Have you heard of R-22? If not, you’ve likely heard the word refrigerant, and you know that it’s the fluid within your air conditioning system that enables it to function. You might even have a basic understanding of how refrigerant works, and at some point you may have needed your refrigerant to be refilled (this is called recharged in the HVAC industry).
First off, the only reason you should ever need your refrigerant to be recharged is in the case of damage and leaking refrigerant. Ideally, air conditioner is supplied with enough refrigerant upon installation to last its entire lifecycle.
So let’s refer back to R-22. This is a type of refrigerant—an ancient chemical blend no longer used in modern air conditioners. R-22 is being phased out. That’s right, it won’t be available anymore to our clients. So, what should you do if you have a refrigerant leak?
“I Can Buy Old R-22, Right?”
For just a couple more months, sure—more on that below.
If you choose to replace your entire air conditioner, you’ll have the peace of mind that your new system will not have this harmful form of refrigerant in it. Rather, it will have a newer, safer refrigerant blend (likely R-410A). The name isn’t as important as knowing that R-22 won’t be produced or imported to the US as of January 2020—just a couple months away!
If your older air conditioning system experiences a refrigerant leak, that refrigerant can’t be replaced with the newer version if it’s currently using R-22. There is a drop-in solutions, so yes, for the next couple of months you can still get refrigerant for an older system. But there are downfalls to this—when you introduce an unfamiliar refrigerant to your older air conditioner, you hurt that system’s efficiency. In fact, your air conditioner can lose up to 15% of its efficiency.
This is terrible for system functionality, as it means the air conditioner will have to work harder to do its job. This wears down on the air conditioner’s components faster, causing your energy bills to rise. If your system has already aged to the point that it’s required a lot of repairs and is possibly already a candidate for replacement, then doing a drop-in refrigerant can have severe consequences for the system.
“So What Can I Do?”
Honestly, if you have an older air conditioner leaking R-22 refrigerant, the best thing you can do for your wallet and for your convenience is replace the system altogether.
Today’s AC systems are developed with a much higher SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) than systems of the past. Even without the refrigerant problem, you’ll benefit from increased efficiency. Speaking of AC replacements, however, you don’t have to stick with the same type of air conditioner you’ve always had. For instance, if you also have an aging furnace, you may benefit from a heat pump installation, which lets you get both efficient cooling and heating all from one HVAC system.