R22 Freon For AC Unit: What To Do With Your Old AC After The Ban?

Liz Yang

Air conditioners, which work on a simple principle, are a godsend for people who live in hot climates.

If you have an old air conditioner, it may use Freon (also known as R-22 refrigerant) to cool the air for you. The United States banned R22 refrigerant in 2020, but allowed Freon-powered air conditioners to continue operating.

Most people are unaware of the importance of Freon in air conditioning, and if you are one of them, you have come to the right place. In this post, I will go over all of the important information you need to know about it.

If you are in a hurry, you can continue to use your old air conditioner that uses R-22 Freon after the ban. Because America no longer allows the manufacture and importation of R-22, the cost of refilling will rise.

What is Freon?

While most people believe Freon is a type of AC refrigerant, it is a trademark of Chemours company.

In reality, the term Freon refers to a group of refrigerants that includes R-12, R-13B1, R-22, R-410A, R-502, and R-503. They are all stable and have low toxicity. Some are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), while others are hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) (HCFCs).

Your air conditioner can absorb heat in the air by converting it from gas to liquid and vice versa.

R-22 was once the most common type of Freon product used in air conditioners. However, it is no longer used in newer air conditioners.

Because R-22 was so popular, it is commonly referred to as Freon.

Why R-22 Freon is banned in America?

America is not the first country to prohibit the use of R-22 refrigerant. In 1992, the Montreal Protocol created a schedule to begin the phase out of HCFCs, including R22.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that production and imports of Freon will cease by January 2020. Since 2010, most air conditioner manufacturers have avoided using Freon as a coolant.

The primary reason for this ban is that R-22 refrigerant contributes to ozone depletion. Ozone can protect us from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, whereas Freon poses health risks to everyone.

Technically, the R-22 in an air conditioner will stay untouched. However, Freon leaks can happen, which will damage our environment.

Does your AC use Freon?

does your ac use freon

For those who just bought a new AC, you don’t need to worry about it. As long as your AC comes from a legal brand, it will not use Freon as the refrigerant.

However, if your model was manufactured before or around 2010, Freon was almost certainly used. You can confirm this by inspecting the equipment nameplate on the outdoor condenser and indoor coil, which will show the refrigerant used by the machine..

Another way to do it is to check the user manual in your home or online. Similar to a separate AC, a central air conditioner that was made a few years ago may use Freon. You can check the nameplate or manual to get the right information.

Most units these days will use R-410A as the coolant. This refrigerant is also a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant, but it causes much less impact on our environment. It means that it will not deplete the ozone as R-22 do. 

We no longer refer to R-410A refrigerant as Freon because so many companies manufacture it.

If your AC uses Freon, what to do after the ban?

Even though no new or imported Freon will be available in the United States, homeowners can continue to use HCFC-22 air conditioners.

You do not need to replace your existing equipment, and if your machine runs out of Freon, you can choose to refill it because some stocks of Freon or recycled Freon are available.

Perhaps your old air conditioner can serve you for a few more years.

How to know if your AC is out of Freon?

Normally, Freon will remain in the compressor and coils of your air conditioner, causing no environmental impact. However, metal erosion, tear, and wear from daily operation can cause leaks, reducing the performance of your equipment.

Here are some warning signs that your air conditioner is running low on Freon:

1. Higher energy bills. Low on Freon can decrease the energy efficiency of your device, meaning that it has to work harder to cool the air, which results in an improvement in the utility bill. 

2. Take longer to cool your room or house. The lower efficiency also makes the machine can’t cool as much hot air as usual. 

3. Clammy air. When air conditioning equipment is out of Freon, it can’t dehumidify the air as usual. You may feel the air become clammy due to the high humidity.

How much does an air conditioner Freon refill cost?

Since the stocks of Freon will become less and less after 2020, the price of R22 will inevitably increase. So the price I mentioned here may not be so accurate.

On average, R-22 Freon per pound costs around $40. You may require to spend more than $600 for a refill, including the labor fee. 

As for refilling on AC, you should hire an HVAC technician to do it because refrigerant is dangerous.

You can expect the cost will become higher over time, making installing a new AC with new refrigerant becomes a much more sensible idea.

Conclusion

Many owners of old air conditioners are concerned about the 2020 Freon ban. Fortunately, you can keep using your equipment.

The only disadvantage is that refill costs will rise because no more R-22 refrigerant will be produced or imported into the United States.

Because R-22 can deplete the ozone layer, air conditioners manufactured after 2010 will use R-104A as the coolant. As a result, your machine may already be using the new refrigerant rather than the banned Freon.

It is dangerous to refill an air conditioner. Please have it completed by a certified HVAC professional. Buying a new model is sometimes a better option.

Liz Yang is the founder of Airsmartly. She has been working at home for a few years and realizes that the performance of the HVAC system plays such an important role in our life. She has tested a lot of products in person, like humidifiers, air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and ACs, and wants to share tips about using or troubleshooting these products with you. Her uncle is an HVAC expert with over 30 years of experience in the field, and often offers assistance when she is unsure how to handle a situation. He is also in charge of reviewing the articles on this site.

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