What R22 Freon And R410A Puron Phaseouts Mean For Your AC [Updated 2023]
Over the past 35 years, the EPA has mandated that HVAC manufacturers stop using coolants that are harmful to the environment. As a result, repairing older central air systems becomes increasingly expensive if they need a coolant recharge due to a leak.
And, when supplies run out, you’ll need to replace an older AC if it needs more coolant.
The one that’s made the most news over the years is R22, or freon. For years, it was virtually the universal coolant, or refrigerant, in residential ACs. Now, in 2022, it’s very expensive and hard to find.
And, as the phaseout for R22 is almost complete, a similar phaseout for R410A, its replacement, begins soon.
The mandates roll out slowly, often over ten years. This strategy reduces the likelihood that you’ll suddenly get stuck with an enormous repair bill when you shouldn’t.
It works because, after a specific year, new air conditioners use a different coolant. Then, production of the older coolant tapers off over a decade or more.
So, over time, its price goes up little by little. Eventually, it’s hard to find and very expensive, and then there’s none left.
However, most air conditioners only last about 15 years. And, you only need to add more coolant if yours leaked.
So, if your AC uses a refrigerant that’s no longer available, odds are you’re just about due for a new system anyway by the time you need a recharge.
Or, if you bought your central air system after a phaseout began, you’re not using that old refrigerant.
This article breaks down everything you need to know about the coolant in your air conditioner. And whether you need to be concerned about whether you may need a new system soon.
It’s important to remember that you never have to replace your central air just because the coolant it uses is no longer made or “banned” by the EPA. Nor do you ever need a recharge if there’s no problem with your system.
But, your contractor may not be able to find any more of that coolant if you do need it. Or, it will be very expensive.
We updated this article in April of 2022, but things are constantly changing. So, if you have any questions or concerns about the system in your Boise Metro home or business, call Snowflake Air at (208) 205-9078.
R22 Phase Out
R22, or freon, was the most widely-used coolant for air conditioners for a long time. However, it’s a hydrochlorofluorocarbon, or HCFC, which depletes the earth’s ozone layer.
This concern was addressed in the Montreal Protocol On Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987. Following that international treaty, the U.S. and other countries began phasing out harmful chemicals.
After eliminating chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC, refrigerants in the 90s, the EPA began tapering and eventually banning HCFCs, including R22 Freon.
Starting in 1996, manufacturers used either R22 or R410A, also unknown as Puron, in all air conditioners. Both coolants were regularly in production back then.
The EPA mandated that starting in 2010, all new air conditioners would use R410A. Also that year, manufacturers began tapering off production of R22 and HCFC-12b, a similar coolant.
By 2015, the EPA banned all production and import of R22 Freon except to service existing systems. In other words, production dropped, and no new systems use it.
The next big change came in 2020. That’s when all production of R22 ceased in the U.S. It’s now also illegal to import it.
R22 Freon 2022 Cost Updates
R22 is still fairly easy to locate, but it becomes more expensive each year, and now it’s through the roof. In April 2021, A 25-pound jug of R22 cost around $595 in Idaho. By August, it jumped to $910. In April 2022, the price was $1,300. Today, in January of 2023, that jug is $1,395. Now, this is also before the air conditioning season has started. We are expecting it to rise even further once people turn on the AC for the first time in 2023.
That’s not including the labor to recharge your system.
Now, figure that most residential ACs use around five pounds of refrigerant. Larger homes or setups that require a long line set can use up to ten.
Do I Have To Replace My Central Air If It Uses R22?
You don’t have to replace your central air just because it uses R22. However, be prepared to replace it soon. Most systems last around 15 years, and any AC with R22 is at least 12 years old. Plus, a coolant leak will be costly to fix, making it not worth the cost.
We need to recharge your entire system in almost all cases once there’s a leak. If you’ve lost less than two pounds, we may be able to “top it off” so you can use it for the rest of the season. Then, it’s time to consider a replacement for next summer.
But, with the prices jumping so high this year, we’re recommending replacement even if there’s a small leak. We don’t want you to spend a lot of money on a recharge when something else is likely to go wrong soon after that with an older system.
The silver lining here is that if your system made it this long with Freon, you’ve gotten the most out of your investment. And, replacing an older AC while it’s still in service can save you money in the long run.
R410 Phase Out
R410A, another HCFC refrigerant also called Puron, is still used in new ACs here in the U.S. However, it’s now set to be phased out under the American Innovation and Manufacturing, or AIM, Act, which was part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021
The act, passed on December 21, 2020, set the stage for the gradual phase-down of various HFCs to 15 percent of their overall 2021 production level by 2036. The list of substances includes Puron.
The phase-out for R410A Puon began this year, as production was reduced by ten percent starting in January 2022.
Manufacturers have stopped using R410A in new systems starting on January 1, 2023.
After that, we’ll see a very sharp cut in production in 2024. That year, all manufacturing of R410A must reduce by 60 percent from its 2021 baseline.
R410A 2022 Cost Updates
Like R22, the cost of R410A is already rising. It’s not nearly as expensive as Freon, but the price increase has already been dramatic. In April 2022, it cost around $450 for 25 pounds, up from just $89 at the same time last year, and from $370 in August 2021. Now in January of 2023, it costs about $495 for that same 25-pound jug. This is a slight increase from last year, but as we mentioned previously, we expect these numbers to rise in the summer of 2023.
Do I Have To Replace My Central Air If It Uses R410A Puron?
You can keep your air conditioner if it uses R410A, and you’ll never have to replace it just because the coolant is no longer available. Since the phaseout doesn’t even begin until next year, we don’t expect a drop in supply any time soon.
That said, it’s crucial to stay on top of regular maintenance. As your AC gets older over the next five or ten years, the coolant may become more expensive. You’ll want to avoid leaks or breakdowns that may be more expensive than necessary because of the low R410A supply.
The good news is that doing so is simple: All you need is an annual tune-up for your system every spring — something the industry recommends for all systems regardless of coolant.
AC Repair And Replacement In Boise Metro
If you’re concerned about your air conditioner, need a repair, or are considering a replacement, we’re here to help! Snowflake Air provides Boise, ID and nearby towns with expert AC repair and replacement services. We’re up-to-date on the latest industry news and trends, and we proactively find the best ways to save you money without sacrificing comfort.