Many air conditioners manufactured before 2015 use a refrigerant called R-22, more commonly known by its brand name, Freon. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reclassified R-22 as a Class II ozone depleting substance, and all air conditioners manufactured after 2015 must use more environmentally friendly refrigerants such as R-410A. By 2020 new EPA regulations will prohibit manufacturing or importing R-22 for use in the United States.
It’s no surprise that because of the new regulations, the price of R-22 has been on the rise, making it quite a bit more expensive to repair and recharge air conditioners that use it. If you have an older unit and want to keep it working, you will have to act quickly. To find out if your air conditioner uses R-22 simply check the label on the outside compressor. Unless it is missing or faded, it should display the type of refrigerant being used. If the label is unreadable, try to get the model and or serial number and contact the manufacturer for more information.
What Are My Options?
The good news is that If your air conditioner uses R-22, there are still a few options available. The first is to contact an HVAC contractor immediately to check for any small leaks that might be occurring. These can be easily fixed and should prolong the life of your unit in the short term. This will preserve your refrigerant which soon will be nearly impossible to find.
You might have another choice if your unit is newer and has the right type of coils. Since 2005 many equipment manufacturers have been making coils that are compatible with both R-22 and R-410A. By 2010 all air conditioners being made in the US were made to use R410A only. If your current unit can handle the newer refrigerant, your contractor may be able to clean the coils and either replace or adjust its expansion device to make the upgrade.
Of course, the final option which you probably want to avoid is to replace your system. If it is over 20 years old, and your cooling costs have been on the rise, this is probably the best choice. A newer unit will likely be more efficient, and you will be able to say that you’ve done your bit to help save the environment.
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