The 2020 Freon Ban: Do You Need to Replace Your Old AC Unit?

As 2019 comes to a close, you’ll probably be hearing more reports in the news about the 2020 Freon ban; a ban on  R-22 that goes into effect on January 1, 2020. You may be concerned about whether or not this ban will affect you as a homeowner and if so, how. 

Let’s take a closer took at the details of this ban and how it might affect you.

What is R-22 and Why is it Being Banned?

R-22 is a refrigerant commonly used in air conditioning systems that were built and installed prior to 2010. It is categorized as a Class II controlled substance by the EPA. In the U.S., the EPA regulates ozone-depleting substances (ODS) as either class I or class II. Class I substances have been almost completely phased out in the U.S. because of their higher ozone depletion potential. Ozone absorbs UV radiation, so depletion is potentially threatening to humans and can lead to increased rates of skin cancer.  Class II substances are all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are less damaging to the ozone than class 1 substances, but still harmful. New production and import of most HCFCs will be phased out by 2020. The most common HCFC in use today is HCFC-22 or R-22, which is commonly known by its trademark name, Freon. This colorless, odorless, nonflammable, noncorrosive substance was introduced as a refrigerant in the 1930s. It also proved useful as propellants for aerosols and in numerous technical applications.

How Does a Refrigerant Like R-22 Work?

When warm air inside your home blows across the indoor evaporator coil of your air conditioner, its heat energy transfers to the refrigerant inside the coil. That transfer, in turn, “cools” the air. A refrigerant such as R-22 is pumped back to the compressor where the cycle begins again. The heat absorbed by the R-22 or other coolant is moved outside your home while cooled air is blown inside. Moisture that contributes to humidity is also condensed out of the air. Your cooling system is usually combined with your central heating system because they share the same ductwork for distributing conditioned air throughout your home. 

Will You Be Affected by the Ban? 

Experts estimate half of all residential AC units in the U.S. currently run on R-22 coolant.

If your air conditioning was installed prior to 2010, it’s likely it uses R22 refrigerant. Many air conditioners state what type of coolant the system uses on a label somewhere on the unit but we recommend giving us a call so we can send an experienced, licensed HVAC technician to confirm this. During your service call, we’ll also check your unit for any signs of leakage. 

Your air conditioner is a closed system, so as long as it is in good working order, your Freon level shouldn’t change. However, if you’ve ever needed to have your HVAC system re-charged with Freon or you’ve been limping along with an old AC unit that you know has a leak, we recommend getting your unit repaired and recharged as soon as possible before the ban goes into effect. Freon prices are expected to rise as supply diminishes.

If My AC Unit Runs on R-22, Does That Mean I’ll Have to Replace It?  

Not necessarily. There are many factors to consider before replacing your existing unit. As we explained in a previous article, a great tip to think about when deciding if it’s time for a new unit is if the cost of repair, multiplied by the age of your unit, is more than the cost of a new unit.

(Cost of Repair) X (Age of Old AC Unit in Years) > (Cost of Your New AC)

For Example:

Cost of repair: $450.00

Age of Unit: 15 years

Price of new unit: $5,450.00 (with installation)

($450.00) X (15) = $6,750.00

$6,750.00 > $5,450.00 = Time for a new AC unit.

Regardless of the type of refrigerant your system uses, If your air conditioner is giving you the following warning signs, your unit may be in need of repair:

  • Strange noises
  • Warm air coming from your vents
  • Spike in your electric bill
  • Strange odors coming from your vents
  • Dripping water is creating puddles
  • Electric breaker keeps tripping

If your older unit has been properly maintained and is running well, there’s no immediate need to replace it. And you don’t need to worry that you will be forced to purchase a new unit if supplies of R-22 will run out. According to Trane, there is still enough R-22 available to fill 90.7 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

However, if your unit has been struggling for some time and you anticipate that the 2020 Freon ban will only increase the cost of your future repairs, fall is a great time to have a new unit installed. Not only will you be purchasing an air conditioner that uses a more environmentally-friendly refrigerant but today’s HVAC units are also more energy-efficient, which can help lower your monthly electric bill. Fall is also a good time to have a new AC unit installed because the demand for HVAC servicing is lower in the cooler months which means installation can happen more quickly.

If you’ve been on the fence wondering if it might be time to purchase a new air conditioner, call us to assess the current condition of your unit. We’ll give you an estimate of how much life is left in your HVAC system and help you calculate how much future repairs might cost. We can also give you a quote on a new unit and explain our convenient financing options. 

Here’s to a more energy-efficient and healthier planet in 2020!

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