Have you been shocked at a recent maintenance bill for your air conditioning system? The culprit may be in your coolant. If your air conditioning system uses Freon, there's bad news for your pocketbook: the cost to replace the chemical has been skyrocketing, so it will be an expensive fix if you need to refill the unit.
A Hole in the Ozone
Freon, a gas also called R-22, absorbs heat and humidity from the air, making it an essential component of many air conditioning systems. Unfortunately, in addition to its fantastic cooling properties, the odorless and tasteless gas is also a prime contributor to ozone erosion and climate change. That's why the Montreal Protocol environmental agreement scheduled a phase-out of Freon in developing countries, beginning in 2004, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Starting in that year, the United States had to reduce its consumption of R-22 by 35 percent. The figure was bumped up to 75 percent by 2010, and 90 percent by January 1, 2015. The next step comes in 2020, when R-22 levels must be reduced by 99.5 percent of their previous usage, effectively eliminating them from the U.S. market.
A Question of Supply and Demand
The problem is that there are still numerous functioning air conditioning systems that use Freon as their coolant. If you have one of these and your system leaks coolant, you could be stuck paying through the nose to replace it. Even though Freon is still being produced, the supply has dwindled as producers have cut back in anticipation of lower demand. Therefore, maintenance people and air conditioning system specialists have less supply and are charging more for it. Some businesses have even reported thefts targeting their Freon canisters thanks to its newfound value.
After 2020, R-22 won't be produced at all in the United States. The only source will be from providers who have recycled the gas from old refrigerators and air conditioning systems, so the price could reach astronomical heights.
Stop Your AC Unit from Leaking Freon
One way to limit the amount of Freon you have to buy is to purchase a new air conditioning system that uses more environmentally-friendly coolant. If you don't have the cash for that, have an HVAC specialist come by to fix any leaks in your unit so you can hold onto the precious Freon – helping the environment and your budget at the same time.