Repair or replace… that is the question
R-22 refrigerant (aka “Freon”), used as a refrigerant in the AC systems of most homes, businesses, restaurants and stores built before 2010, is being gradually phased out by the EPA under the Montreal Protocol. Recent actions by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding HCFC’s have led to uncertainty about the availability of R-22 (“Freon”) in the coming months and years. As a result, the cost of R-22 refrigerant doubled again this year after more than doubling in 2012. To put the issue in perspective, the current price of Freon is more than twelve times what it was in 2004, and it is anyone’s guess how high Freon prices will go as supplies of Freon continue to be reduced by the EPA.
Chlorodifluoromethane – the proper chemical name for R-22 or Freon — is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon gas, or “HCFC”. Due to its chemical structure, which contains chlorine, R-22 is considered a greenhouse gas with serious ozone-depleting and environmentally hazardous potential. In 2004, the EPA began enforcing restrictions on the consumption of all hydrochlorofluorocarbons nationwide in an effort to minimize environmental impacts. When those restrictions increased in 2010, the use of R-22 was banned in all new AC systems and its production and import were cut sharply.
Unfortunately, this means that the cost to repair R-22 based air conditioning systems has risen dramatically for our customers and that it will likely continue to rise. If an existing R-22 based air conditioner develops a leak, recharging the system with R-22 is becoming increasingly expensive. As such, when a refrigerant leak situation develops, it may be a better economic choice, in the long run, to replace the entire air conditioning system with a new one that uses the more environmentally friendly and less expensive R-410a refrigerant (aka “Puron”). Although the price of Puron used to be much higher than Freon, they have now switched places economically because Puron prices are dropping as quickly as Freon prices are rising.