The Rise of R-22

This March, my brother and I went to the ACCA (Air Conditioning Contractors of America) Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.  We are new members of the association and were anxious to hear new energy savings tips and air conditioning products that are now available.  We brought home many great ideas for home performance and indoor air quality options for our customers.  Kevin and I sat in on many “town hall meeting” forums to discuss different problems and advancements that are occurring in the HVAC industry today.  One problem we are currently facing is the rising cost of R-22 refrigerant in air conditioners.

What we found out at the convention: Since January 2012 the price of R-22 Refrigerant or Freon, which is used in most air conditioners installed before 2006, has risen as much as 400%.  The U.S. EPA controls production and importing of R-22 refrigerant.  The EPA has failed to set limits for 2012.  Until the EPA sets these limits, manufacturers must produce 45% less R-22 refrigerant than the previous year.  In turn this has created uncertainty in the marketplace and the manufacturers have increased their prices.  No word on when new regulations will be in place.

As the temperature rises and we turn on our air conditioners, we receive many calls related to refrigerant leaks.  Here are some of our most common “no cool” calls; “my air conditioner is running but blowing warm air”, “my air conditioner is running but no air is blowing out of the vents”, and “there is ice on my air conditioner.”  As refrigerant leaks out, your air conditioner has a difficult time reaching the set temperature on the thermostat, causing longer run times.  The short term air conditioning repair in this situation is to add R-22 to get immediate cooling.

Unfortunately, with the high costs of Freon, this AC repair approach may be very costly.  In addition to the high costs, the Freon will leak out again at a rate determined by the severity of the leak.  Refrigerant leaks can form in many parts of your equipment.  Leaks can be found by performing a leak search on your system.  Sometimes the leak can be repaired.  Other times the evaporator coil or outdoor unit must be replaced.

Katie Sinn

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