Are you using an AC unit from before 2010? Then there’s something important you need to know about your refrigerant. Refrigerant is a liquid chemical inside your AC that helps it cool air. Refrigerants work by moving between various components in the AC to move heat from one area to another. R22 refrigerant, also known as chlorodifluoromethane or Freon, is one of the more well-known ones and has seen common usage. However, next year, that’s all going to change.

What’s happening with R22 refrigerant?

Introduced back in the 1950’s, R22 became the leading AC refrigerant in the residential heating/cooling industry. However, two decades later, it was discovered that the usage of R22 and some other refrigerants was depleting the ozone layer. As a result, the EPA and other organizations around the world created the Montreal Protocol, which would phase out ozone-depleting refrigerants worldwide. Starting in 2003, progressive limits on R22 usage were enacted, with certain variants being banned from being produced and imported. At the dawn of 2010, Americans could no longer make equipment that used R22. In addition, R22 could (and still can, for now) be made and imported for use in pre-existing equipment. Come 2020, chemical manufacturers will stop making new R22.

As anyone with a basic familiarity with economics can guess, the scarcity of R22 is driving up prices. In addition, older ACs need more frequent servicing, increasing demand for R22. Combined with strict regulations on recycling/reclaiming it and the fact that only EPA-certified technicians can buy it means the prices only increase further. This means homeowners will be paying a heavy premium to keep an older AC unit working.

So what should I do?

It’s plain to see that it’s going to get more expensive to service your old R22-using AC. If you ask one of our professionals, they’ll likely suggest you upgrade your model. McCarthy’s offers a wide variety of AC units from the leading brands. While it’s possible to retrofit your old AC to use R401a, a newer and more ecologically friendly refrigerant, it can easily cost as much as a new unit, if not more. In addition, this almost always voids warranties and can break the unit if not done properly, meaning you’ll have to get a new unit anyway.

But how exactly do you know if your unit uses R22 refrigerant? As a rule of thumb, AC units made before 2010 generally use R22. If not, then it most likely uses something else. If you want to be sure, take a look at your unit’s nameplate or the user’s manual. You can usually find the nameplate on the outdoor condenser on your central AC system. If that fails, you can always get one of our technicians help you find out!

McCarthy's One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning® today to learn more about replacing your AC!