Updated: Apr 12, 2020
As I write this we are all hunkered down thanks to the Coronavirus. It is pretty cold and rainy in the Bay Area, but one fine day we will have warm weather again and hopefully better times for us all, especially those souls who are pushed to the brink or living on the street. May a happier future await them all.
But for now, let's consider hot weather again and you firing up your old air conditioner for the very first time this year. If your air conditioner was installed prior to 2010 and you are not really sure what R22 is, this blog is for you! R22 is a refrigerant that enables your air conditioner to supply cold air on those hot days. You may know it by the name Freon. R22 was introduced in the 1950s and was a staple in the air conditioning industry for many years.
Refrigerant is actually a pretty fascinating compound that is super effective at absorbing heat from inside your home, and in doing so will turn itself from a gas to a liquid. That refrigerant is then sent to the exterior of your home where it releases the heat, which turns it back into a gas. This cycle repeats itself over and over, keeping you cool.
Fast forward a few decades and R22 was recognized as contributing to the earth’s ozone depletion problems. R22 is considered one of the major culprits, and by early 2010 the production and import of R22 became prohibited. R22 was replaced with R410a, which is far better for the environment and considered to be as effective, if not more so, than R22.
With a dwindling supply of R22, basic economics tells us that repairing AC units built before 2010 has become increasingly expensive, and will only continue to get more costly going forward. Servicing existing equipment is still acceptable if there is an available supply of R22 but it can only be purchased by a certified technician. The production and import of R22 will be continually reduced by law until 2020, when all production and import will be eliminated. Only recycled R22 refrigerant will be available to service existing air conditioners after 2020.
Fast forward to 2020 and your AC unit built in 2009 (using R22) decides to quit. You call out a repairperson who suggests that you pay for a “drop-in” replacement, where your old air conditioner is retrofitted with parts that will enable you to use R410a in your equipment. Not a good idea. In part, this is because different refrigerants operate at different pressure levels and need different parts, which results in the technician needing to replace the most expensive components of your system to be compatible with the new refrigerant.
The most straightforward option is to buy a new, upgraded air conditioner, especially if your current air conditioner is already more than 10 years old. The cost may not be much more than a drop-in retrofit, and you will sleep well at night knowing that you have a new air conditioner that will give you another 15-20 years of service, and you are helping Mother Earth. See you next time -