Living in the 21st Century we take a lot of things for granted. Less than 200 years ago, there wasn’t electricity, private indoor plumbing, or even air conditioning. Upon invention, those things were considered luxuries. Today, things such as air conditioning are so basic we don’t even think about a time when it didn’t exist. One thing is for sure, with record-breaking heat temperatures recorded not just across the nation, but across the world, the need for air-conditioned spaces is growing. While we all love Air Conditioning, it has its downfalls because of a little substance known as R-22. Read more to see exactly what R-22 is and what it means to you.

R-22, which is commonly referred to as freon, is the substance that keeps your a/c unit cold. R-22 has been used worldwide for many years. Which brings us to our problem, R-22 is an HCFC. Which according to the EPAs website, “Hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, are chemicals that are mainly used as refrigerants. Unfortunately, releases of HCFCs deplete the Earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to climate change.” R-22 is being phased out worldwide, and on January 1, 2020, R-22 will not be manufactured or imported into the United States.  What does that mean for homeowners? Most air conditioning units made before 2010 use R-22 refrigerant to cool homes. So, if your system requires maintenance needing R-22 after 2020, it'll be very expensive.  A good thing to note is that most well-maintained AC units last up to 20 years and if you’re lucky even longer than that. Here are some great options to consider moving forward.


Preventative Maintenance

Ensuring that your AC Unit stays in tip-top shape is up to you. You can take these preventive measures to help your unit last longer

  • Keep Shrubbery and other landscaping 2 to 4 feet away from your unit
  • Clean any leaves, dirt and other debris from the outside and inside of the cabinet of the unit.
  • Use a garden hose and clean the inside of the unit by spraying through the slits from the inside out.
  • Inspects coils and blades for any holes, leaks, or damage
  • Replace your filters ON TIME once a month
  • Check for unusual odors or abnormal noises from your system inside your home.

To Repair, Replace, or Retrofit

As stated earlier, on January 1, 2020, R-22 will be banned from being imported or produced in the United States. The R-22 ban doesn’t end their though. On January 1, 2030, not only will all production be prohibited but recycling and distribution will become illegal. All existing R-22 must be destroyed via disposal guidelines. If you start having issues with your unit before 2020 you’ll need to decide to either repair the unit with the existing supply of R-22, replace your unit completely, or retrofit your unit with compatible equipment and the newly accepted refrigerant R410a freon. Check out these options.

Repair:  Repairing your AC Unit before the complete banning of R-22 in 2030 might be very expensive. R-22 will no longer be produced after 2020, so supply will be low and the price will be high.  BUT, it may not be as high as replacing an entire unit. If a professional thinks your unit can keep kicking for a few more years it might be more cost-effective (at that time) to just repair than to completely replace. As mentioned earlier, the average well-maintained unit lasts almost 20 years. If you can get another 5 plus years out of your air conditioning system without having to make the plunge for a new one it might very well be worth it. Replace: If you have the extra cash to spare, it wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and replace your unit with a new one that already takes R410a refrigerant. You won’t have to worry about the rising prices of R-22 or the need to replace at a bad time, such as in the middle of the summer. You could choose to replace during the offseason when units are cheaper which can lead to even more money savings. Retrofit: Converting your R-22 unit into a system that uses R-410a is possible, but not in all cases. If it is an option for your system, the R-22 will be drained from the unit, a few parts will need to be replaced, then your system will be recharged with R-410a freon. This is a great option if you are especially concerned about the Ozone.  Also, if your unit has been well maintained and was fairly new at the time of the 2010 Clean Air Act your system should have at least 12 more years of kick in it.

Remember the ultimate decision is yours and an unbiased HVAC provider, someone who repairs replaces, and retrofits should be the professional to help you make your final decision. If you're still noticing that you have a high energy maybe you should consider replacing the windows in your home. Air leaks through drafty windows can raise energy bills and cause your AC Unit to work harder than what needs.  Tennessee Thermal is confident that we can help. Call 650-727-9041 for more information.