Well ladies and gentlemen. It’s that time of year again. Thanksgiving has passed and now we’re a few days into December. I’ve got most of my gifts purchased already and am nearly done with shopping. Now, I know that the majority of you who are reading this article are going to be reading this in the heat of summer next year but it’s always best practice to take a step back and look at market pricing in the dead of winter.
Obviously, winter is the slowest time for the refrigerant business. No one is using their air conditioners so even if there is a leak on the unit no one will notice until the first hot days of April and May. This lack of demand causes the prices to drop and allows us to take a analytical look at pricing and what it will be during next year’s summer months.
As some of you may already know over the past few years I have taken the time in December to do a variety of refrigerant pricing per pound articles. The first article I did in 2015 was met with amazing success and recognition. Every year since then it has become a kind of tradition to do these articles.
Now, before we dive into this article I will warn you now that this may be a long winded post and if you are in a hurry with the contractor standing over you shoulder I suggest you scroll down and look for the bold text. That will give you the breakdown that you need. If you’re here to read the article in full than by all means read on my friend.
Know This Before Purchasing
The information that I am going to give you in this article is the exact price per pound that your contractor or your mechanic is paying. Now, we may be off by a few dollars here and there depending on when they bought their product but we are more or less right in line with their cost.
There is a fine line to walk here as you are paying your contractor or mechanic for not only their labor but also for their expertise. Do you know how to flush the system? Do you know what refrigerants can be vented and which cannot? In some instances you may not even legally be able to buy the type of refrigerant that you need. In fact as of January 1st, 2018 you will need to be certified with the EPA to purchase HFC refrigerants such as R-410A, R-404A, and R-134a. This is different from previous years where you could buy HFCs without certification. HCFCs, like R-22, you will need to be 608 certified to purchase or handle the refrigerant.
While you may have your contractor’s cost you also need to use the consideration and the common decency to accept their mark up. They need to make a living just as much as you do. The balancing act here is determining what is a fair mark up and what is price gouging. It is up to you to walk that line and negotiate the best price. All I’m here for is to give you the information.
Your AC Unit is a Closed System
Before your purchase any refrigerant either for yourself or from a contractor you need to realize that the refrigerant in your air conditioning unit is in a closed system. What that means is that the refrigerant is an endless cycle from gas to liquid from liquid to gas. This cycle repeats forever as shown in the below picture.
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 who do not know the old HCFC R-22 refrigerant was phased out in 2010. What this means is that no new air conditioning machines can be manufactured with R-22 as of 2010 or greater. This was done in accordance to the Montreal Protocol due to the Chlorine that the R-22 Freon contained. The Chlorine was found to be burning a hole in the O-Zone layer. (Come to find out that is a bad thing.) The phase out was staggered over many years and with each year that passes the price on R-22 climbs and climbs. I remember a few years ago where it was going for two-hundred for a full cylinder and now you can’t buy a cylinder for less than six-hundred dollars. It has gotten to the point now that if your unit is completely out of R-22 refrigerant due to a leak it may make more sense for you to just buy a new machine entirely and make the leap over to the 410A HFC. Keep this in mind if you have an older R-22 unit. Sure, a new R-410A unit may cost thousands but you are paying for a NEW unit which means a warranty and very little chance of breakage over the next couple years.
Alright, so now that is out of the way let’s dive into the numbers:
R-22 Refrigerant Price Per Pound 2018
Ok, so you’ve got an R-22 unit that needs a refill. The rule of thumb that I like to use when checking prices is rather easy. I simply go to Amazon or E-Bay and physically check the price of the refrigerant there. These prices are more or less in line with each other. There may be a few outliers here and there but for the most part they should average out to about the same price. In past years Amazon was a good source to use for looking at R-22 prices but since this refrigerant is becoming more and more scarce it has all but disappeared from Amazon. In this article I am going to refer to E-Bay for our pricing analysis.
As I write this article in mid December 2017 the price on Amazon and E-Bay on R-22 is between $500-$650 for a thirty pound cylinder. I will mention that there are other sizes out there such as five or ten pound cylinders. While these are ‘cheaper’ due to their size you are actually paying more per pound by buying less. Most contractors will be dealing with thirty pound cylinders. In this example I am going to use the price of $700.00 for a thirty pound cylinder to give a happy medium. I would rather go high then low just to make sue that we are accurate. You can do the math later and get your own numbers.
Alright, so let’s get to it:
$700 / 30 lbs of refrigerant per cylinder = $23.33 per pound.
The standard amount of refrigerant needed per unit is two to four pounds of refrigerant per ton of your air conditioning unit. (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 $23.33 per pound number we came up with earlier = $279.96 for a completely fill up of your unit.
Now, please keep in mind that as I said above these prices can change at any given time.
As I stated before please note that this cost is at or will be very nearly at the cost of your contractor. You will need to account for his markup in this, otherwise why is he even there? (Please note that if you want to purchase a cylinder of R-22 refrigerant yourself you will need to be 608 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency before you are eligible to purchase.)
Lastly, 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.