It may seem amazing but the year 2020 is just a few short months away. While this may signal the end of the decade for many and a new start for others, for your air conditioner it also signals the start of some big changes. Starting in 2020, R-22 refrigerant, also known as Freon, will be completely banned in the United States. All domestic production will stop, all international import of manufactured Freon will cease, and no new Freon-based air conditioners will be sold anywhere in the United States.
The move is the final step in what has ultimately been a pretty long and drawn-out process. All the way back in the 1980s, multiple studies were able to demonstrate that Freon was exceedingly harmful to the environment, most notably the ozone layer that protects the earth from an abundance of the sun’s harmful radiation. In August of 1989, the United Nations adopted the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer: a multinational agreement to cut back on the manufacturing of substances that harmed this important part of our planet.
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency slowly began cutting back on Freon dependence, encouraging chemical engineers and manufacturers to develop new refrigerants to replace what had essentially become a staple of our air conditioning industry. Over time, new materials were developed, and today’s refrigerants are significantly more energy-efficient while being much better for the planet.
Back in 2010, the EPA officially designated Freon as an “ozone-depleting substance” and set stringent guidelines on how much of the material could be manufactured or imported. Today, that number has been reduced to just a tiny fraction of what it once was, and no new systems pre-charged with Freon can be imported from anywhere in the world. Starting January 1st, 2020, no new Freon will be produced anywhere in the country, and no new Freon-based systems can be installed anywhere in the country.
What This Means for Your Air Conditioner
What does this mean for your air conditioner? Well, the good news is if you’ve replaced your air conditioner within the last five years or so, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Your air conditioner is more than likely running on a different refrigerant already. If you’re not sure, you can always have a professional come to you and check it out, but the overwhelming majority of new systems haven’t been charged with Freon for several years now.
If you have an older, Freon-based system, on the other hand, this ban still isn’t going to have too big of an impact on your life. To put things as simple as possible: the 2020 Freon ban does not require you to immediately replace all Freon-based air conditioners. The ban is a “grandfathering” style ban that essentially just forbids any new Freon installations. Eventually, all of the old Freon-dependent installations will quit and be replaced with new, non-Freon ones.
However, you will see a pretty big impact in one particular area: cost of ownership and operation. If you have a Freon-based air conditioner and you’ve had a simple recharge service done in the last few years, you’ve probably been flat-out stunned at how much it cost. No, you’re not being ripped off—this is an example of how much the price of something can go up with the demand greatly exceeds the supply. With so little Freon being produced and so little remaining in storage for use going forward, the cost per pound of Freon refrigerant has skyrocketed. What used to be just a few dollars a pound can now run well in excess of $100 to $150. A simple recharge that uses a pound of Freon may now cost you more than $300 to $400 after taxes, labor, and other material costs are included. Once the ban goes completely into effect, the cost of Freon per pound is only going to increase even more.
So what can you do to get ahead of the curve and protect yourself from these high costs? Simple: replace your old, outdated air conditioner with a new, energy-efficient one that isn’t based on Freon. Most Freon-based air conditioners are approaching the age where they will likely be at the end of their useful lifespan soon, and that means you’ll probably need to replace it anyway. With how much you’ll save on energy by installing a new system as well as the increased cost of Freon-based repairs and services, replacement might make the most sense from a financial perspective as well.
To learn more about replacing your old air conditioner or if your air conditioner needs to be repaired, trust the experts from Carter Services! Dial (310) 872-1898 today to request a quote for a new system or schedule a repair.