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Graphic image showing options for how to deal with old AC unit when R22 restrictions start in 2020

2020 Environmental Rules & Your AC

How the Phase Out of R22 Refrigerant is Going to Affect Your Air Conditioning System

This latest environmental restriction will impact homeowners in the Midwest and beyond

For many years now, there have been a number of efforts made to correct the issues with the air conditioners that we use. The main issue is something that has contributed to depleting our ozone layer. This problem has to do with R22 – a specific refrigerant that our AC systems use in order to make sure cool air is traveling throughout our homes. It is not only affecting homeowners in cities like Kansas City. This is a significant issue with many of the air-conditioning systems all over the U.S. and even globally. Other countries have been working on arriving at the best solutions in order to minimize the levels of ozone-harming refrigerants for decades. But here in Missouri and across the United States, one of the first major restrictions is about to begin on January 1, 2020.

What Exactly Is R22?

R22 is better known as Freon (the registered trademark name of the DuPont Corporation), but goes by the scientific name of chlorodifluoromethane. The product was initially introduced in the 50s and soon turned into the most sought-after refrigerant type used for the units in residential houses by the air and heating industry. At the time, it was also regarded as an alternative and improved solution to the environment from other refrigerants that were in use, such as CFC-12 and CFC-11. When gases from CFC-12 and CFC-11 were released, they reached our upper atmosphere, which depleted the ozone-layer which performs the role of protecting the surface of the Earth from dangerous UV radiation.

Despite the fact that R22 was contributing in less of a way to depleting the ozone layer, it is still adding to depleting our ozone, and at the levels that are now determined as too great. In fact, R22 is linked to a risk that is 1800 times higher when compared to CO2 when it comes to adding to “Global Warming”. This is also not one of the new realizations. Since the year 2010, regulation has been implemented that prohibited any equipment produced after this date from using R22 refrigerant. Yet this was only for the U.S. In England, restrictions on R22 started back in 2000, which is already 10 years ahead of the American restrictions. In fact, 5 years back, they had already phased out R22 use completely. This means that any equipment that breaks that uses this refrigerant will have to be replaced with a system that doesn’t use it.

Even though current European Union restrictions are much more stringent when compared to what the U.S requires, homeowners in America may face challenges and potential big air conditioning costs in 2020.

Over the last decade in the U.S., equipment that uses R22 has still been permitted to be serviced and operate, provided that the equipment wasn’t leaking. However, this is about to come to an end. With the January 1, 2020 deadline, R22 is going to be discontinued permanently. What this ultimately means is that R22 will no longer be made to use in the servicing AC systems that use and require this fluid. However, R22 refrigerant in a recycled form might still be available. But the prediction on how long this supply is going to last is unknown.

Will This Affect My HVAC System?

If your HVAC system is 10 years of age or older, and you had the unit installed before 2010, it is likely that the system operated on R22. If your system is 17 years of age, then it is almost guaranteed that your system uses R22. 2003 was the initial year when they started to phase out equipment using R22.

This may be a daunting reality for a number of homeowners. For those of you with cooling systems that have just passed the 10 years’ mark, you may likely be finding that your aging system now requires a maintenance and service schedule at a time when this refrigerant is about to become practically unavailable.

How To Detect Whether Your AC System Uses R22

It should be a simple process to check whether your AC system uses R22 refrigerant. Check the nameplate which is usually located on the condenser (for an outdoor AC unit) to find out what refrigerant is listed. You can also refer to the user manual to obtain this information. If you require assistance on finding out what your AC system runs off or the best solution if your air-conditioner runs on R22, you can contact us for AC service online or call us at (816) 920-5955. We will gladly assist you in finding the ideal solution to suit your home and budget.

Does This Situation Feel Familiar?

Photo of a 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera sedanIf you are in your 50s or older, then you may recall when a refrigerant that was used in air-conditioners in cars was suddenly stopped. In the late part of the 80s, R-12 use was quickly phased out. Drivers at the time had to make the choice to either upgrade their cars in order to stop using this refrigerant, or many were faced with paying costs that continued to increase to use that refrigerant.

What Refrigerant Will Replace R22?

The replacement for R22 is R410A. R-410A is a product that doesn’t contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. It is mostly commonly referred to as Puron®, which is one of the popular R410A brands. However, R410A is also produced by a number of other companies and it is advertised and sold under different names. It was patented and invented in 1991, by a company known as Honeywell. Yet they are not the sole producers of R-410A. This product is produced by several counties across the globe.

Do I Have Any Options For My Old AC Unit?

To put things into perspective, your options are pretty limited at this stage. This is similar to how the owners of cars were faced with the harsh reality of very few options in the 80s, which both ended up in extra costs. Homeowners of today with older AC units are about to experience a very similar situation.

You Are Unable To Purchase R22 Yourself
You are not allowed to buy R22 by yourself in your attempts to find the best deal. You will not be able to find this product on Amazon or at your local hardware store. Only licensed technicians that are EPA-certified are able to obtain R22. It is also important that you understand that the price of R22 is going to increase drastically to accommodate the added costs of the latest regulations on how to recycle R22.

You Are Not Able To Swap R22 With Another Refrigerant
It is not possible to simply replace the refrigerant in your AC system if it runs off R22. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Different types of refrigerants require certain part types in order to operate. While there is the possibility of asking an HVAC technician to adapt your system so that it can run off another refrigerant, the overall costs involved when choosing this solution will end up costing the same amount of money to just replace your AC system for a new one. There are also other issues surrounding attempting to retrofit an AC system in order to accommodate a different refrigerant. For example, your manufacturer’s warranty may fall away when you make these changes.

Graphic image showing options for how to deal with old AC unit when R22 restrictions start in 2020

What Is Your Best Option?

It basically involves choosing one of three options. If your AC unit is still running and operating well, then you can choose to continue using it as you’ve been doing. However, when your system starts needing repairs and the repair involves using R22, you will need to choose which option is the right one for your wallet, your home, and the way you are impacting the environment.

  1. The first option is to continue using your AC unit along with recycled R22 refrigerant which is still allowed, provided it is still available. Over the next few months or years, you will start to notice that the price of R22 is going to increase greatly as this supply starts to run out. So repairs on your AC will start to cost a lot more than what you were used to paying.
  2. You can choose to retrofit your current AC system so that it can run off a replacement refrigerant like R410A. However, this is not a simple fixe. Replacing parts may cost you a lot of money, and often times this cost is not a lot less than just buying an entirely new AC system.
  3. You can choose to have a new AC system installed. This may be the option that costs the most, well at least to begin with. Yet your concerns about having to face the increasing expenses of R22 or having to eventually replace an old AC system will be completely handled.

Don’t Get Caught In The Heat Of Summer Waiting For A Repair

Photo of R-Mech AC technician working on air conditioner condenser unitThe best way to ensure you address this change is by not waiting until the summer of 2020. If you’re facing the reality of having to upgrade your cooling system with a new air conditioning installation, we recommend contacting our HVAC company in winter or the early part of spring.

It’s often those first few hot days of Kansas City when homeowners first realize that something is not right with their AC unit. And that’s when they call us. So those first weeks of summer is when we are at our busiest, and this often means that a lot of homeowners have to wait a number of days suffering in the Missouri heat until we are able to repair their units. Call us while the weather is still mild and we will be able to service your air contioning system right away!

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We offer 24/7 Emergency Service to all of our customers. You can always count on R-Mech Experts to get to you fast and get the job done right the first time. We use state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to find the source of your heating and air conditioning problems and fix them fast.