The Montreal Protocol was adopted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1987 to restrict the production and consumption of products that negatively affect the ozone layer. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used for air conditioning units were the main concern of the Montreal Protocol. CFCs contribute to ozone layer depletion and as a result, countries stopped production in 1995. Air conditioning units were then powered by HCFCs which are less harmful than CFCs, but still contribute to depletion of the ozone layer. Now, the Montreal Protocol seeks to phase out HCFCs by 2020 to protect the ozone layer.
HCFCs include the popular refrigerant R22, also known as Freon, used in air conditioning units produced prior to 2010. After 2010, it became illegal to charge air conditioning units with R22 unless the unit was produced prior to 2010. By 2020 all R22 production will end and only small quantities found in left over units will remain. Production of R22 has already begun to slow resulting in a perfect economics 101 example of supply and demand. There is a finite amount of R22 so prices are rising. In 2011 the average retail price per pound of R22 was $40-$50*.
The fixed amount of R22 left is depleting quickly and will leave owners of R22 air conditioning units out of luck when needing service. R22 will be replaced with an environmentally friendly refrigerant called R410A. This refrigerant will NOT work in units that currently use R22. This means that in order to use the EPA approved R410A, you will need a new air conditioning unit.
So, what can you do? The guaranteed remedy would be the replace your unit with an R410A compatible unit. Because this is not the best money saving choice, there is another option. The refrigerant R407C can be used as a temporary stand-in for R22 until your unit is due for permanent replacement. In order to use R407C instead of replacing your unit, an air conditioning technician will have to remove all R22 and recharge the unit with the replacement R407C. This may be a larger cost upfront, but will save you money in the long run.
This legislation may seem daunting, but fear not R22 unit owners. You will not have to replace your units. R407C is a low cost solution to a possibly expensive problem. By substituting R22 with R407C, you will be able to use your existing unit until it requires replacement.
Sirius Plumbing and Air Conditioning is available to answer questions you may have concerning this refrigerant transition. Contact us at 972-235-6600 or on the web at Siriuspac.com.
*prices include labor and refrigerant