Modern air conditioning uses a fluid known as “refrigerant” in order to collect heat from inside your home and expel it outdoors where you want it. Chemical engineering has created extremely effective and efficient refrigerants over the years, and one in particular has been instrumental in the growth and improvement of air conditioning technology. In fact, you’ve probably heard of it: R-22, or as it’s better-known, “Freon.”
Freon was the refrigerant of choice in all types of air conditioning systems for decades, but studies have found it to be substantially harmful to the environment. In addition to being extremely toxic to humans and animals, it also depleted the ozone layer which protects the earth from harmful solar radiation. Because of the widespread alarm about the rapidly dying ozone layer, hundreds of countries around the world all agreed to begin curbing their dependence on depleting materials and substances in the Montreal Protocol. The agreement was signed back in the 1980s, and thus put the United States on the path to complete Freon independence.
If we fast forward several decades, that EPA-instituted Freon ban is about to reach its fullest extent. Starting on January 1st of 2020, all of the following will become the law in the United States:
- No new air conditioning systems which utilize R-22 Freon refrigerant may be sold or installed anywhere in the United States
- No new Freon may be produced or manufactured at chemical plants anywhere in the country
- No new Freon may be imported from producers in other countries
These aren’t the first bans the country has seen. Even today, new systems that come pre-charged with Freon may not be sold or imported, and the EPA has limited domestic Freon production by 90% of what it used to be. If you have a Freon-based air conditioner, you may have noticed over the last few years that the cost of what used to be a simple recharge service has skyrocketed. There’s a good reason for this: Freon prices have gone up, and starting in January, they’re only going to get higher.
What This Means for Your Air Conditioner
When people hear that Freon will be a banned substance in just a few months, it’s understandable that more than a few who still depend on this refrigerant start to sweat a little bit. Does this mean your air conditioner is about to become illegal? Are you about to have to spend thousands of dollars on a new system when your current one still works perfectly fine? We can answer a few of your big questions right away: you are not required to replace a Freon-based air conditioner as a result of this ban. Your air conditioner will not be illegal, and you will not be forced to replace it until you think the time is right to do so.
But with that being said, there will be some changes you’ll have to prepare for. First of all, if you thought the cost of Freon refrigerant was high already, just wait. Freon supply has diminished substantially, and very little of the substance is actually produced due to already-tight EPA regulations. When all manufacturing of the substance becomes banned, finding new Freon is going to become close to impossible, and that’s going to send prices even higher. Eventually, the supply of Freon is going to run out, and that’s going to mean the only source for recharge Freon is going to be reclaimed Freon, and that doesn’t always work as well as new Freon would.
However, there is some good news. Freon has not been the best refrigerant on the market for some time, and as such many people have actually already migrated to systems that use a less-harmful and more efficient alternative. Most Freon-based systems are likely already approaching the end of their useful lifespan, as they’re probably at least 10 to 15 years old or more. This means an early retirement for your system may not be a bad idea, as replacing it completely will not only make you compliant with this new ban, but even give you a substantial increase in cooling power and energy efficiency.
If you have a Freon-based system that you’d like to replace, or you need your air conditioner repaired, turn to the experts from Rescue Air Heating and Cooling! Give us a call at (972) 201-3253 today.