What to Do When There’s No More R-22

Unless you are in the HVAC industry, or have recently purchased or repaired your HVAC system, you may not know what R-22 is. Most everyone has heard of Freon. Freon is the commercial name of the refrigerant coursing through the veins of older HVAC systems. And the big news you need to know about now is that the EPA has mandated that there will no longer be R-22 produced or imported after January 1, 2020. The only R-22 that will be available will be recycled (captured from an older system) or stockpiled. Imagine what it will sell for then when it’s already selling for 7X the amount of R-410A now.

What This Means for Older A/C Systems

What this means to those of you that have an older system, is that if you have a repair this summer and that repair requires your system to be pumped-down, you might want to rethink that repair and just replace your system. Surprisingly, there are many out there advocating trying to keep your old system going as long as possible, ignoring the benefits of improved energy efficiency, cleaner air for the home, and peace of mind knowing you are not putting good money after bad on an old system. As much as you love your old car, at some point the repairs themselves outweigh the value of the car.

The majority of system leaks occur in the indoor coil. Replacing the indoor coil requires a system pump-down, line evacuation, permit, Title 24 system testing, pretty much the whole shebang. And it’s costly. So why are some companies willing to let you endure all that cost and the hassle of scheduling two inspections, just to modify a system that will essentially be obsolete, or at best problematic with regard to the type of refrigerant it will still require?

The Solution

The answer unfortunately is that many companies are simply not aware of the impending EPA law change, and others are doing what benefits themselves in the near term, making the easy fix, avoiding the difficult conversation of replacement with the homeowner. You see, if your service company tells you that you need a new system, then you are likely to go out and get three bids, and that service company might then lose you as a customer. It’s a lot easier to just fix it, even if it’s not what is best for you.

Newer systems run on refrigerant called R-410A. The equipment made to run on R-410A and the equipment made to run on R-22 are not compatible; you cannot marry a new indoor unit that runs on R-410A with an older outdoor unit that runs on R-22, or vice-versa. 

Environmental Effects

The effect that this environmental law will have on the HVAC industry will be profound. If you are one of the people that has a company out to recharge your R-22 system annually (and there are lots of you!), or if you have been advised that you have a refrigerant leak and need a leak test, then it’s time to consider the impact you are having on the environment. Think about this: if your system is leaking Freon into the atmosphere every year, then you are technically environmentally irresponsible and partially to blame for the depletion of the ozone layer. You see the guy driving down the highway with the car spewing black smoke? Well, that’s you if your system is leaking Freon, you just can’t see it.

There are only so many competent companies in the marketplace. When the repair turns into a replace, inevitably the demand will exceed the supply of qualified installation companies. I say qualified because there are far too many companies out there doing not-so-great work. The recent tragedy of the Camp Fire up in Paradise is a great example of supply and demand. Even if the environmental issues could be resolved overnight (and there are many issues) and everything else were in place at this very moment to rebuild the 12,000+ homes that burned down, there simply would not be enough contractors to do the work; you wouldn’t go down to the local big box store and pick up half a dozen guys holding hammers to build your house would you? We are going to see a similar, less dramatic effect on the HVAC industry in the next few years. Prices have gone up significantly in the industry already this year, and will continue to do so as demand exceeds supply. 

Love and Care

So what’s the point of all this info? The point is, if you are facing major repairs this summer season, do not overspend on your old R-22 system. The newer systems are much quieter, run more efficiently, and use less energy. If you live in the SMUD zone, remember that we will be paying 300% more for electricity usage between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. during the hot summer months. Find a competent and honest company with journeyman installers and get yourself a new and efficient HVAC system. At Love and Care we offer no-cost consultations on your existing equipment and can and will make a recommendation that is best for you. Call today 916.714.1143

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