We’re just a few months away from the end of a decade and with it, the era of Freon will officially come to a close. The EPA has enacted legislation which will go into effect on January 1, 2020, officially outright banning the production of R-22 refrigerant or “Freon” as it’s more commonly known. For decades, Freon has been the go-to refrigerant for all types of air conditioners and equipment however, since as far back as the 1980s, it’s become painfully aware of the downsides of this product. Freon is an extremely toxic substance and studies have shown just how much it can destroy the ozone layer that protects us from harmful radiation.
As a result, the EPA began scaling back on production levels to try and lessen the impact on the environment while new refrigerants were in development. Today, there are several other options on the market which are significantly less harmful to the earth and even do a better job of handling heat transfer, which makes them more efficient. As a result, Freon is now being phased out. While production levels have been significantly reduced and air conditioners which come pre-charged with Freon haven’t been sold for quite some time, this January will mark the total and complete end of Freon production in the United States. That also means that all imports of the substance in any form will immediately cease.
Do I Need a New Air Conditioner?
This brings up a number of questions that you may have about your system and what may happen over the next few years. Will you be required to buy a new air conditioner this January? Is using an air conditioner that’s powered with Freon now illegal as well?
First, let’s get the most common question out of the way: will you have to buy a new air conditioner? The answer is simple: no, you will not. The Freon ban is a “grandfathering” ban, which means that any Freon-powered systems still in use can still be legally operated without issue. That being said, it may get rather expensive to fix them if the fix involves recharging or refilling the refrigerant in any amount. The significant reduction in Freon availability has already sent prices surging and a total ban will only cause that number to go up even more.
To compound that problem, many air conditioners that run on Freon are probably at the age where they’re starting to wear out and need replacement soon. That means the demand for Freon for recharges could actually increase somewhat and that the skyrocketing price for the refrigerant could make a seemingly routine repair suddenly become cringe-worthy expensive. At that point, you may as well consider replacing your air conditioner anyway.
Can I Replace My Freon With Another Refrigerant?
A refrigerant swap isn’t like an oil change in your car or a different grade of gasoline: you can’t mix them. And likewise, the different components in your system which handle the refrigerant are designed to operate based on the chemical properties of your chosen refrigerant. R-22 Freon is going to act much different from other modern materials like R-410A or R-32, which means you could cause everything from burst lines to broken compressors to anything in between. The match between your refrigerant and the components in your system is crucial.
However, you don’t necessarily have to get rid of your entire system to swap refrigerants, either. Drop-in replacements are essentially parts which can be “dropped in” to your current system to convert it for use with a different refrigerant. In some cases, these may be a more economical way of getting rid of your Freon. However, not all systems can be replaced via the “drop-in” method and likewise an older system may still want to consider an outright replacement so you can have a completely freshstart.
Do you need to replace your air conditioner? Call Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical and Solar at (408) 868-5500 today to request a consultation with our air conditioning installations team.