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. At this point in time in 2018 I would highly recommend purchasing a 410A unit. Your R-22 can’t much time left on it and if you do need a repair it’s going to cost an arm and a leg.
Alright, so now that is out of the way let’s dive into the numbers.
R-410A Refrigerant Price Per Pound 2018
Well folks, here’s the good news. If you’ve got a 410A unit you are in much better shape than those poor souls who still have their old R-22 unit cranking away. 410A is much cheaper than R-22 and over the years since it’s major debut the price has remained relatively stable. 410A is overall more efficient, and costs much less then R-22. I mentioned this above but I’ll mention it again, in the past there was no certification required to purchase 410A but that has changed as of January 1st, 2018. (Click here to view the EPA’s website to read about the change.)
Let’s get down to business. Much like I did for the R-22 article I am going to defer to Amazon and E-Bay to get my price average on a twenty-five pound cylinder of R-410A/Puron refrigerant. As I write this in December 2017 the price looks to be between $120-$150 per twenty-five pound cylinder. For argument’s sake I’m going to use the highest cost, $150. Let’s do the math together:
$150 / 25 lbs of refrigerant per cylinder = $6.00 per pound of refrigerant.
Now that we have the price per pound let’s factor in how much refrigerant the typical residential machine needs. 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.)
Again, let’s use the medium sized three ton air conditioner example. Ready? Let’s do some more math:
4 pounds of refrigerant * 3 ton unit = 12 pounds of refrigerant needed.
12 pounds of refrigerant times the $6.00 per pound number we came up with earlier = $72.00 for a complete fill up of your 410A machine.
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? Also, as I said above in 2017 you can still buy 410A without being certified with the EPA. This rule is supposed to change in January 1st of 2018.
Please note that if you intend to purchase 410A you will need to show your 608 certification number before purchasing.