Will New R-22 Freon Regulations Affect Your Older AC Unit?

With summer fast approaching, there’s just one more warm season before a law banning the production of Freon takes effect. A common air conditioning refrigerant, Freon will no longer be legal to make, sell, or buy in 2020 and will be phased out of use completely as part of new regulations.

What does this mean for AC units that rely on R-22 Freon refrigerant? Let One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® of Delmarva clear the air about Freon and older AC systems by explaining what these new Freon regulations may mean for you.

New Freon Regulations in Effect for 2020

The EPA works to decrease the use of environmentally harmful chemicals. In 1992, the agency decided that HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons), the chemicals that help refrigerators and air conditioners to cool, should be phased out due to their contributing effect on ozone depletion, releasing a mandate to stop all Freon production by January 2020.

For decades, Freon, also known as R-22 and HCFC-22, was the main refrigerant used in residential AC units. However, new AC systems made since 2010 no longer rely on Freon, instead using a refrigerant called R410A, or Puron, that has been shown not to harm the ozone. Since 2015, Puron has become the standard for residential AC systems. Additionally, manufacturers of R-22 Freon have been forced to dial back on production every year since 2010, which has steadily increased the cost of R-22 Freon. As a result, Puron is now a cheaper and safer alternative to the old refrigerant.

Impact on Homeowners with Older Air Conditioners

In the past few years, many homeowners have already switched to more environmentally friendly refrigerants, and older AC systems that have been replaced according to schedule were most likely switched out for Puron units.

Freon-based HVAC units that still fully function need not be replaced just yet with these new regulations. Although Freon will no longer be produced or imported by 2020, limited recycled amounts will still be available. Older systems can be serviced with refrigerant using stocks of HCFC-22 until the January 1st, 2020 date. Afterward, technicians must source recycled Freon to keep old cooling systems running.

Additionally, there are R-22 replacements still available to homeowners in 2020. "Drop in refrigerants" are a suitable R-22 refrigerant replacement that mirror traditional freon, but are not subjected to the R-22 phase out. You will still be able to purchase this R-22 substitute after 2020.

Retrofitting Your AC System to Meet Freon Regulations

Although the EPA doesn’t require owners to buy new AC systems as part of the new Freon regulations, retrofitting older systems is a valid option if possible. If the AC coils are compatible with Puron refrigerant, technicians can replace outdoor units without modifying other components throughout your house. This solution can be pricey, but it will keep your current system working, and might even make it more energy efficient. Routine service is vital for such retrofitted systems to prevent leaks and other harmful effects on the environment.

Will I Need to Replace My Air Conditioner?

Will you need to replace your air conditioner solely if it runs on R-22 Freon? The short answer is no. If your air conditioner is in good condition, it won't need replacement refrigerant for a long while, which means you can continue using it as normal. However, if your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant and you're unable to find recycled R-22 Freon or drop in refrigerant, then it's likely that you needed a replacement anyway. Rapid refrigerant leaks are a sign that you need to install a new AC. 

If you need replacement, this might be an opportunity in disguise. Units built before 2010 should be replaced regardless, as the average lifespan of an AC system is 15 years. Contemporary air conditioners are more efficient and environmentally friendly, giving you lower energy bills to ensure greater savings in the long run.

If you have any questions or concerns about your current AC unit or the new Freon regulations in 2020, don’t sweat it! Give One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® of Delmarva a call or contact us online today!