Beware:  Your Pre-2010 AC May Not be Repairable!

Air conditioning greatly increases comfort and can even be a life-saver on scorching summer days. However, those benefits come at a financial and environmental cost. Right now, those costs revolve around R22 refrigerant, popularly known as Freon.

If your air conditioner was installed before 2010, you’ll need to know about R22, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes as HCFC-22. To keep things simple, though, this post will use the name R22. R22 is a chemical compound that keeps the air coming from your air conditioning system cool. It debuted in the 1950s and did its job so well that it soon dominated the residential cooling business.

The Montreal Protocol

As atmospheric knowledge advanced, scientists realized that R22 wasn’t that great for the environment: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) like R22 were helping to create an expanding hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. Since ozone absorbs ultraviolet radiation, which can contribute to maladies such as cataracts and skin cancer, the EPA, in conjunction with other agencies and groups around the world, began to phase out many ozone-depleting substances as part of an international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol. Although the protocol lists many CFCs, R22 is widely considered to be the major culprit in the depletion of the ozone layer.

No More R22 Production or Imports After 2019 . . .

In 2003, the Montreal-Protocol-mandated phase-out of R22 production and imports kicked in. By the year 2020, production and imports will be banned altogether. It’s still acceptable to service current, existing equipment with an available supply of R22. However, after 2020 only recycled R22 refrigerant can be used.

. . . So the Cost of R22 Will Soar Into the Stratosphere

Of course, the older the air conditioning unit, the more likely it is to need repairs, and any pre-2010 air conditioners probably use R22. With increasing demand and ever-diminishing supply, R22 prices are spiraling upward.

The remaining R22 supply is tightly controlled because the chemical can only be purchased by an EPA- certified technician. There are also strict regulations for R22 reclamation and recycling, which further raise the price. As companies scramble to cover the increased overhead R22 repairs are incurring, they’re passing these fees on to their residential customers.