R-22 Prices Set to Skyrocket
R-22 is a hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), but is commonly known as Freon. R-22 is a
refrigerant. Without refrigerant there would be no air conditioning, cooling, or freezing
technology. In air conditioning units, R-22 is a refrigerant that is contained in copper coils to
absorb heat from indoor air. As this process takes place, it transitions from a low-pressure gas to
a high-pressure liquid. The refrigerant is then sent outside where a fan blows hot air over the
coils and exhausts it to the exterior. The refrigerant then turns back into a low-pressure gas as it
cools down. A fan located in the home will then blow air over the cool coils. This process allows
for cold air to be distributed throughout the home. The cycle is circular and repeats itself.
R-22 is the old standard for residential cooling, but its production is being phased out by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because R-22 damages the ozone. In 2020, the United
States will no longer import or produce R-22. That does not mean that you have to switch your
A/C unit immediately, but it would be a good idea to go outside to take a look at your exterior
unit. If it says R-22 on the side, you’re using an outdated and environmentally hazardous
The EPA is not mandating that all units be converted right away, but the principles of
economics tells us that outdated technologies and a supply shortage tend to drastically increase
price. The cost of repair is most likely not worth doing; converting to the new standard is
advisable. Some companies are offering technically legal work arounds, but are not a smart
consumer strategy. R-22 was outlawed for use in new units. Some companies offer ‘dry charge’
units. This means the unit does not have refrigerant installed at the factory. Since refrigerant is
not installed at the factory, a technician is required to come to your home to install R-22. Again,
this is simply a work around the law, but is not an advisable strategy. Dry charged units are
generally less efficient than the new standard and the price increase of R-22 will sneak up on you
as the supply of R-22 diminishes.
R410A is the new normal for refrigerants in air conditioning units. R410A is a
hydrofluorocarbon, notice that it does not contain chlorine in the mix. It is safer from the
environment and is the replacement for R-22. R410A allows air conditioners to run more
efficiently, increase comfort, improve reliability, and offer better air quality.
Sadly, R-22 and R410A components are not compatible so a replacement will be required.
Basically this means that the next time your air conditioning unit requires a major repair, it
would make the most sense to replace the system entirely. No one enjoy incurring a large cost
unexpectedly so it may be a better option to be proactive about the standard changes by giving
EcoZapp a call.
The EPA recognizes that R410A is better than R-22, but still has its own flaws. It would be wise
to catch up on the latest laws and standards around air conditioning units. For example, only
licensed heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) companies and technicians can
purchase refrigerant. It is an HVAC technician’s responsibility to recapture, recycle and dispose
of refrigerant safely. The disposal of refrigerant must be in compliance with EPA standards and
refrigerant leaks must be repaired within 30 days of discovery. The violation of these or other
refrigerant regulations carry a hefty punishment from the EPA. This could be up to $37,500 per
day. Sections 601–607 of the Clean Air Act explains the phase out process.
So for the entirety of this article we have explained that systems using R-22 are outdated and will
eventually become quite costly. Most contractors will be dealing with 30 pound cylinders. A 30
pound cylinder of R-22 can go for $700. That is equivalent to $23.33 per pound. Most units
residential units use between two and four pounds so let’s split the difference and say 3 pounds
per unit ton for explanation purposes. Residential A/C units are between 1 and 5 tons. Again,
we’ll split the difference and say 3 tons. So at $23.33 per pound per tonnage need, we multiply
$23.33 by 3 and then multiply it by 3 again for a total of $210. Using R410A as our baseline, the
cost per pound is about $6. Doing that same math equates to $54. As you can see the price
differential between the two products is quite drastic. To beat the point home, the principles of
economics will show that as the supply for R-22 falls and if demand stays relatively stable
because people are reluctant to change their A/C units, then the price will skyrocket even more.
It is already advisable to change out your system now or at least give EcoZapp a call to discuss
your options. Everything is fine in an A/C unit until it isn’t; that is a phrase we like to use to
describe the expenses related to waiting for an A/C unit to have a major problem rather than
being proactive about the problems by scheduling routine maintenance and staying ahead of the
curve when it comes to standards in the United States.
This article is not intended to scare anyone into buying a new A/C unit, but is instead intended to
get the conversation started when it comes to the new EPA standards and how it can have an
effect on your finances. It is best to plan ahead. Planning ahead entails being proactive. EcoZapp
would love to have the conversation with you about your A/C needs. If you do not want to
convert over right now, but would like to hear the facts, please still call one of our
knowledgeable team members. We keep things straight and real with our customers because at
EcoZapp we understand that our customers are our neighbors and friends.