The battle to take care of the environment is no more being fought at an individual level. Even big brands and government organizations have joined hands to make big changes. One such change that is bound to affect many people is the ban on R-22 refrigerant, which is used in the cooling systems.
What Is R-22?
Also known as “Freon”, R-22 is the most commonly used coolant or refrigerant in the air conditioners. It is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon or HCFC. It is both non-toxic and non-inflammable and, as a result, considered safe for domestic and industrial use.
Why The Ban On R-22 (Freon)?
Though considered safe for domestic and industrial use, R-22 is still being phased out. The reason is that it has a high ozone depletion potential. It is a greenhouse gas that is 1810 times powerful than carbon dioxide. At a time when everybody is trying to safeguard the environment, continuing to use R-22 can set back their efforts.
EPA Phase-Out Plan For R-22 (Freon)
The Environment Protection Agency of the US has scheduled a fixed phase-out plan for R-22. Here is a glimpse at it:
1. Jan 2010 – Partial ban on the production and use of R-22 except for servicing the pieces of equipment that still use it.
2. Jan 2015 – Complete ban on the production and use of R-22. Only stockpiled Freon will be used for servicing of existing equipment.
3. Jan 2020 – Only recycled R-22 will be used for continuing servicing of existing equipment.
4. Jan 2030 – Complete ban on the production, import, and use of HCFCs.
What Does The Ban On Making And Importing R-22 (Freon) Mean To A Homeowner?
As of January 2020, only recycled R-22 can be used for servicing those units that still run on it. This, however, does not mean that owning an AC that runs on R-22 will become illegal. You can still run it without any complications. Now that you know it’s not a panic situation, let’s see how it will actually affect you.
Only a certified technician will be able to buy recycled R-22 (freon). The bigger problem is that reclaiming R-22 and recycling will make it a very expensive commodity due to its limited availability. So, now you will have to shell out a far larger amount to top up the refrigerant to the same level as before. As the supply decreases, the prices are bound to shoot even further.
At the end of the day, it will become more a question of how long the homeowner is willing to pay that high a cost. The day it becomes too high to handle is the day you would want to buy a new AC unit.
What Is R-22 Being Replaced With?
R-22 (Freon) is being replaced with R-410a. As mentioned above, it is an HCF, so it does not harm the ozone layer. In air conditioning equipment, it is the present, compliant standard coolant or refrigerant.
How Can I Know Whether My AC Uses R-22?
If you are not aware of the refrigerant used by your AC, don’t worry. You can easily find out this information. All you need to do is go out to where your compressor unit or the outdoor unit is installed and check the label on it. Printed on the label will be the information about the refrigerant used by your air conditioner.
Who Should Worry About The Ban on R-22 (Freon)?
At the very outset, nobody needs to worry about the ban on R-22 (Freon).
If your AC is old and uses R-22, all you need to do is see to its proper annual maintenance so that it continues to run without any issues. In case, it develops a refrigerant leak, call your local HVAC contractor to seal the leak and top the refrigerant with recycled one. Hopefully, another leak should not occur. If it does, you have three options.
1. One, get the leak sealed, and the refrigerant topped once more.
2. Two, get your old AC retro-fitted to use another approved refrigerant, although this step may render the manufacturer warranty void.
3. Three, think about buying a new AC that will give more energy efficiency.
If your AC is new or manufactured after 2010, most likely, you have nothing to worry about. After the year 2010, the AC manufacturers started using HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons, which are a non-ozone depleting class of refrigerants. An example of it is the R-410a.
Things To Think About Before Making A Final Decision
Now that you know, you can take a breather, its time to probably think through your options carefully. Here are a couple of aspects that you need to pay attention to:
1. Cost Of Repairs And Refrigerant Top Up – An old unit is expensive to maintain and keep up with repairs. It is mainly due to the unavailability of spares. Add to that the skyrocketing cost of R-22 and the overall maintenance of the machinery may become just too expensive for your pocket.
2. Energy Efficiency – Newer models of AC, are far more energy-efficient as compared to the older ones. Where old systems don’t give you much in terms of power savings, you will be surprised by the capabilities and features of the new models.
3. Life Left Of Your Unit – If your AC is older than 10 years, it is probably on the last leg of its life. Extending its life a few months at a time will only add to your expenses. Buying a new AC is a better option under the circumstances.
Making environment-friendly choices is the call of the day. When you know that your system uses a refrigerant that is banned, it is best to proactively look for better options. You may not be able to buy a new AC immediately, but it will give you a chance to research your options and plan your finances for the day when you can.