How to Prepare for the r22 Refrigerant Phase Out

As the home air conditioning industry works to phase out the use of r22 refrigerant, many homeowners may be asking what they can do to assure themselves they aren’t going to be left in the heat next summer. The industry has been slowly changing from r22 to r410a refrigerant since 2004, when the United States was mandated to reduce its use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons by 35 percent.

Even though chemical companies will not be able to produce more r22 refrigerant it will still be available for repair purposes through the year 2020. Repair companies will be able to us recaptured r22 to provide service to their customers, but once the supply of the recycled r22 is depleted it is gone forever. Homeowners will need to have their air conditioning units switched over to units that are capable of using r410a refrigerant.

Unfortunately, it isn’t just a matter of cleaning out the old refrigerant and replacing it. The refrigerant r410a operates under higher pressure and equipment used in many air conditioners manufactured prior to 2010 unusable.

What’s a homeowner to do?

If your air conditioner is functioning properly, there really isn’t anything you have to do immediately. R22 will be available for another eight years if you need a recharge or your system develops a leak. Keep in mind that the price of r22 refrigerant is rapidly going up, currently about three times as expensive as it was last year, and will likely continue to increase until it is phased out completely.

By 2015 the United States is required to cut the use of r22 by 90 percent and by 2020 its use must be reduced by 99.5 percent. Again, it will still be available through companies licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency to capture and store reclaimed refrigerant, but manufacturers will no longer be allowed to produce it and it will be banned from import.

Steps you can take

Those concerned about the future of their air conditioning systems should look at the age of their air conditioner and know what type of refrigerant it requires. Air conditioners manufactured after 2010 will use the r410a refrigerant and will be no issues in the future, as far as getting service. If, however it is considerably older and uses r22 refrigerant there is a distinct possibility that it will require serving in the near future, possibly in the next cooling season, and a decision will need to be made on whether to have it serviced or replaced.

To make your air conditioning unit run at its peak performance and to reduce operating costs, in addition to having it serviced annually you can take a few steps:

  • Use a programmable thermostat, to reduce cooling costs
  • Check attic and wall insulation and add more if needed
  • Keep blinds closed in areas of the house that receive more direct sun
  • Humidity comes in through doors and windows: keep them closed
  • Ceilings fans can help distribute cooler air

Considering the rising cost of the soon to be outlawed r22 refrigerant it may be less expensive in the long run to replace your unit. Today, many systems also meet the government Energy Star rating that can reduce energy consumption between 10 and 40 percent. With older systems; it may be time for a change.

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