In case you haven’t heard R-22 Refrigerant is slowly being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency in compliance with the Montreal Protocol. This is a big deal. R-22 Refrigerant has been the standard Refrigerant for all home/commercial HVAC units, refrigerators, and grocery store freezers since the 1950s. R-22’s replacement R-410A is the Refrigerant of the future rather you like it or not!
Now the reason for the phaseout is valid. (It’s being phased out due to the Chlorine found in R-22. Chlorine damages the O-Zone layer.) That being said, this is going to cause a major headache to many consumers. If you own a unit that was manufactured before 2010 chances are that it takes R-22 Refrigerant. Any machines made on or after 2010 are required to take the R-22 replacement R-410A. Because of this restriction in 2010 if you have a Refrigerant leak on your old unit you are going to end up paying an arm and a leg to either 1) replace your R-22 Refrigerant which is now up to over $300.00 a cylinder. Or, 2) you retrofit your old HVAC unit so that it can take the new R-22 replacement R-410A. Whichever choice you decide to go with you are going to be out a lot of money.
If you do run into an issue where your old R-22 unit is leaking I would recommend either retrofitting the unit to R-410A or buying a whole new R-410A unit. I am suggesting the new unit as the price on R-22 is only going to get worse. In 2010 machines can no longer be R-22 machines can no longer be manufactured. In 2015 the production of R-22 will have to be cut in half by EPA regulation. Finally, in 2020 the production of R-22 Refrigerant will be banned in all countries that have signed the Montreal Protocol. This includes United States, Canada, Australia, and all major European powers.
Now, for a little history lesson. This isn’t the first time that a mass phaseout of refrigerants has occurred. Before the 1950’s R-12 Refrigerant was the refrigerant used for EVERYTHING, and I mean everything. It didn’t matter what application, you used R-12. R-22 Refrigerant was invented back in the 1930s but it didn’t really begin to get popular until after World War 2. It’s first use for home/commercial air conditioning was in the late 1950s. R-12 Refrigerant was phased out for home/commercial use and replaced with R-22. (Sound Familiar?) R-22 was used instead because it permitted the use of smaller compressors and smaller piping.
Just as it took a while for R-22 Refrigerant to become the standard it is going to be a long process before R-22 is completely removed from the market. But, as time goes on the price of R-22 is only going to increase. I predict a huge spike in price in 2015 and again in 2020. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing R-22 Refrigerant close to a $1,000 a jug over the next few years. Don’t believe me? Check out the price of an unused cylinder of R-12 Refrigerant nowadays. I’ve seen some go for over $1,000!
In conclusion, this shouldn’t affect you, the homeowner, unless you have an R-22 unit with a Refrigerant leak. Otherwise, this change will mostly go un-noticed, very similar to the change from R-12 to R-134A Refrigerant that took place in 1994. If you do end up needing R-22 Refrigerant in the future I would recommend buying NOW before the price gets any higher.