Do you have an air conditioner that was installed before 2010? Are you currently experiencing issues or leaks with your current air conditioner? Are you considering an upgrade? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be time to contact Wyckoff Heating & Cooling for your AC tune-up and to discuss options for a future installment. Here’s why –
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandated phase-out of R-22 to minimize environmental risk. Why? For decades, consumers have been using refrigerants to make air conditioning and refrigeration possible. But in recent decades, research found that, when released into the atmosphere, refrigerants containing chlorine – chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) – could damage the Earth’s protective ozone layer.
With knowledge comes power, so in 1995, the United States, through the Clean Air Act, began to reduce the amount of R-22 produced in and imported into the country. To meet requirements of the EPA mandate, production of air conditioning units charged with R-22 ended in 2010, and by 2020 the servicing of R-22 based systems will rely only on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants. Going forward, the EPA’s consumption allocation will decrease allowances of R-22 usage each year until 2020.
What does this mean for you, as a homeowner?
While new air conditioning systems are no longer be equipped to utilize R-22, there are several options available to update your current system before 2020:
Option 1: Stay Up-to-Date on Service – If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it probably utilizes R-22. The good news – existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22 as there is no EPA requirement for change or conversion of these units. More than likely, your heating and cooling units will have sufficient R-22, unless a leak occurs. Since production is limited, costs to charge existing units leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are expected to rise. Wyckoff Heating & Cooling urges our customers to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from the rising cost of R-22. The best thing you can do is properly maintain your unit to prevent leaks. You can do so by participating in routine tune-ups in the spring and fall. Remember, routine maintenance is far less expensive than emergency repairs.
Option 2: Total System Replacement – The best long-term solution to the R-22 phase-out is total system replacement. Even though R-22 will be available for a couple more years, the price of R-22 will continue to increase as availability becomes scarce. Additionally, since alternate refrigerants are not compatible with air conditioners that utilize R-22, replacement is only a temporary fix until the refrigerant is no longer available. While replacement does require the most upfront costs upon installation, it also offers the most energy efficient, environmentally friendly option for homeowners. Before deciding on a total replacement, you will want to consider all factors. The best time to switch is before you’re hit by the high costs of repairing an R-22 system. Take into account the age of your current unit (as a general rule, systems should be older than 10 years); look for the Energy Star® label to save up to 40 percent on utility bills, and consider the minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) specification. Rebates and tax credits also help to offset the cost of new systems.
Option 3: Replace Outdoor and Indoor Units – In some cases, it is possible to reuse the existing infrastructure of your air conditioning system, including pipework, wiring, and power supply. Partial R-22 replacement solutions integrate the latest air conditioning components with your existing system. This can save homeowners more than 50 percent on updating costs and is often a good option for those with an air conditioner that is less than ten years old. Here, you will see major improvements in performance, energy efficiency and running costs, without an overwhelming replacement investment.
Option 4: Retrofits and Substitutions – Unfortunately, not all substitute refrigerants are compatible with existing units that utilize R-22 without complex re-engineering. However, Retrofit units, converted R-22 units utilizing a substitute refrigerant, are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use. Specific substitute refrigerants can work well in R-22 units with a few changes to system components. For example, simply replacing R-22 refrigerant with R-410A in a preexisting R-22 unit is not recommended due to its higher working pressure. However, a certified professional can replace R-22 condensers with R-410A condensers, as long as the system coil is also updated. This provides consistency in the refrigerant cycle, as one cannot be replaced without the other, and allows the retrofit to get you by for several more years.
Let the professionals at Wyckoff Heating & Cooling help you maintain your HVAC system and make the right choice for your home. If you have questions or concerns about the R-22 phase out mandate, contact us or call (800) 246-0273 to schedule your HVAC system tune-up today.