Refrigerant is a commodity and prices can change wildly from week to week. It all depends on demand and any market surprises. Think of refrigerant as oil. You always hear about how much a barrel of oil is in the news and see how fast it can change. Refrigerant is very similar and fluctuates accordingly… especially in very hot summers.
That being said as of today (June, 2015) R-22 is averaging about $300.00 per thirty pound cylinder. The $300 per cylinder comes from purchasing it one cylinder at a time. You can typically do this via Amazon or E-Bay as well as other online sites. So, going off of the $300 price for thirty pound cylinder we are looking at $300/30 equaling out to $10.00 per pound of refrigerant. (Please note that if you are trying to purchase R-22 for personal use that you will need to be 608 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. Click here for more details.)
The rule of thumb is two to four pounds of refrigerant per one ton of your unit. You should always check the specifications of your machine, but for the most part the two to four pound guideline will give you a good estimate. Most home air conditioning units are between one ton and five tons. Anything over five tons is considered a commercial grade unit.
So, with that in mind if you have a two ton system than you would need eight pounds of refrigerant to completely refill your unit. (Two tons times four pounds.) Eight pounds of refrigerant times the cost we found above per pound of $10.00 equals $80.00 to completely refill your air conditioning unit.
Now if you have a technician from an ac company come out there is obviously going to be markup on the refrigerant, but it pays to know exactly what the cost is and what to expect. If you’re being quoted $200-$300 to fill up a one ton or two tons system there is something wrong.
R-22 is being phased out as we speak, so every year that goes by the price of R-22 will go up. In 2010 the phase out begin, in 2015 the quantity and production as reduced, and in 2020 it will be phased out entirely.
Over the next few years I could see R-22 getting over $500 a cylinder and just keep on climbing from there. If you have an old R-22 unit running today you may consider switching over to R-410A in the near future. 410A is much cheaper and is overall more efficient than it’s R-22 counterpart. (I switched over this spring and have seen a significant difference in my energy bills using 410A.)