TAMPA, Fla. — Your old, leaky air conditioner may soon be even more costly to fix by next year.
That is because a nationwide ban on the type of refrigerant used in hundreds of thousands of air conditioning units takes effect in 2020. Experts estimate half of all residential A/C units in the U.S. run on R-22, a refrigerant banned from production and importation in the U.S. beginning January 1.
Steve Cormier, an HVAC contractor and owner of AC Guyz in Tampa, Florida, is already seeing prices double and triple for R-22.
“It doesn't make sense to pour money into an older system,” Cormier said.
Homeowner Judy Holmes decided to replace her old R-22 unit rather than make repairs when her air conditioner broke down recently.
“When the air conditioning company came and out and explained to me the cost of repairing versus replacing, it was not a big decision,” Holmes said. “It was a no brainer.”
While R-22 may be great for cooling your home, it is poisonous for the planet.
David Hastings with the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science calls R-22 one of the worst offenders when it comes to destroying the ozone layer and triggering greenhouse gas emissions.
“Eliminating this both saves the ozone layer and increasing the temperature even more,” Hastings said.
When you use your air conditioner, refrigerant can escape in the form of a leak, which travels through the air as a gas. Chlorine atoms in the refrigerant can break off and tear apart the ozone layer.
Depending on the brand name, size and efficiency rating, new residential air conditioning units can cost between $5,000 and $11,000.
The last R-22 units were made in 2010, but many of them may not need replacing anytime soon. Experts say regular maintenance of these systems can make them last 15 years or more — and they may not need new refrigerant.
Bob Sheehan of NoVent Refrigerant Services said he doesn’t expect an R-22 refrigerant shortage anytime soon.
“We have an abundance of R-22 in the marketplace right now,” Sheehan said.
Sheehan is a government-certified refrigerant reclaimer. Air conditioning companies sell him the refrigerants they pull out of old units. Sheehan then processes, filters and repackages the refrigerant to sell back to licensed contractors.
“We took in about 15,000 gallons over the summer,” said Sheehan, who told WFTS he has seen the price of R-22 drop this year.
Holmes said the cost of repairs and the environment played into her decision to buy a new air conditioning unit.
“Anything better for the environment is a good thing," Holmes said.