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June 11, 2013
Tell me if this story sounds familiar: Your air conditioner stopped blowing cold air, and you realized it needed more refrigerant. So you called a contractor for a charge and thought, “Well, it’s just a refrigerant charge. It can’t cost too much, right?”
Then your jaw hit the floor when you saw the bill.
If you were charged around $80-$115 a pound, you probably feel like you’re getting ripped off, you’re not alone. But the real problem is that you’re a victim of supply and demand.
We’ll explain why in this blog post and what you can do about it.
Phasing out Refrigerant
About 25 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered R-22 to be phased out because it contains ozone-depleting substances. This was done as a part of the “Montreal Protocol”, an international treaty meant to protect the ozone layer.
Flash forward to January 1, 2010: The EPA banned the import and production of air conditioners that are pre-charged with R-22 and reduced R-22 production by 75%. And by 2015 they plan to reduce R-22 production level by 90%.
What does that mean for me?
Basically, since there’s less refrigerant to go around, but most people still need it for their air conditioners, you have to pay more for a basic charge if your air conditioner requires it.
Because the U.S. government has placed restrictions on how much refrigerant can be produced, suppliers can only sell a certain amount per day. This can cause the price of the refrigerant to skyrocket during the summer when more people need refrigerant.
Bottom line: A low supply and high demand of refigerant has driven up the price substantially.
Can my air conditioner use a different refrigerant?
There are alternative replacement refrigerants for R-22. However, using these “drop-in” substitutes comes with some caveats:
- Many of these substitutes are not compatible with your system unless you make changes to your system’s components (not worth it if you have an older system)
- Since most manufacturers have not approved the use of drop-in refrigerants, using them will void your warranty.
You can learn more about this on the EPA website.
So what should I do?
Really, you need to look at the big picture here. Refrigerant should never need to be replaced. That means your system had a leak, which possibly means you have an older system.
If you have an older system, you should have a reputable HVAC technician who is NATE certified to advise you if you should repair or replace your air conditioner.
Save $300 on a new energy efficient A/C
If you do decide to invest in a unit new air conditioner, there’s good news.
You can take advantage of federal Energy Star tax credits up to $300 if you buy a qualifying air conditioner. Combine that with the savings you’ll get from a new energy-efficient air conditioner, and upgrading will pay itself back in no time.
Ask one of our experts to find out if you should replace your air conditioner.
Or contact us online to get a free estimate on an air conditioner that will take advantage of the federal tax credits.
To learn more about the refrigerant phase out, check out Phaseoutfacts.org.