What is R-22 Refrigerant?
R-22 refrigerant is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant that has been discontinued in its manufacture due to the chlorine contained within the chemical makeup for AC Companies in Fort Worth TX. The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has deemed the chlorine in this refrigerant to be harmful to the ozone layer of our atmosphere. As of December 31, 2019, R-22 has ceased to be made and existing stockpiles are all that is available at this writing. Industry experts predict an adequate supply for the next five years or so. However, the price is skyrocketing due to the already dwindling supply. But refrigerant that is reclaimed by AC Companies in Fort Worth TX can be recycled, at some cost, and reused. Even that, though, has a shelf life – thus, the demise of R-22.
Sometime In 1928, Thomas Midgley, Albert Henne, and Robert McNary created nonflammable refrigerants including R-22, which has been a dominating refrigerant for homes and businesses air conditioning and heat pumps ever since. But in 1987, the Montreal Protocol was an international treaty created to stop the use of ozone-depleting substances. Many refrigerants like R-12, which were widely used in commercial and domestic refrigeration and automotive applications had much higher chlorine content than did R-22. As a matter of fact, R-22 had the least amount of chlorine than any of the other refrigerants that were slated to be banned; however, since it did indeed have some chlorine in its mixture, it had to go. So, the hue and the cry to abolish these harmful refrigerants humbly began well over 40 years ago but just started to affect pocketbooks of homeowners and small business owners about seven years ago when production suddenly dropped over 30 percent. This immediately drove up the cost to purchase R-22 and contractors were forced to follow suit. This caused end-users of R-22 to have to consider whether a replacement system was needed instead of just “topping off a system” with R-22 in rapid decline. Years ago R-22 was sold for 5-10 dollars per pound by contractors. Now the norm can be 125 to 200 dollars per pound. A huge difference if you have a 3-4 pound leak. What used to be 30 or forty dollars, can now be six to eight hundred. And if you take a chance and pay that much, how long will it last before it leaks down again? If the charge of this now expensive refrigerant lasts a year or two it might be considered a possibility. But if it all leaks out in a week someone is going to be very angry.
And this is the dilemma AC Companies in Fort Worth TX find themselves in at present. In fact, our governing body in Austin, Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, TDLR, says adding refrigerant to existing older systems and having it leak out is the number one formal complaint by consumers. That is why communication between technicians and consumers must be made so all the options are made available upfront – before any work is done. Many contractors have homeowners signs a waiver which negates the contractor from any responsibility if the refrigerant leaks out too soon. Leak inspections can be made at the time of service but they can be expensive. Units usually have to be literally torn apart inside and outside to gain access to trying to find refrigerant leaks. And even the best, most expensive leak detection methods can fail to find pesky tiny leaks such as a stress fracture – which might not appear unless the system is running at full capacity. Then the “sniffer” cannot operate properly because the airflow of the systems is affecting the tool’s ability to “sniff” the chlorine atom contained in the mixture.
Are You Needing a New AC Installation Now?
As AC Companies in Fort Worth TX, we typically have to have this same conversation almost every day with small business owners and homeowners. It can be devastating financially for those not ready to pay for an expensive recharge of a once readily available refrigerant now lying in an exorbitantly moribund state. Or, even more expensive, having to purchase a new system.
Now, on the bright side, new systems utilize environmentally friendly R-410A, which dominates the retrofit system market and consumers never have to face the R-22 dilemma again. Plus, newer systems are vastly more efficient, quiet, user friendly, and comfortable – inside your home and inside your wallet on a monthly basis. As a matter of fact, switching from an old 10 SEER efficient system to a highly efficient 18 SEER system can cut your AC bill in half. As an example, if your utility bill is $300.00 per month, the air conditioning portion of that is usually around half, say $150.00. And if you can cut that $150.00 in half, that is $75.00 per month you can keep in your pocket. And monthly savings on utility bills can many times cover the cost to finance a new system – plus getting a 10-year warranty and finally some peace of mind.
The demise of R-22 is similar to the phase-out of the old R-12 that used to be in everyone’s vehicle keeping us cool on the road for decades. But R-12 was chock full of chlorine and was one of the first ozone-depleting refrigerants to be phased out. And if you were trying to keep some old clunker running for a few more years on the road, keeping a leaking mobile AC running quickly got expensive.
