R-22 has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air conditioning systems for more than four decades, but it has been identified as having a negative environmental impact, including contributing to ozone depletion. Under EPA regulations, R-22 is being phased out, with production totally prohibited after 2020.
This has added new considerations for homeowners who are considering whether to repair or replace an air conditioning unit. For instance, some refrigerant manufacturers have begun selling cheaper alternatives to R-22, often referred to as “drop-in” replacement refrigerants. But alternatives are cheaper only in the short run.
“Lennox, one of the leading air conditioning manufacturers, has conducted research that shows these cheaper alternate refrigerants are not compatible with the lubricating oil used in R-22 units,” says Dave Moody, director of marketing for Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. “Recharging older air conditioners with these alternative refrigerants may actually damage the system and void your manufacturer’s warranty. As a result, we’ve instructed our 2,500 technicians to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and use only R-22 when they recharge R-22 systems.”
Moody also points out that reclaimed and recycled R-22 is expected to be available to repair existing systems after production ceases in 2020, but as the supply of new R-22 refrigerant continues to be reduced, costs of both new and recycled R-22 refrigerant will increase significantly.
All new air conditioning systems now use a more environmentally friendly refrigerant, R410A. These newer systems offer many benefits, including greater energy efficiency, longer warranty periods and quieter operation, and may prove to be the wiser investment when homeowners are faced with repairing an older system that uses R-22 refrigerant. The Service Experts website at www.serviceexperts.com offers an interactive tool that allows homeowners to see how much they can save on utility bills by year based on the energy-efficiency rating of different new systems.
“There is no one-size-fits-all answer about whether to repair or replace your R-22 AC,” says Moody. “It really does depend on the individual family, their home, their lifestyle and their budget. Service Experts technicians are trained to spend considerable time working through all these factors with our customers and help them make the most informed decision, and we’re happy to answer homeowner questions on this topic.”