As the days count down to January 1st, 2020, big changes are taking place in the HVAC industry. Supplies of R-22 are decreasing, causing drastic price hikes and frustrating technicians and homeowners alike. Why is all this happening, and how does it affect you? Our guide gives you the info you need and shows you how AFC can help.
R-22, also known as HCFC-22, is the most common refrigerant used in residential air conditioners in the United States. By some estimates, 70% of the nation’s homes are cooled by HVAC systems that utilize R-22. R-22 belongs to a group of chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons—that’s what HCFC stands for. These chemicals deplete the ozone layer in the earth’s atmosphere, so in 2010 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began a ten-year process to phase out the production of R-22. Starting January 1st, 2020, the production, sale, and use of new R-22 will be illegal, and in most situations, technicians will be unable to add R-22 refrigerant to HVAC systems in the event of a leak.
A quick look at the name-plate on your outdoor condenser unit should tell you which type of refrigerant your system uses. You can also check your owner’s manual or ask the company who sold or installed the system. If you’re still not sure, contact the manufacturer with the make and model information and they can help you. In 2010, The EPA prohibited the manufacture of new R-22 systems, so if your system was manufactured less than ten years ago, it will not use R-22. Many systems manufactured after 2004 use alternative, EPA-approved refrigerants.
If nothing is currently wrong with your unit, you don’t have to do anything: the EPA does not mandate replacing the system. Even if your system is having problems, most HVAC repairs do not require adding refrigerant to the system. If your system experiences a refrigerant leak, however, just remember the three R’s: Recharge, Retrofit, Replace.
Until January 1, 2020, the EPA will still allow technicians to use R-22 for HVAC repairs. Even after January 1st, technicians will be able to add reclaimed R-22 (R-22 that has been recycled and reprocessed) to your unit; however, with supplies quickly disappearing technicians will have difficulty stocking R-22, and prices have skyrocketed. For comparison, AFC Home Club covers up to $25 per pound for refrigerant, while some technicians are reporting market prices of $100 per pound for R-22. At this price, it might make more sense to retrofit your system.
By emptying the system of R-22—a process called reclaiming—and changing out certain parts and fluids, most systems can be modified to use an EPA-approved alternative refrigerant. Technicians call this retrofitting, and it allows homeowners to keep their current system and ensure that leak repairs will be quicker and less expensive in the future. Many of the alternatives can increase the energy-efficiency of your system, and all of them are better for the environment. Who doesn’t want cleaner air and a cheaper utility bill?
The amount of labor (and cost!) involved in a retrofit depends on the individual HVAC system, and some systems cannot be retrofitted. If that’s the case for you, replacement might be more cost-effective.
If you have an older system or have had issues with it in the past, consider replacing the system with a new one that uses an alternative refrigerant. While you will pay more upfront, your new system will be more energy-efficient, saving you money in the long-run. Plus, you’re helping the environment.
Here at AFC, we want to do what we can to make this transition as easy as possible on homeowners. Besides the fact that we’ll still cover non-refrigerant related issues on your R-22 system, our plans have a few features to set your mind at ease: AFC will cover up to $25 per pound for the cost of the leaked refrigerant regardless of whether it’s R-22 or R-410a, so whether you decide to recharge or retrofit, we’ll assist with the cost. If your system needs to be replaced, AFC will give you the value of your current system and offer a discounted price and financing options on a brand-new system that uses an approved refrigerant like R-410a. That way, you can make the change without breaking the bank. Remember, you don’t need to replace your system simply because it uses R-22. If the system has an issue that doesn’t require adding refrigerant, technicians will still be able to perform repairs like they always have, and AFC Home Club’s coverage on those repairs will not change. Still have questions? Visit our Frequently Asked Questions page regarding R-22.