Hello ladies and gentlemen! It looks like another year is passing us by again and with another year comes a whole other set of possibilities. As I write this article it is twenty odd something degrees outside and we’re expecting some snow in Kansas City tomorrow. Some may say it’s a funny time to write an article on refrigerants but I say what better time is there than this? When the cold wind is blowing and the snow is falling I find that my mind is thinking on what the price of refrigerant is going to do next year. Maybe that says more about me than it should.
Anyways, over the past few years I have written multiple articles detailing the exact price per pound on refrigerant. Each article has been met with astounding success and I feel that it is my duty to write another article for the upcoming 2017 year. Instead of writing multiple articles on the varying types of refrigerant I am instead going to focus on the three most common refrigerants in the market today in one large post. 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 to the refrigerant that you are looking for 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. (R-22 comes to mind.) While you may have their 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 gas to liquid. 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.
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.
R-22 Refrigerant Price Per Pound 2017
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 and 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. As I write this article in mid December 2016 the price on Amazon and E-Bay on R-22 is between $500-$650 for a thirty pound cylinder. There were some upwards to $800 but in this example I am going to use the price of $700.00 for a thirty pound cylinder. 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.
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.
R-410A Refrigerant Price Per Pound 2017
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, costs less, and best of all it can be bought by you, me, or anyone else. There are no certifications required to purchase 410A. (Click here to view the EPA’s website stating just that.) It is worth noting that as of January 1st, 2018 you will need to be certified to buy HFCs but for 2017 you can still purchase yourself.
Let’s get down to business. Much like I did for the R-22 section above 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 mid-December 2016 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.
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. If you were so inclined you may stock up by buying on Amazon and E-Bay .
R-134a Refrigerant Price Per Pound 2017
For those of you who don’t follow refrigerant news too closely there has been a lot of drama on R-134a in 2016. There has been talk about phasing out the HFC refrigerant entirely by 2020/2021. On top of that there has been an ongoing battle between Chinese companies and USA manufacturers on the dumping of low priced Chinese product. Just recently the United States Trade Commission board ruled in favor of adding tariffs to 134a imports. This caused the price of 134a to skyrocket from about $70 a jug upwards to $110-$140 a jug.
I’m writing this article in mid December of 2016 I have no idea what the price of 134a will be in the future but the formula that we will use will be the same. If the price changes you can use the same math and be assured that it is correct. Like before I am going to check Amazon and E-Bay for the most accurate price of 134a at the time. I am assuming that most of you will be buying the singular cans of 134a rather than the full thirty pound cylinder. (You don’t need to be EPA certified to buy cans, but you do for cylinders.) Looking at Amazon today I see that it’s $20.00 for a pack of three cans. Let’s do some math:
$20.00 / 3 pounds of refrigerant = $6.66 per pound. (No devil jokes, promise.)
Now that we have the price per pound the question is how much refrigerant does your car take? Well, there is no easy answer for that. Most cars take between two to three pounds of refrigerant but there are some applications that take upwards of nine pounds. It is best to check your specific car to see exactly how much 134a you need.
For argument’s sake let’s use a three pound car for our math:
$6.66 per pound of refrigerant * 3 pounds = $19.98 for a fill up of your car’s 134a refrigerant.
As I stated before please note that this cost is at or will be very nearly at the cost of your mechanic. You will need to account for his markup in this, otherwise why is he even there?
Well, ladies and gentlemen that’s about it. I hope that this article was able to save you money during the upcoming summer months. For now, I am going to grab a hot cup of coffee and watch the snow fall.