Greetings ladies and gentlemen! It’s just a few days before Thanksgiving. The weather is quite cold outside and I am sitting in my office, sipping at a cup of coffee, and thinking about refrigerant. Yes, it seems that refrigerant is always on my mind, even during these colder winter months. In fact it is actually quite a bit easier to get work done during this time of year. With summer gone and spring quite a ways in the future everything slows down a bit and I have time to catch a breather, gather my thoughts, and write some articles.
Most of the time the articles on this site are more of a technical nature and cater towards HVAC technicians and contractors. However, today we will be doing something slightly different. You see over the past four years we here at RefrigerantHQ have published a series of articles that go into the exact cost that homeowners can expect when paying for refrigerant. This was a problem that I recognized a while back. When a homeowner receives a quote on refrigerant they have no idea if it’s a fair price or if they are being gouged. There were very little references out there so it made it nearly impossible to negotiate or price shop.
In this article we are going to give you the exact cost per pound on R-410A refrigerant. This will give you the knowledge on rather or not you are being priced fairly. Now, before I get into the price details I am going to spend some time covering some basic HVAC and refrigerant knowledge. I can be a bit long-winded at times so if you find that you just want to find the price per pound then I suggest scrolling through towards the bottom of this article and look for the section titled, ‘Price Per Pound’ or below.
However, if you’d like to learn a bit then please continue reading.
Tips Before Purchasing
Now before I get into the price per pound information you should first understand the R-410A market and your R-410A air conditioner a bit more. The first point of note is do you have an R-410A system? The only way you can be exactly sure is by looking at the outside section of your air conditioner. There should be a white sticker located somewhere on the machine. This sticker will indicate exactly what kind of refrigerant your split-system is taking. If you are in the United States then the chances are that it will be one of two refrigerants. If the unit was manufactured and installed before 2010 then the chances are high that it takes R-22. However, if the system was manufactured after 2010 then it most likely takes the HFC R-410A. Again, it is always best to check for the sticker to identify exactly what kind of refrigerant you are dealing with.
If you thought that you could repair and recharge your system yourself then you are mistaken. You see, there was a time when this was possible. I knew quite a few folks who bought their own cans or cylinders of R-410A. They then repair and recharged their system. You could find these 410A cylinders online on Amazon and in a lot of big box stores like Home Depot or Lowes. The problem with this now is that as of January 1st, 2018 you can no longer purchase R-410A unless you are section 608 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency. Purchasing has been locked down to only certified technicians. This new rule is known as the ‘Refrigerant Sales Restriction‘. 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. So, if the supplier you bought from gets audited by the EPA their records will then point to you. The EPA will reach out to you and you better hope you either sold the product or are 608 certified!
- 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. A typical split-system air conditioner may take up to twelve pounds of refrigerant. So, you could technically do this yourself but you would have to find a source for the cans and it still not legal to tamper or tinker on an air conditioning unit if you are certified with the EPA.
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. This was done to protect the environment. If R-410A is vented or leaked into the atmosphere it contributes to Global Warming. The restriction was put into place to prevent novices from playing around with the refrigerant and accidentally releasing it into the atmosphere. There was talk at the beginning of 2019 that the Trump Administration would rescind these restrictions but so far there has been no follow-through on this matter. As the law is today you are not able to purchase this refrigerant.
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 idea 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.
R-410A Price Per Pound
Alright folks so we’ve gotten through the precursor of this article. Now we can begin to look at the meat and potatoes. This is the reason you came to this article. Let’s say that for whatever reason your air conditioner is no longer working and your house is getting warmer. You call out a technician for a repair quote. Now in most cases when something goes wrong with your air conditioner the refrigerant will most likely leak out. Say for example one of the lines get a crack in the pipe. The refrigerant is going to leak through that pipe so not only do you have to replace the copper tubing but you also have to recharge your system with refrigerant. This is where it can get expensive. Just how much should you be paying for R-410A per pound?
The answer to this question is actually fairly simple. I will give you the exact cost per pound in just a but, but I also want to provide you with a few tools so that you can begin checking the prices yourself. I’m writing this article towards the end of November. There is no doubt in my mind that the market will change by the time you’re reading this in spring or summer. But, by using these tools you can still get a gauge for the market and an idea of how much you should be paying.
It is actually really simple too. All you have to do is visit a site like Ebay.com and check the price of R-410A. Let’s take a look at Ebay’s prices today. As of November 25th, 2019 I am seeing a price range of one-hundred and nine dollars to one-hundred and forty dollars on a twenty-five pound cylinder of 410A. To determine the price per pound let’s take a middle of the road number between those two prices. Let’s use one-hundred and twenty dollars. Now it’s time for some math:
$120 / 25lb cylinder = $4.80 per pound.
There you have it folks, $4.80 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 $4.80 per pound number we came up with earlier = $57.60 for a completely fill up of your unit.
Alright folks, that should about cover it. I’ve gone through everything you should know when refilling your air conditioner as well at what price point to expect. One last thing I wanted to mention before closing this article is that you have to remember that there will be mark-up involved from your technician or HVAC company. The price that I gave you is going to be very close to their cost. So, while you may not get that $4.80 price per pound article it does give you a starting point for negotiations. Remember, that everything in this world is negotiable and if they quote you twenty-five dollars a pound then you do your best to get them down to ten dollars a pound using this article as a point of reference.