Well folks it is that time of year again. Today is the first cold day over here in Kansas City. We’re not supposed to get over fifty degrees today. This is the first sign that winter is coming and it’s not going to get any warmer for quite some time. So, while the wind blows outside I am here sitting at my desk sipping my coffee and thinking about refrigerant.
Yes, yes, that is what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. Even during the cold weather months we still take the time to look at what the market is doing what will be happening next year. In fact, this is the best time for us as the selling season has come and gone. Fall and Winter are our slow months where everyone catches their breath and prepares for the upcoming Spring and Summer.
Over the past three years we have taken the time to write what’s known as our refrigerant price per pound articles. With each year that has passed the success of these articles have only grown and grown. Our intention here is to provide homeowners and business owners an idea of what the actual cost is on refrigerant so that when the time comes and you need a recharge of refrigerant you are ready.
Now before we go any further into this post I first want to give you a warning that I can be rather long winded. All of this information is good and relevant to your situation, BUT if you are just looking for a basic price per pound price then I suggest you just scroll on down to our ‘Price Per Pound’ section. However, if you’re looking to learn a bit more about your air conditioner then by all means keep reading.
Know This Before Purchasing
Purchasing refrigerant from your contractor isn’t always black and white. There are different factors that need to be considered before you purchase. In this section we are going to take a look at each of these:
You Are Paying For Expertise
Ok folks, so the information that I am going to give you in our ‘Price Per Pound’ section is very nearly, if not exactly, the cost that your contractor is paying for their R-22 refrigerant. What that means is that you can expect a markup. After all, the technician and the HVAC contractor need to make money as well. This is a specialized trade and requires trained expertise in order to succeed in. Thinking that you can do this yourself is never a good ideas as there are a lot of intricacies that need to be accounted for. As an example, let’s go through and ask a few simple questions that a technician would either have to do or consider:
- Do you know how to flush your system?
- Do you know what refrigerants can be vented?
- Do you know what the Superheat and Subcool are for R-22?
- Are you 608 certified with the EPA to handle HCFC refrigerants?
- Do you know how to find, let alone fix, a refrigerant leak?
All of these questions and more are what you are paying your contractor for. Remember that they need to make money too, but there is also a fine line between having profit and gouging. Reading this article, and reviewing the price per pound, will allow you to be educated and give you the power to negotiate the price of refrigerant.
Your AC Unit is a Closed System
Even before you have a contractor come to your home and look at your air conditioner you should be aware that air conditioners are what’s known as closed systems. What that means is that the refrigerant in your air conditioner moves back and forth between different cycles and it, in theory, never runs out or needs refrigerant refilled.
If you find that your unit is low on refrigerant or is completely out do NOT just refill your machine with a new refrigerant. I repeat do NOT do this. Your system does not need a top off. It does not need just a little bit more refrigerant to get by. No. If you are running out of refrigerant that means that somewhere in the refrigerant cycle there is a leak. Your unit is leaking refrigerant and will continue to leak refrigerant until a repair is made. If you dump more refrigerant into it without fixing the leak you are literally throwing money down the drain. Potentially a lot of money too if yours is an R-22 unit.
I like to think of it as a above ground pool. If you get a puncture in the pool lining water will leak out. Sure you can always add more water but it’s not fixing the problem. Adding more refrigerant doesn’t fix the problem either. It’s just prolong the inevitable and wasting money.
Old R-22 Machines
For those of you that do not know, R-22 refrigerant is being phased out across the United States. This is due to the Chlorine that the HCFC R-22 refrigerant contains. When R-22 was released into the atmosphere the Chlorine would work it’s way up to the Ozone layer where it would eventually cause damage. HCFCs and CFC refrigerants were a large contributor to the hole in the Ozone that we all heard about back in the 1990’s. The initial phase out of R-22 started eight years ago. In 2010 no new machines could be manufactured or imported into the United States that used R-22. Then, in 2015, import and manufacturing restrictions were put on R-22. Finally, in 2020 no new R-22 could be manufactured or imported into the US.
