The next time you have to add refrigerant to your old air conditioner, you may be a bit surprised by the R22 refrigerant prices.
And it’s not a pleasant surprise. Since late 2011, R22 refrigerant prices have increased by about 300 percent. And it seems a fairly safe bet that R22 prices will continue to rise in the coming years.
The reason behind these huge price increases is a similarly huge decrease in the amount of R22 available within the U.S. The EPA, in accordance with the international Montreal Protocol, is in the process of phasing out R22 use. The amount of R22 refrigerant that they will allow to be sold in 2012 is around 45 percent less than the amount used in 2011, and there will be further steep cuts until its availability drops to zero in 2020 (save for some recycled R22).
There are some very good reasons for the EPA to do this. R22 can contribute to global warming; one pound of the substance is considered to have the same global warming impact as 1,810 pounds of carbon dioxide.
There are other refrigerants, such as R410A, that can provide air conditioning without these negative environmental impacts. These other refrigerants are also much cheaper, especially compared to today’s R22 refrigerant prices. However, the great majority of air conditioners and heat pumps manufactured before 2010 were designed to utilize R22. They won’t run on the refrigerant used in newer cooling equipment.
If you have an R22-using air conditioner or heat pump, you basically have three options:
- Replace your air conditioner with a new model that runs on the more environmentally-friendly refrigerant options.
- Have your existing air conditioner retrofitted to run on something other than R22.
- Keep your old air conditioner, but pay much more any time it needs to be filled with refrigerant.
Before you do choose to pay these higher R22 refrigerant prices, consider the expected long-term costs. Besides using cheaper refrigerants, new A/C units are usually more energy-efficient, and their long-term costs may be less than simply repairing your old system.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about R22 refrigerant and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.