Shortage of R22 Refrigerant for Home AC and heat Pumps Causing Higher Prices

It seems that everything is going up in price these days, and refrigerant for your home air conditioner or heat pump is another one to add to the list. The primary refrigerant that has been used for over 4 decades, R-22, is being phased out because of its affect on the environment. Along with the phaseout will come increased prices for refrigerant. So, if your AC unit starts blowing warm air anytime soon, you can expect the cost to recharge a central ac unit to be a bit more also!

In this Charlotte HVAC Guide article, we will discuss the phaseout schedule, the reasons for the phaseout and also the potential effects on your wallet. Remember that refrigerant is charged to you by the pound, and it’s pretty easy to determine how much you may need by estimating how much refrigerant an ac unit holds.

Phaseout Schedule:

The phaseout schedule for R-22 is outlined fully on the website and goes like this:

January 1, 2010: The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 75% below the U.S. baseline. Allowance holdersmay only produce or import HCFC-22 to service existing equipment. Virgin R-22 may not be used in new equipment. As a result, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system manufacturers may not produce new air conditioners and heat pumps containing R-22.

January 1, 2015: The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 90% below the U.S. baseline.

January 1, 2020: The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 99.5% below the U.S. baseline. Refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled/reclaimed will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps.

Reason for Phaseout:

Although the effects of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) on the environment have been known for many years, it wasn’t until 1992 that the Montreal Protocol established a schedule to begin a complete phaseout. The release of R-22 into the environment has led to ozone depletion and contributes to global warming and as of January, 2010, R-22 can only be used for servicing existing HVAC equipment and manufacturers can no longer produce central air conditioners or heat pump systems that contain it.

Shortage of R-22 and Increase in Price:

The cost of R-22 has more than tripled since January of 2012. To put this into perspective:  there are still millions of R-22 air conditioners that are still in service because the last ones manufactured were in 2010 – this makes some of them only a couple of years old. Most homeowners cannot afford to get a new system because HVAC systems and repair costs can be quite high. So if you are one of those millions that have a system that is R-22, HVAC contractors in Charlotte will have to charge you more than $300 to recharge your system – when only a few months ago you would have paid around $100.

Although experts believe that the price spike will eventually even out this summer and come down a bit, this does not help you if are one of the unfortunate folks that has their system break down in our record heat. Many area hvac contractors have begun giving homeowners quotes for new systems if they have a leak in their system that will require a couple of recharges per season.

According to local contractor, Roger Costner from Brothers Heating and Cooling, “Our thinking is if they do have a major issue with their system, they really should consider paying for a new system. New units will cool more efficiently and are likely to have longer warranties than older ones, he said, helping recoup their costs.”

What you can do as a Homeowner:

Basically, if you have air conditioning that is functioning properly, there isn’t anything that you have to or should do immediately. Since R-22 will be readily available for about 8 more years, you will still be able to have your system recharged – but that doesn’t mean it will be cheap. You should also consider whether or not you want to have your system replaced if you have a problem with it.

However, if you are proactive and do your best to keep your air conditioning running at peak performance, you can avoid costly repairs and most recharges. A few things you can do to keep operating costs down:

  • Use ceiling fans to help distribute the air
  • Keep your blinds closed as much as possible in rooms where you get direct sunlight
  • Install and properly use a programmable thermostat
  • Keep doors and windows closed
  • Make sure your home is properly insulated

There are many things you can do to maintain your air conditioning system and keep it running more efficiently and reduce energy costs and avoid costly repair bills . The key is to follow the steps and vigilant about it. Who doesn’t want to save a little money?


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