Why is The Price of R-22 Refrigerant So High?
The refrigerant known as R-22 has been the choice for residential and commercial air-conditioning systems for more than five decades. As the manufacture of R-22 is phased out over the coming years, manufacturers of residential air conditioning systems are offering equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants.
What Does the R-22 Refrigerant Phase out Mean for Consumers?
Cost of R-22 Refrigerant
Consumers should be aware that prices of R-22 have increased as supplies dwindle. The EPA has limited the amount of R-22 to be manufactured or imported to 18 million lbs. in 2016, 13 million lbs. in 2017, and 9 million lbs. in 2018. Because of this shortage, consumers will have a difficult and expensive time replacing, repairing, or upgrading existing equipment.
Alternatives to R-22 in Residential Air Conditioning
As R-22 is gradually phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), substances that do not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer. We have been installing and converting R410a systems since 2003.
Servicing existing units
Existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22. There is no EPA requirement to change or convert R-22 units for use with a non-ozone-depleting substitute refrigerant. Most of the time, existing units cannot be reused with R-410A. R-410a requires that air conditioning systems operate with pressures almost 50 percent higher than R-22. Because of this, a redesign of the compressor, indoor coil, and refrigerant lines is necessary. Additionally, since R-410A demands special synthetic lubricants for the compressor, there are compatibility issues with the lubricants and other fluids used with the R-22 systems. All of these issues must be carefully evaluated.
One important thing a homeowner can do for the environment, regardless of the refrigerant used, is to select a reputable dealer that employs service technicians who are EPA and NATE certified to handle refrigerants.
Installing new units
Another important thing a homeowner can do for the environment is to purchase a highly energy-efficient system. Energy-efficient systems result in cost savings for the homeowner. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save significantly on your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model. Both R-22 and R-410A systems may have the Energy Star® label. Equipment that displays the Energy Star® label must have a minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher the SEER specification, the more efficient the equipment.
You should consider energy efficiency, along with performance, reliability and cost, in making your decision. And don’t forget that when purchasing a new system, you can also speed the transition away from ozone-depleting R-22 by choosing a system that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants.
What does this all mean?
In 2006, all Central Air Conditioning units had to be manufactured with a SEER rating of 13 or greater. In 2010, the use of R-22 in new systems has to stop. This combination has caused the replacement of existing system to become very complicated. If a system has R-22 and is over 10 years old, the indoor coil may not be of adequate size to support the new 13 SEER or greater unit. In many cases, in order to change the outdoor unit, the indoor coil or blower unit will have to be changed. If the refrigerant lines are accessible, this is a good time to upgrade the entire system to R-410A. With this upgrade, the long term costs will be less because the system will be high efficiency, the cost for the R410A will be less, and the refrigerant will be available long after the R-22 is gone.
There are many cases where systems cannot be upgraded. Some of these cases are in condominiums, finished basements, attic systems, apartment building where the existing refrigeration lines are installed behind sheetrock ceilings and wall. Since the new R410A operate at pressures 50 percent higher than the old R-22, the process used to install the systems 20 years ago will not standup to these pressures. Also the oil that is used in these refrigeration systems are not compatible. The industry is looking into this problem but does not have a solution at this time. Manufactures can no longer make units that use R-22. As of the printing we still have some unit available.
“Drop in” Alternative Refrigerants
Several Refrigerant Manufactures make what is called a replacement for R-22. The industry is still working on this but is certain instances it may be a solution to a full R-410A. There is a drop in capacity and efficiency, and the long term effects are still not known.
Joyce Cooling & Heating Inc. will discuss the option and costs of any upgrades so you can make an informed decision.
Contact us today for your heating and air conditioning needs 603-882-4244
Tags: air conditioner