Hello folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. As I write this article today Halloween has just passed and the weather has already begun to get cold. We’re expecting snow in just a few days here in Kansas City. All of this is happening outside and here I am sitting at my desk, sipping on some hot cocoa, and thinking about refrigerant. Yes, I know that sounds rather odd… but that is what we do here at RefrigerantHQ. Refrigerant all the time. Today I am thinking about R-410A. What can we expect from it next year? What will consumers be paying for it?
Over the past few years here at RefrigerantHQ we have taken the time to write what’s known as our ‘Price Per Pound’ articles. These articles break down the cost of refrigerant so any laymen can understand it. It takes away that hidden cost and brings it out into the light. The goal of these articles is to arm the homeowner or business owner with enough knowledge so that when they receive a quote for R-410A they know where the price should be. This prevents people from being gouged and overcharged, especially during the dead heat of summer.
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-410A 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-410A?
- Are you 608 certified with the EPA to handle HFC 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.
Up until last year there were a lot of homeowners and business owners who were purchasing their own R-410A refrigerant cylinders. They would this either through big box stores or through online outlets like Amazon or Ebay. This all changed on January 1st, 2018. On that day the Environmental Protection Agency enforced a new rule known as ‘Refrigerant Restrictions.’ These restrictions already existed on HCFC and CFC refrigerants but they were now moved over to HFC refrigerants as well. This included R-410A. What this means is that you are no longer legally able to purchase R-410A unless you are 608 certified with the EPA. Now, there are a few slight exceptions to this such as:
- Providing the vendor you are buying from with an intent to resale form. What this means is that you state that you will NOT be using this refrigerant yourself but that you intend to resell it to another party. In this case the legal record keeping requirements would be passed onto you.
- The other exception is that if you purchase small cans of refrigerant that are under two pounds of refrigerant or less. This works great for automotive applications but can be difficult when trying to recharge your system with only a few pounds of refrigerant at a time.
If you do not meet the above exceptions and you try to purchase R-410A you will be asked for your 608 license number. If you cannot provide one then you will not be allowed to purchase. For more on the Refrigerant Sales Restriction click here to be taken to the Environmental Protection Agency’s official website.
R-410A Price Per Pound
Alright folks, now that we have that out of the way let’s dive in and find the true price per pound of R-410A refrigerant. Let me paint a picture for you. Let’s say your air conditioner is no longer working due to an unknown failure. When the technician comes out he identifies the problem and quotes you for the repair. The problem though is that the failure of your air conditioner caused all of your refrigerant to leak out. Now on top of your part replacement you also need to pay for a full refrigerant recharge.
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-410A market price. It’s so simple. All I do is just go to Ebay.com and search for R-410A cylinders. By doing this I can see what the going rate is per pound of R-410A. As I write this article today I can see that R-410A is priced between ninety-five and one-hundred dollars a cylinder. Now, let’s do some simple math to get your price per pound. Let’s take the higher amount of one-hundred just to be safe.
$100 / 25lb cylinder = $4.00 per pound.
There you have it folks, $4.00 for one pound of R-410A 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-410A 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 $4.00 per pound number we came up with earlier = $48.00 for a completely fill up of your unit.
There you have it folks, that is the true cost per pound of R-410A 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.