Have you been limping along all summer with your older R22 air conditioner? Hoping to avoid replacing it during the high season? Especially if you know your unit has a refrigerant leak, you may be trying to decide how long you can get by before you’ll have to invest in a new system. Now that cooler weather is on the way (hopefully!) you have some time to plan and decide on a course of action that works best for you and your budget. An important factor in making that decision is answering the question: when does R22 become illegal?
When does R22 become illegal in the US: the definitive date
Since you’re reading this article, you probably know that the former industry-standard refrigerant R22 (also known as Freon) is being phased out worldwide due to its harmful effects on the ozone layer. (Read our previous blog about the R22 refrigerant phase out to learn more about that.)
As per the US Environmental Protection Agency, R22 will become illegal in the United States on January 1, 2020. After that R22 refrigerant phase out date, R22 can no longer be manufactured or imported into the US.
What does the R22 phase out timeline mean for you?
After R22 becomes illegal on January 1, 2020, older R22 systems become obsolete and can no longer be repaired when the repair would require adding refrigerant to the system. Except for some simple electrical issues, many types of repairs do require recharging refrigerant. You’ve probably guessed that fixing a refrigerant leak will be out of the question.
If you’ve been getting by with your old leaky system for a while by periodically adding more refrigerant (which we DO NOT recommend by the way), those days are numbered and now is the time to figure out your plan for replacing the system.
The options for R22 system owners
Here at Arista, we believe in being proactive and being transparent. That’s why we have been talking to our customers about this issue for some time now, so they understand the situation and can plan accordingly.
In general, owners of R22 air conditioners will have 3 choices:
- Do nothing until your system breaks down.
- Retrofit (or convert) your old R22 equipment to use an existing refrigerant.
- Replace your system proactively.
Get more facts about the 3 options facing owners of R22 air conditioners, and advice about making the right decision for your needs: R22 Refrigerant Phase Out: Do You Need to Replace Your AC?.
Some options won’t work for everyone
However, you should know that all these options are not realistic (or smart) for everyone.
For example, retrofitting is not technically feasible for every system; you’ll need an inspection of your equipment by an expert to determine if it might work for you. And when you have a system with refrigerant leaks to begin with, a trustworthy expert probably would not recommend spending the money to retrofit.
Also, if you are experiencing problems with your system, doing nothing is not really an option, either, since your comfort conditions are probably unacceptable to you.
For the time being, you can still get R22 and fix a broken system, but the skyrocketing cost of the refrigerant as availability decreases will mean a very expensive repair, and will only get more expensive the closer we get to the date of January 1, 2020 when R22 becomes illegal. Is it worthwhile to pour so much into a system in poor condition that must be replaced in a couple of years’ time (or sooner)? That’s the choice you’ll need to make.
Get more guidelines for making a repair or replace decision from this helpful resource: Repair or Replace? A guide to making an informed choice when your HVAC system is down.
System replacement is a big deal
The last option, and probably what you are hoping to put off, is a system replacement.
Especially for a large commercial customer, it’s a huge expense (not to mention business inconvenience) to replace an extensive system or many multiple units. While it’s bad enough when you know it’s coming, having to do so with no warning is much worse. Even homeowners do not want an issue like this to take them by surprise and end up having to be without air conditioning at the wrong time.
The point is, you don’t want to be replacing your system on an emergency basis. Keep reading to learn why it’s better to be proactive if you can.
Why avoid an emergency air conditioner replacement?
You may have to go quite a while without air conditioning if you wait too long to replace your system.
You probably already know that replacing an AC system in the summer will take longer than doing it during the off-season, simply because demand is greater and all available resources are busy on other jobs. As we near the date of January 1, 2020 when R22 becomes illegal, the demand for R22 system replacements is going to skyrocket. If your system finally breaks down in the summer of 2019 (or later), your business or your family might face a considerable wait for a new air conditioning system.
If your business has multiple systems to replace, you can come up with a plan to replace them over time and spread out the expense.
Your HVAC company should be able to help you prioritize which systems to replace first, and help you develop a strategy that works for your budget while still getting ahead of the R22 phase out timeline.
Consider yourself fortunate that you know what’s coming and have time to plan. Many people will be taken by surprise!
At Arista, we understand that the R22 refrigerant phase out is going to cause a lot of headaches and unexpected expense for system owners, especially businesses. Feel free to reach out to us any any time for advice. We’re here to help.