All of these restrictions has caused the price of R-22 to skyrocket. In 2017 a thirty pound cylinder for R-22 was going for nearly eight-hundred dollars. Today, the price has settled down quite a bit, but it is still quite high for a refrigerant. The price may again climb and climb as we go through the last summer of R-22. If I had an R-22 unit that needed repairs next summer I would highly recommend you consider scrapping the unit and purchasing a new air conditioner that uses the HFC refrigerant known as R-410A Puron. This refrigerant is going to be around for quite a while and will allow you to leave the expensive R-22 prices behind you.
R-22 Alternatives & Reclaim
Ok, this is the last bit before we get onto our price per pound folks, I promise! We mentioned above that the price on R-22 can be quite high nowadays. Well, in order to get around that high price many companies have come out with what’s known as R-22 alternatives. These alternative refrigerants are designed to work with existing R-22 systems with only slight changes needed. The premise of this is to purchase an R-22 alternative that is much cheaper then standard R-22 refrigerant. Sometimes you can be looking at a few hundred dollars cheaper per cylinder of refrigerant. Our top alternatives here at RefrigerantHQ are Chemour’s MO99 and Bluon’s TDX-20. If you are receiving a quote it cannot hurt to ask if they offer conversions over to MO99 or to Bludon TDX-20. You could then compare the two quotes and see if the cheaper refrigerant offsets the cost to convert your air conditioner over.
The other option you have is to purchase what’s known as reclaimed refrigerant. If you find that the quoted price on R-22 is just too high you can always ask your contractor if they have reclaimed R-22 refrigerant available. A reclaimed refrigerant is one that was removed from an existing system, put in a recovery tank, taken back to the contractor’s warehouse, shipped out to a certified refrigerant reclaimer, and then purchased again by that contractor. In other words, it is like recycled refrigerant. It’s been used before, but it has now been refurbished. If your contractor does have these available you may be able to get a ten to twenty percent break on your refrigerant price.
R-22 Price Per Pound
Alright, onto the good stuff. Let’s say your air conditioner is no longer working and need a repair. You receive a quote for the repair but you also receive a quote for the refrigerant recharge. Unfortunately, the repair that was needed most likely drained all of your refrigerant. Now, I could tell you the price today, which I will in a bit, but I will also give you kind of a cheat sheet that I like to use when gauging the R-22 market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay and search for R-22 cylinders. By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-22. As I write this article today I can see that R-22 is priced between four-hundred and fifty to five-hundred dollars a cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of five-hundred just to be safe.
$500 / 30lbs = $16.67 per pound.
There you have it folks, $16.67 for one pound of R-22 refrigerant. Now, please keep in mind that as I said above these prices can change at any given time.
Ok, so now that we have the cost per pound of R-22 now let’s determine how many pounds that you need to recharge your air conditioner. Now the typical rule of thumb is between two to four pounds of refrigerant per ton of your air conditioner. (You should always check the exact specifications of your machine, but most of the time the two to four pound guideline will be sufficient.) Most home air conditioners are between one ton and five tons. (Anything over five tons is considered a commercial grade unit.) So, let’s get on with our math problem. Let’s pretend that you have a middle of the road three ton air conditioning unit that is on the fritz with no refrigerant in it. In order to refill your unit entirely you will need the following:
4 pounds of refrigerant * 3 ton unit = 12 pounds of refrigerant needed.
12 pounds of refrigerant times the $16.67 per pound number we came up with earlier = $200.04 for a completely fill up of your unit.
If you want to learn more about R-22 as a refrigerant then I highly recommend viewing our R-22 Fact & Info Sheet by clicking here.This sheet goes into all of the details on R-22 including it’s history, where we are at today, what’s expected in the future, and a frequently asked question section on R-22.
There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-22 refrigerant. I have said it already in the beginning of this article but I want to emphasize again that you may not pay the price we mentioned above due to your contractor’s markup. They deserve to make money as well and they deserve to be paid for their expertise. Just keep this article in the back of your mind so that when you do receive a quote you can ensure that you are receiving an accurate and fair price.