is responsible for cooling the air your air conditioner outputs. For reference, except for a few simple electrical issues, most AC repairs do require a technician to add refrigerant to the system. And of course, fixing a full-on refrigerant leak problem would be completely impossible.

Up until the new year, the refrigerant is available in limited quantities for homeowners to make immediate repairs to their AC unit. However, as we get closer to the phase-out date, the availability of R22 will decrease and prices will skyrocket, making repairs extremely costly.

What are my options?

If your air conditioner uses R22, you have three options:

  ● Do nothing and wait until your system breaks down, at which point you will need to replace it

  ● Upgrade your existing system with a retrofit for an approved refrigerant (the new standard is called Puron)

  ● Proactively replace your entire AC unit with one that uses an approved refrigerant and is environmentally-friendly

At Alliance Expert, we understand that this phase-out will cause a lot of headache for homeowners, costing them time, money and energy. As your trusted heating and air conditioning system experts, we believe that honesty and transparency is the best policy. We cannot stress enough how important it is to get on top of the R22 phase-out and begin looking for a new, environmentally system today. 

As experts in the heating and cooling industry, we cannot recommend the first option. If you wait until your system breaks down, you run the risk of an emergency air conditioner replacement – which is both costly and a hassle. You’ll have to quickly choose a new system without time to do research and hope that a technician is available the same day or week to install it. The last appointment will likely cost you extra money, and in the interim, your family’s comfort will be in jeopardy.

Likewise, we cannot recommend a retrofit option. Many homeowners’ first instinct will be to retrofit because it sounds like the path of least resistance, like it could save time, energy and money. That is not the case. A retrofit option will likely be more expensive in the long run than replacing the entire system, because homeowners will pay a premium for parts and labor for a refrigerant retrofit will be costly. Additionally, converting a system from Freon to Puron will require a technician to replace the most expensive components of the system just to  make the system compatible with the pressure level required for the new refrigerant. And if this step is not taken in an attempt to save money on a retrofit, the system will end up failing and will need to be replaced quickly, anyways.

Don’t wait: Avoid an emergency!

The best option available to homeowners with an AC that uses R22 is a total system replacement, and the time to act is now. Being proactive about searching for a new system and scheduling an installation will give you more control over your family’s comfort. As we near the January 1 phase-out date, AC replacement systems and installation appointments will become harder and harder to find.

Alliance Expert knows how inconvenient this news is for homeowners, and we are here to help! Our technicians are standing by to help you find and install a new, eco-friendly AC system. Give us a call with any questions you might have.

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