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Why is Refrigerant so Expensive Now?

Tell me if this story sounds familiar: Your air conditioner stopped blowing cold air, and you realized it needed more refrigerant. So you called a contractor for a charge and thought, “Well, it’s just a refrigerant charge. It can’t cost too much, right?”

Then your jaw hit the floor when you saw the bill.

If you were charged around $80-$175 a pound, you probably feel like you’re getting ripped off, you’re not alone. But the real problem is that you’re a victim of supply and demand.

We’ll explain why and what you can do about it.

Phasing out Refrigerant

About 25 years ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered R-22 to be phased out because it contains ozone-depleting substances. This was done as a part of the “Montreal Protocol”, an international treaty meant to protect the ozone layer.

Flash forward to January 1, 2010: The EPA banned the import and production of air conditioners that are pre-charged with R-22 and reduced R-22 production by 75%. And by 2015 they plan to reduce R-22 production level by 90%.

What does that mean for me?

Basically, since there’s less refrigerant to go around, but most people still need it for their air conditioners, you have to pay more for a basic charge if your air conditioner requires it.

Because the U.S. government has placed restrictions on how much refrigerant can be produced, suppliers can only sell a certain amount per day. This can cause the price of the refrigerant to skyrocket during the summer when more people need refrigerant.

Bottom line: A low supply and high demand of refrigerant has driven up the price substantially.

Can my air conditioner use a different refrigerant?

There are alternative replacement refrigerants for R-22. However, using these “drop-in” substitutes comes with some caveats:

  • Many of these substitutes are not compatible with your system unless you make changes to your system’s components (not worth it if you have an older system)
  • Since most manufacturers have not approved the use of drop-in refrigerants, using them will void your warranty.

You can learn more about this on the EPA website.

So what should I do?
Really, you need to look at the big picture here. Refrigerant should never need to be replaced. That means your system had a leak, which possibly means you have an older system.

If you have an older system, you should have a reputable HVAC technician to advise you if you should repair or replace your air conditioner.

Or contact us online to get a free quote on an air conditioner.

To learn more about the refrigerant phase out, check out Phaseoutfacts.org.

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