As of January 1, 2020, it is illegal to produce new Freon refrigerant or R22 (also called virgin refrigerant). Freon is a CFC gas that is harmful to the ozone layer and the phaseout was mandated via the Montreal Protocol treaty between global nations. You can legally buy Freon and use it in HVAC systems; there is a common misconception right now that it is outright illegal to use which is not true. If you have a system that uses Freon, you can still use it and still get Freon for it. We knew this was coming and I will share with you what you need to know about how it will affect your heating and cooling system.
Freon is a very good refrigerant and was the standard for many years in air conditioners and heat pumps. The problem was that it hurt the ozone layer. In 1996, a replacement refrigerant that is not harmful to the ozone layer was introduced call Puron or R410A. Today, most residential systems run on Puron and if you have a system with Puron you are already upgraded and this phaseout will not affect you. In many cases, if a residential system still uses Freon and has a major repair, we will recommend that it be replaced and upgraded to the Puron refrigerant.
We most commonly find systems that still use Freon in commercial buildings. Since these systems are much larger and therefore use more refrigerant, they are often repaired along the way instead of replacing since the cost to replace can be very high. Systems using Freon will be most at risk of the phaseout for a couple of reasons. The first reason is supply of the refrigerant. Luckily, manufactures have stockpiled new Freon these past years which will help alleviate any immediate shortages. There is also reclaimed refrigerant which is old Freon that has been recycled and purified back to original standards to be sold and reused. There is an active market for this process right now. These two factors should allow several years of supply to the market. The second reason for concern is price as there is no way to tell how the price of Freon will fluctuate over time. Right now, we are told that the demand and supply are in line and not to expect price uncertainty in the near future. This may not be the case in a few years, and we could see large swings in Freon pricing.
There are also substitute refrigerants that can take the place of Freon in older systems. The freon must be removed completely and then the substitute refrigerant is dropped in and used. These substitutes have very similar characteristics of Freon but are not the exact same formulas and there can be some drawbacks in performance and reliability.
The good news is that you have time to prepare for the change. If you have a system using Freon, you are free to run the unit and if you need more Freon it is available. Now is the time to get a plan for what you will do with your current system that uses Freon. Is it time to replace it? Is a drop-in substitute an option? Here at Standard, we are here to help you find the right solutions and will be happy to discuss your options. Give us a call today at 205-322-2679.