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However, if you purchased a new vehicle in 1993 or later, they came with the new environmentally friendly R-134A, which is still in use today. But we tend to hang on to our air conditioners at home far longer than we do our cars. After all, Americans have a love affair with their cars – not their home comfort systems. Out of sight out of mind. Right? That is until a breakdown occurs and you need to call AC Companies in Fort Worth TX. Across the nation, studies show most Americans swap out their cars around every five years. Nothing like that new car smell, right. But not so with our air conditioners at our home or office. As long as they cool they are pretty much the last thing on our mind. That’s why, when a breakdown occurs with an R-22 bearing unit, the agony of an obsolete and very expensive refrigerant creeps in. Fill it up and hope for the best? Or spring for a new system? Over 90 percent of Americans never save up for a new system. Usually, it is kitchen cabinet upgrades or new flooring or a patio or deck – something to beautify the home – inside or out. But that upgraded beauty pales under the glare of a freshly remodeled home with a broken down AC. New tile or furniture quickly dulls when the thermostat reads 85 degrees and climbing.
Options for Your Air Conditioning System
But there are options to be had since the R-22 phase-out began. Multiple R-22 replacement refrigerants abound to varying degrees. One, in particular, is R407C. It is a direct replacement for R-22 but you cannot drop it in on top of an existing low charge of R-22. Certain measures have to be performed to make this refrigerant work in the place of R-22. Also, what many AC Companies in Fort Worth TX don’t tell their clients is that using R407C can create an approximately 7% capacity reduction when switching from R-22. At 85 degrees outdoor temperature 7% is no big deal. But when the Texas summer temperatures climb to 100 degrees small differences can make living indoors unbearable.
An option we find useful many times when customer funds are limited is to replace only the air conditioning portion of a complete system. That would entail replacing the outdoor unit along with the evaporator coil and keeping your existing gas furnace. This cuts the cost about in half of replacing the entire system and still get a 10-year warranty. But there are snags here as well. With this option, you would be limited to only a 14 SEER upgrade. You couldn’t go higher unless the furnace is changed out to a Variable Speed model to achieve high SEER ratings. You could, however, still stay cool with a new environmentally sound refrigerant and partially new equipment at a lower cost. The other snag is this cannot be done if you have electric heat or heat pump system. If you did this you would get the new outdoor unit with R410A and a new evaporator coil but the warranty would suffer. Replacing the evaporator coil in an existing air handler would only carry a one year warranty and thus, the outdoor unit would only have a five-year warranty. In other words, replacement coils inside and existing air handler would be considered only a repair and would only carry a one year warranty. But if you could live with that five years/one-year warranty you could still stay cool – just hope your new evaporator coil doesn’t leak after a year or two because then you are back in the same boat. Why?
Great Warranties for Your AC System
We have installed the most major brands of air conditioners and heaters. And many lesser brands as well. And we have found about a 10% leak rate on each brand across the board. Shocking? Not really. The evaporator coil in your closet, basement, or attic is under extreme stress all year round. It gets pistol hot in the winter underneath a gas furnace or if it is connected to a heat pump to keep you warm. Then it gets super cold in the summer trying to keep you cool. Your evaporator coils are constantly expanding and contracting to try to perform its environmental duty. Now, manufacturers certainly won’t admit to a 10% leak rate. That wouldn’t look good performance-wise. So, are we just unlucky in getting 10% of the coils we install to leak even though we use industry-standard best practices? No. It just happens. So, having a longer warranty just gives consumers peace of mind.
Refrigerant R-22 is slowing riding off into the environmentally deficient sunset no matter what we say or do as AC Companies in Fort Worth TX. It has been coming for so long it is hard to deny now. And even though options do exist, there are some drawbacks to most scenarios – with the exception of just biting the bullet and purchasing a brand new system with the new very affordable R410A refrigerant. It has to happen sooner or later. It’ s the same with our cars. After all, you don’t see very many 15-20-year-old cars on the road. Besides, with a new system comes peace of mind in knowing you can come home each day after a hard time at work to a comfortable home and know you are helping the environment and our ozone, along with the comfort of a multi-year warranty. Call AC Companies in Fort Worth TX, Thompson’s Cooling & Heating, today for a free consultation at:
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