This statement comes from the EPA - THE U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and it is talking about the refrigerant which many of us know by the name Freon, or R-22. This refrigerant was found by the EPA to be harmful for the ozone layer, and to reduce the impact of it on our environment a decision was made to no longer allow production or importation of it in the United States as of January 1st, 2020.
It is important for homeowners to be aware of these changes and be prepared for what will come as an effect.
What does it mean to you as a homeowner to find out that R-22 Freon is banned?
It does not mean that you need to panic because you will be forced to replace your HVAC system that runs on R-22. Make sure you do not let a company trick you into thinking that you must replace your system based on the above statement made by the EPA. However, if your system will start having issues in the near future , related to the refrigerant, it may be a bit tricky to have it repaired. For example, if you are having a refrigerant leak type of problem, many companies will either not be able to service your R-22 unit, due to lack of R-22 availability or they will charge a very high premium for servicing it because their supply of R-22 Refrigerant is limited. Many companies will still have remaining R-22, and they are allowed to use it, the only issue here is the price. Companies have been charging extra for R-22 for some time already, and this can and will make the prices go up even more.
What are the options you have as a homeowner in this situation?
First of all, we want to avoid unnecessary expenses, therefore Nevada Residential Services recommends taking very good care of your system, in terms of maintaining it regularly, and avoiding unexpected breakdowns. During a regular routine tune up of your system, it can be easy to spot little issues which could potentially turn into expensive repairs, or even unnecessary system replacement scenarios. As long as you do not have any leaks in the system, you should be able to keep using your R-22 unit without any issues because many of the most common repairs are not at all related to refrigerant. The routine maintenance will indicate what condition your system is currently in, and point out any red flags. For example, if your coils are dirty and never been cleaned, your condenser is full of leaves and never gets taken care of, all these things can cause unwanted and unnecessary breakdowns. That being said, it is definitely possible to minimize the risk of refrigerant leaks or other system breakdowns, but usually such factors as the system’s age and lack of maintenance can make it inevitable.
What is the current health condition of your system?
You may have heard that there are refrigerant replacements for R-22, and this is correct. Some refrigerants are very close, in particular R407C is a refrigerant most often used as a replacement for R-22. It has a very similar parameters, and is much less expensive to use. What some companies might try to do is simply top off the replacement refrigerant on top of your existing R-22 which is a terrible mistake to make because although it is a replacement refrigerant, it is still not the same refrigerant, and you cannot and should not mix two different refrigerants together, as it will have a very negative effect on your system (they do not mix together). One of the most significant differences, is the type of oil the refrigerants use. Some use whats called POE oil (polyolester oil) - a type of synthetic oil mainly used in R-22 systems. Also there are mineral oil systems, which is less viscous than POE and therefore it would not meet the lubricity requirements of the system. In order to properly replace the refrigerant, the remainder of existing refrigerant must be removed, the system needs to be flashed to ensure no oil is left in the lines, to prevent it from mixing with the new Refrigerant, a proper vacuum needs to be done, and only after all the proper procedures have been followed, then you can add the new replacement refrigerant to the system. Unfortunately most companies, especially those that charge very little for such jobs, and do it very quickly, they will cut corners and try to minimize the steps at your expense. An important point to remember is that the highest price does not guarantee the highest quality, but the lowest price can and often will cost you much more than the highest price in the long term.Proper and thorough research, patience and attention to the little details when it comes to choosing the right company can often play a vital part in the whole process of HVAC repair or replacement.
Example where to find what type of refrigerant your system is using:
It is important to note some specifics when it comes to using replacement refrigerants and more:
- They should never be mixed with existing refrigerant, unless it is the exact same type. If you currently use R22, and you had a leak, you must either top it off with R-22, or completely remove R-22 and the system then is to be refilled with replacement refrigerant only.
- They will void your manufacturer's warranty.
- Only a licensed and certified company should be allowed to work on your HVAC system.
- Topping off leaky systems is inadvisable, as the refrigerant will continue leaking out. It is essentially the same as adding air to a flat tire without repairing it. A leak needs to be located, and repaired if repairable, only then refrigerant should be added to the system.
- Maintain your HVAC system twice a year to catch all potential issues before they become big problems. Once in the spring (AC Tune Up), and once in the fall (Heating/Furnace Tune Up).