If you're like most homeowners, then you're probably not aware of the upcoming phase-out of R-22 refrigerant, which comes into effect after January 1, 2020. After this date, R-22 becomes illegal to import and manufacture within the U.S. if you still own a residential air conditioning system or heat pump that relies on R-22, you may find yourself in a bind due to the following consequences of the phase-out.
R-22 Becomes Harder to Find
Due to the ongoing efforts of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in accordance with the Montréal Protocol, there's been a steady decline in R-22 production throughout the past decade. With January 1, 2020, marking the complete end of all R-22 production in the U.S., the only sources of the now-obsolete refrigerant left to HVAC technicians will be supplies produced before the phase-out date plus refrigerant scavenged from retired equipment.
As supplies of R-22 dwindle over the years, HVAC technicians will face an uphill battle when it comes to sourcing the refrigerant. This is bound to have plenty of wide-ranging effects on HVAC repairs involving older units that still rely on R-22.
Repairs for Older A/C Systems Will Get More Expensive
Without the ongoing production of R-22 refrigerant, the cost of existing supplies will increase in response to demand. The laws of supply and demand will make any purchase of R-22 refrigerant an expensive one for HVAC technicians, especially as current supplies dry up. Of course, you can expect your HVAC specialist to pass these skyrocketing costs on to the customer.
As a result, expect any repairs that involve adding R-22 refrigerant to cost you an arm and a leg. In some cases, your HVAC specialist might not be able to repair your unit at all due to the R-22 shortage.
You'll Have More Reasons to Upgrade to a Newer A/C System
If you're still clinging onto your old A/C system, the upcoming phase-out offers yet another reason to ditch your current unit and upgrade to something newer. Modern A/C and heat pump systems offer major leaps in efficiency and performance, resulting in greater comfort and lower annual energy costs. A/C systems and heat pumps typically offer a 15- to 20-year lifespan, so a replacement should already be in the cards if your current system is over a decade old.
A complete HVAC replacement isn't the only option available, however. You could have your current unit converted to use an alternative refrigerant. However, this option isn't always available, especially if your current A/C or heat pump system needs extensive repairs.