National Phase Out of Freon (R-22) Refrigerant Gas
The portion of the Clean Air Act that applies to the Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry encourages the development of ozone-friendly substitutes for chemicals that contain ozone destroying chlorine, which are called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The chemical refrigerant of choice for more than four decades, referred to as R-22, is in the HCFC category. R-22 is widely used in air condition condensing units to cool your home.
The EPA has started phasing out R-22 refrigerant. What does this mean to you? Manufacturers had to stop using R-22 refrigerant beginning January 1, 2010 and switch over to R410A refrigerant or another ozone friendly alternative on all new manufactured condenser units. When it' time to replace your AC unit you will need to purchase the R410A type condenser unit. Although current R-22 refrigerant air conditioning systems can be converted to use R410A refrigerant, the conversion is usually not cost effective. At this time current R-22 refrigerant systems can continue to be repaired. On Jan. 1, 2020, the R-22 phase out mandates that R-22 refrigerant can no longer be manufactured. The only stock available will be recovered and recycled product. The cost of servicing your R-22 unit will likely become much more expensive. In 2030, the R22 phase out will be complete in the United States.
Why is this happening? The R-22 phase out is part of a world effort to protect the Earth's ozone layer. R-22 is one of the known substances that is contributing to the depletion of the Earth's protective ozone layer and is actually creating an "ozone hole" over the South Pole. The new R-410A is ozone friendly and is an important step to ensure the recovery of the ozone layer.
Will you have to replace your AC unit right away? No, this is a phase out that's allowing replacement of the R-22 condenser units to happen gradually as the units retire under normal attrition. According to the industry experts, the average AC unit life span in the U.S. is 10 to 15 years, although I have seen some last as long as 30 years. If your AC unit is more than 15 years old you may be a candidate for replacement in the near future with an R-410A condenser unit.
What can you as a home owner do? As your R-22 air conditioner ages, consider replacing it with a more efficient R410A unit. This will save you money on your electric bill and will also help our environment. Make sure your HVAC serviceman is EPA certified. Make sure your HVAC service company properly recovers your R22 refrigerant, instead of venting it to the atmosphere. Replace your filter each month, making sure the "filter hold down rod" is properly secured to prevent the filter from lifting and allowing dirt to blow by. Have your HVAC system serviced each year by a professional heating and air company to ensure proper operation.