Air Conditioning Refrigerant Change Drives Up Some Service Costs

Mascot Mechanical Care Plan keep Freon levels in check

R-410A has been the standard refrigerant for all air conditioning equipment made in the USA since January 2010. However, if your system was installed before then, chances are good it uses Freon, also known as R-22.

Depending on the actual age of your central air conditioning system, the differences between R-22 and R-410A can be substantial, especially the when measured in dollars. Sharp increases in the price of Freon have been catching many homeowners off guard since the standard changed.

Montreal Protocol

The move away from R-22 began when the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer opened for signatures in 1987. It has been hailed as a model of international cooperation; all countries recognized by the United Nations have ratified it.

The United States, as a party to the protocol, has agreed, with other nations, to reduce and eliminate production of substances known as chlorofluorocarbons, which are known to be harmful to the ozone layer. This includes R-22 refrigerant, which had been the global standard for more than four decades.

R-22 Refrigerant Being Phased Out

R-22 refrigerant is still being imported and manufactured in the USA to service equipment made for it. The amount made will be severely curtailed by Jan. 1, 2015 and discontinued altogether by Jan. 1, 2020.

R-22 is being replaced by more eco-friendly air conditioning refrigerants, primarily R-410A, manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and the most common trade name, Puron®.

Although R-22 will be available to service most of the millions of existing systems in homes today for their expected lifetimes, the price will continue to increase. With Freon prices often as high  as $125 per pound, some homeowners find themselves paying $400-$500 just for Freon, if their systems need to be recharged.

Recovery Requirements Add to Costs

Manufacturing costs are only part of the price homeowners pay. Air conditioning technicians must observe strict laws that govern how Freon is handled and accounted for. They must capture any refrigerant purged from an AC system, and then take it to a processing center to be weighed and recycled.

New Equipment Costs More to Buy and Maintain

R-410A refrigerant requires higher compression than Freon, so systems designed for one cannot use the other. Because R410A equipment is higher performing and operates under greater pressure, it costs more to manufacture. The new, more sophisticated equipment requires higher-level skills and more training for AC technicians who maintain it.

New Equipment Offsets Higher Costs with Greater Efficiency

While AC systems that use R-410A cost more to buy and maintain, they offer the trade-off of lower operating costs. High-efficiency air conditioners made today are, by law, many times more efficient than those made even a few years ago. They use less energy to produce the same level of cooling.

The best way to prevent unwanted surprises with air conditioning repair bills is to have regular maintenance and tune ups. The Mascot Mechanical CARE Plan covers all your home’s central air conditioning and heating systems for one low price.

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