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Why is the R-22 Refrigerant in Your Air Conditioning Unit Suddenly so Expensive?

Why is the R-22 Refrigerant in Your Air Conditioning Unit Suddenly so Expensive?

If you’re like many of homeowners who have faced steadily increasing bills for the regular service on your air conditioning unit, R-22 refrigerant could be the culprit.

R-22 is used more than any other refrigerant in the world. For more than 40 years R-22 has been the most prevalent refrigerant used in central air conditioning systems at home and at work across the US, allowing a revolution in food storage and transportation. It is non-toxic, efficient, and simple to use, and for decades we have relied on it.

R-22 is Being Phased Out by the EPA

Despite the popularity of R-22, it is also an HCFC (hydrochloroflourocarbon) class refrigerant that contains chlorine and can damage the ozone, and its manufacture significantly contributes to global warming. The Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement that the United States signed, established gradual but complete phase-out requirements for R-22 gas production and usage in all developed countries.

To comply with the mandates from the Protocol, around every 5 years, the manufacture and import of R-22 is being stepped down by the EPA, with the target of complete phase-out by 2030. Amounts allowed for 2012-2014 will not be set by the EPA until this summer, and they are sure to be appreciably reduced, while will likely mean more price increases.

What Can You Do to Avoid the R-22 Price Increases?

If you have an existing unit that requires R-22 the EPA says you will still be allowed to be refill and service (there is no retrofit requirement from the EPA.) However, the increasing cost of the R-22 refrigerant coupled with the increasing difficulty in acquiring it makes an eventual replacement a good decision environmentally as well as financially.

The two most prevalent successors to R-22 include R-407C, which is allowed for some retrofits, and R-410A, which is generally considered superior but is not allowed for retrofit due to its higher working pressures and resulting system redesign. A new unit is likely preferable in either case.

Contact SSI to learn more about your best long-term alternatives for your AC needs.


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