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Should You Replace Your R‑22 System?

Green R-22 refrigerant container and the box that goes with it, sitting side by side.

Is it time to replace your R-22 AC or heat pump?

Do you have an AC or heat pump that uses R-22 refrigerant (also known as HCFC-22)? It’s probably time to think about replacing it.

Refrigerant is a chemical agent that absorbs the heat from your indoor air and dumps it outside. Without it, your AC or heat pump system cannot function properly.

That said, R-22 is an old generation of refrigerant that’s harmful to our ozone layer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stopped all production and manufacturing of it in January 2020.

Both manufacturers and contractors strongly recommend that homeowners with R-22 cooling systems replace them because this type of refrigerant is both obsolete and considered to be dangerous to the environment.

To explain further, this blog will review:

Need Help Deciding If You Need to Replace Your R-22 System?

Contact Climate Design today! Our installation estimates are always free. We’ll inspect your current cooling system and provide our professional opinions on whether you need a new system. Next, we’ll recommend heat pumps and AC systems that are ideal for your home, cooling needs, and budget.

Call us at (727) 592-5040 or click the button below.

How to Know Whether Your Current AC or Heat Pump Uses R-22

AC label with R-22 highlighted in the FIELD CHARGED box

Check your outdoor AC unit’s label to see if the system uses R-22.

You can check whether or not your heat pump or AC uses R-22 by:

  • Looking at its installation date. Any cooling system with an installation date before 2010 will likely use R-22.
  • Checking the outdoor unit’s label. The label on your outdoor AC unit should have a box titled “FIELD CHARGED.” If it says R-22 or HCFC-22, your system uses this now-obsolete refrigerant.

If you can’t read the label on the outdoor unit, contact an HVAC technician to determine the type of refrigerant your system uses. You don’t need to find the original installer of the system for this information. They can also help you determine what your best replacement options are, going forward.

Do you discover for sure that your air conditioner or heat pump uses R-22? Keep reading to learn more about the context of the phaseout and how it can affect you.

How This Phaseout May Affect You

Illustration of a yellow, black, green, and blue penguin standing on melting ice with the sun shining brightly

R-22 was phased out due to concerns over its dangerous effects on the ozone layer.

When R-22 first entered the market in the 1950s, it immediately became the new standard refrigerant for cooling systems. Then, in the late 1980s, governments and scientists worldwide became concerned about the worsening condition of our ozone layer. After learning that R-22 is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), an ozone-depleting gas, they announced plans to start phasing it out. Officials emphasized the negative effects of HCFC gas in the 1987 Montreal Protocol, a global agreement to protect the ozone layer.

However, since R-22 was so widely used, it took the EPA over 30 years to ban production and importation without creating a severe negative economic impact. In January 2020, the EPA released the statement below:

“R-22 will no longer be produced or imported. After 2020, only recovered, recycled, or reclaimed supplies of R-22 will be available. The production (not use) of R-22 is being phased out. You are not required to stop using R-22 air conditioners nor to replace existing equipment.”

What Happens Now For R-22?

Over time, homeowners with R-22 systems may pay more for cooling system repairs. If there’s a refrigerant leak, HVAC contractors now have only a limited supply of R-22 left to use and could pass extra costs on to homeowners.

Most R-22 systems are older and prone to refrigerant leaks. As we mentioned above, having the right refrigerant levels in your cooling system is vital for its operation. You may have to pay double or triple the price per pound of R-410A (the new generation of environmentally friendly refrigerant) to recharge your R-22 system.

Wondering why you can’t just use R-410A refrigerant in an R-22 system? Unfortunately, it’s not compatible with your equipment.

Professional industry experts recommend replacing your cooling system instead of continuing to pour money into an outdated system that needs frequent expensive repairs. Most air conditioners last around 8-10 years in Florida. Replacing an old R-22 system with a new one increases performance efficiency, helps you save money on energy bills, and lasts another ten years or more.

What’s Next for Refrigerants?

R-410A is a significant improvement from R-22 in terms of environmental impact. However, it’s not entirely harmless due to its high Global Warming Potential (GWP), which calculates how much it contributes to climate change if it leaks into the air.

HVAC scientists and manufacturers are working to create a new refrigerant called R-32 that will contain just one-third of R-410A’s GWP. It will enter mass production in the mid-2020s.

If your AC or heat pump isn’t yet 8 years old but uses R-22 and you’re interested in an R-32 system, contact an HVAC professional to see when it may be available for your area. You can also discuss with them whether you should replace the R-22 system now with an R-410A one or wait until R-32 systems come into the mainstream.

Your Options, Moving Forward

Technician sitting in front of an outdoor AC unit, using a tablet for diagnostics.

What should you do if you have an R-22 system?

Homeowners with R-22 heat pumps and air conditioners have a few options moving forward:

1. Continue Using Your R-22 Cooling System

Continuing to use and repair your current R-22 heat pump or air conditioner as it is may seem like the most affordable option in the short term, but it may end up costing you in the long term.

With the supply of R-22 dwindling, recharging your cooling system when there is a leak is cost prohibitive. Once the supply runs out, you will have no option but to install a new cooling system. It’s probably more cost-effective to invest in a new system now than to continue sinking money into a system that won’t last another decade.

2. Retrofit Your R-22 Cooling System

R-22 cooling systems cannot use R-410A refrigerant since it’s not possible to mix refrigerant types.

However, you may be able to retrofit your R-22 heat pump or AC to support the use of R-410A refrigerant. This is a good option if you’re uncomfortable with using the current R-22 system as is but aren’t ready to invest in a new system right now.

Retrofitting an R-22 system to use R-410A means you’ll need to hire a contractor for:

  • Replacing the condenser, compressor, evaporator coil, and refrigerant lines
  • Draining the system of all refrigerant
  • Cleaning, flushing, and drying it
  • Recharging it with R-410A refrigerant

Interested in a retrofit? Check with an HVAC contractor to see if it’s possible to do this with your cooling system and budget. They’ll also check your system to see how close it is to the end of its lifespan since it won’t be cost-effective to retrofit a system that will need replacement in just 1 to 5 years.

3. Replace Your R-22 Cooling System with R-410A System

Changing to an R-410A system may seem like a more expensive upfront option but it is more cost-effective in the long run.

How does this work? R-410A systems provide higher energy efficiency. They cool your home faster while using fewer resources, reducing your monthly energy bills. Also, when you proactively plan to replace your AC instead of reactively replacing it during a breakdown, you’ll save money on emergency fees and possible hotel stays.

Depending on market availability at the time of reading, you may be able to replace your R-22 AC system with an R-32 system to reduce your energy bills further and increase your home’s eco-friendliness.

Ready to Replace Your R-22 AC or Heat Pump? Contact Climate Design.

Since 1973, Florida homeowners have trusted us to provide them with high-quality and reliable air conditioner and heat pump installations.

Our NATE-certified cooling technicians meet the most stringent industry workmanship standards. They have the training and skills to install any brand or model of AC or heat pump within hours. Plus, our team’s great customer service has earned us thousands of 5-star Google reviews and some of the most loyal customers.

We’re open every day of the week and can send a licensed technician to your home the same day you call.

Call us today at (727) 592-5040 or contact us below to experience an excellent installation!