Do You Need To Replace Your Home AC Refrigerant?

As freon (also known as R-22) has been phased out during 2020, many homeowners are now asking themselves: Do you need to replace your home AC refrigerant? A specific answer depends on the age of the unit currently in your home.

Do you Need To Replace your Home AC Refrigerant?

Again, the answer depends on the age of the air conditioner itself. Yes, if it’s significantly old, and no, if it was purchased relatively recently (say, the last 5-7 years)

The good news is that the answers to these questions are pretty straightforward. If you have purchased a newer home AC unit, you probably don’t need to be concerned. This is because as freon has been phased out over the past decade, more and more companies are making units that use a green-friendly refrigerant. 

You can check with an HVAC expert or check the owner’s manual for more information if you aren’t sure.

Now, let’s discuss what you need to do going forward if your unit is old enough to rely on freon to work correctly. Do you need to toss this one, replacing it with a more environmentally-friendly option? 

In the long term, yes, you should replace or make alterations to your existing AC unit. However, the full answer to this question is not as simple as that.

Why Is R-22 Being Phased Out?

First of all, let’s break down why R-22 is being eliminated in the first place.

While the standard refrigerant used in HVAC units for decades, the 1992 Montreal Protocol made it clear in no uncertain terms that freon needed to be eliminated from HVAC units in every possible regard. Since then, consistent, legitimate progress has been made. The U.S. EPA met its goal to make it virtually impossible to get R-22 by 2020.

R-22 has been proven repeatedly to be a significant cause of damage to the ozone layer. For this reason, the material has been gradually eliminated from the production process involved in creating new HVAC units. Conversely, the resources available to technicians who service these units have been phased out, as well.

At this point, if your R-22 unit still needs work, the technician you hire will need to source their recycled freon. This may not be possible. At the very least, it’s going to be increasingly expensive. This would be another reason why many experts suggest that those who still own freon-based HVAC units have them replaced.

New EPA Refrigerant Regulations 2020

In a nutshell, here are the EPA refrigerant regulations for 2020 and beyond:

  • Freon, also known as R-22 and HCFC-22, has been shown through repeated studies over the past few decades to be highly damaging to the ozone layer.
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency and other groups and agencies throughout the world established a commitment to phasing the material out.
  • The EPA’s commitment to the issue took its most dramatic shift in 2010 when manufacturers were no longer allowed to build HVAC units that utilized freon.
  • Rather than use freon, AC units built from 2010 to the present utilize a Puron material also going by R410A
  • Studies have made it clear that puron does not harm the ozone layer. Not only has it been shown to be more efficient, but it has also been shown to be much more environmentally sound when compared to freon. Puron also benefits from being considerably cheaper than freon.
  • Puron has been the residential AC system standard since 2015.
  • The mandate to stop all freon production by 2020 was met.

 So, what does this mean for you?

Will New Freon Regulations Affect Your Older AC Unit?

If you’ve purchased an AC unit in the past 5 or so years, the odds are incredibly high that it utilizes Puron. Again, if you aren’t sure, make it a point to check with your owner’s manual. Barring that, ask your HVAC technician the next time you have the unit checked out.

For those who own older AC units, these regulations will impact you on a variety of levels. 

For one thing, eventually, you will not be able to get the freon your unit needs to continue functioning correctly. Even then, we’re still talking about something that is not only destructive to the environment but is also going to eventually be more expensive than it would cost you to purchase a puron-based AC unit.

Furthermore, the lifespan of the average air conditioner is approximately 15 years. At this point, depending upon when you purchased your freon AC unit, it may be a good idea to replace the unit for this reason alone.

However, replacing the unit is not legally required on your part. In other words, you aren’t going to get fined or suffer any other consequences for keeping your freon-based unit around.

Even so, as costs continue to make freon virtually impossible to obtain, you should strongly consider addressing this issue in some form or fashion.

To that end, we would suggest retrofitting your AC.

Retrofitting Your AC System to Meet Freon Regulations

While not always possible, some homeowners have opted to retrofit their existing freon-based AC instead of buying a new one. If this option works for you, then, by all means, utilize it as a means of adapting to the new EPA regulations for freon and air conditioners.

All you need to do is figure out if the coils associated with your united can use Puron as its refrigerant.

This is going to be work that is best left to the professionals. At the very least, they can determine whether or not your AC unit can be retrofitted in this fashion, to begin with.

If so, you will want to keep in mind that this work can be quite costly. You may want to weigh the pros and cons of retrofitting an air conditioner against the pros and cons of just buying a new unit altogether.

If successful, your unit will become environmentally friendly and more efficient over the long term. However, retrofitted air conditioners tend to need more in the way of maintenance than a newer unit built to handle Puron in the first place.

Will I Need To Replace My Air Conditioner?

At this point, it should be easy to figure out whether or not you should replace your AC unit, have the unit retrofitted, or not worry about the issue at all. Make sure you know what type of refrigerant your air conditioner is using, and then decide from there.

To reiterate an earlier point, replacing your AC is a good idea if

  • Your unit is over a decade old. This means it is getting close to the end of its lifespan. If it is a freon-based unit, retrofitting may still be possible but not particularly cost-effective.
  • You want to take advantage of an air conditioner that is more affordable over the long haul, isn’t hazardous to the environment, and runs more efficiently overall. It is time for a replacement.

Summary

Is it time to replace the air conditioner? If your answer is yes, make sure an experienced professional is there to assist!