A lot of the times when your air conditioner goes out the most expensive part of the repair is recharging your system with refrigerant. Sometimes this bill can be a couple hundred dollars and other times closer to-five hundred. With this high priced bill facing them a consumer sometimes considers purchasing the product on their own.
The term Freon is used commonly across the country as a generic term for refrigerant. What you may not know is that Freon and refrigerant aren’t exactly the same and they are not interchangeable. Instead, the word Freon is a brand name of refrigerant. Let’s think of it this way. “I’m going to go purchase a car.” Now, let me say that a different way, “I’m going to purchase a Ford.” Just as Ford is a brand of car the term Freon is a brand of refrigerant. Make sense now?
Now the question is can you purchase Freon? Well, first thing’s first, you need to determine what kind of refrigerant your air conditioner takes. The refrigerant type for your air conditioner will be on a label on the unit outside your home. If you are not able to find it there you can also look up your make and model number online to determine what refrigerant is needed. A lot of times in today’s world you’ll find that your air conditioner doesn’t even take Freon but instead takes a refrigerant known as Puron.
Can you buy it?
Regardless of what refrigerant it takes you are unfortunately not able to purchase it without being licensed and certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. If your air conditioner does take Freon, or R-22, then you will need to be Section 608 Clean Air Act certified with the EPA. The same can now be said if your system takes R-410A or Puron. In the past, prior to 2018, you were able to purchase Puron and other HFC refrigerants without a license. However, new EPA regulations went into affect on January 1st, 2018 that prevented sales and handling of HFC refrigerants to non-certified people.
These regulations were put in place due to the environmental damage that HFC refrigerants like R-410A, R-404A, and R-134 cause. These refrigerants have what’s known as a high Global Warming Potential, or GWP. The higher the GWP the more damage a refrigerant can do to the climate. The aim is that by regulation the goverment can limit who can purchase and handle these high GWP refrigerants and that the amount of refrigerant gases vented into the atmosphere will be lessened.
While this law has only been effective for less then a year there is already talk from the Trump ran EPA to reverse this policy and to allow un-certified end users began to purchase HFC refrigerants again. This is all still preliminary but if this regulation does get rescinded then you will be able to purchase HFC refrigerants like Puron again without any license required.
If you do find that your system takes R-22 Freon refrigerant then you are out of luck. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant and is strictly regulated. There is no talk of rescinding this regulation as R-22 will be completely phased out by the year 2020.