Air Conditioning Refrigerant Changes Driving Up Service Costs Says Berkey's

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Sharp price increases for air conditioning refrigerant are catching many homeowners by surprise this summer as repairs come due on older equipment. Freon, or R-22, has been an industry standard for more than four decades, but now is being replaced as part of the worldwide phase-out of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). Air conditioners that use R-22 no longer can be made or sold in the USA, but refrigerant is available to service existing units – at much higher prices. An industry expert discusses the options available to homeowners.

Air conditioning repairs that require use of R-22 refrigerant, better known by the DuPont trademark name of Freon, are costing more because of increasing prices for R-22 as it is being phased out worldwide. R-22 is being replaced by more eco-friendly R-410A refrigerant.

Freon prices have gone up tremendously over the past year, and even before that. What used to be a relatively inexpensive procedure now is a real attention-getter for homeowners, who are asking us what options they have.

January 1, 2010 marked a turning point in the air conditioning industry that was good for the environment: air conditioners with ozone-depleting R-22 refrigerant no longer can be made or imported for sale in the United States. Now, some homeowners are seeing red at the price of being green when they get air conditioning repair bills.

Air conditioning expert Bill Stevens, president of Berkey’s Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, Inc., said the impact of the R-22 phase out has been substantial for many homeowners.

“Freon prices have gone up tremendously over the past year, and that’s likely to continue,” Stevens said. “What used to be a relatively inexpensive procedure to add Freon to a system now is a real attention-getter for homeowners, who are asking us what options they have.”

As R-22 Is Phased Out, Options Are Available:

R-22 is still being imported and manufactured in the USA to service equipment installed before 2010. The amount made will be severely curtailed by Jan. 1, 2015 and discontinued altogether by Jan. 1, 2020. Alternative refrigerants also may be available.

“In some cases it is possible to use a different refrigerant in equipment made for Freon,” Stevens said, “but it’s not a simple matter of taking out the Freon and replacing it with something else. The EPA has strict guidelines about alternative refrigerants, including required modifications to the equipment itself – and performance may not be as good.”

Stevens said homeowners need to carefully consider a number of factors, including age of the equipment, the price of required modifications and the cost of alternative refrigerants. All work must be done by trained technicians, not home handymen. Stevens people who have older air conditioning systems in most cases would be better off to replace instead of modify.

R-410A Is the New Industry Standard:

In systems manufactured since the beginning of this year, R-22 has been replaced by the more eco-friendly R-410A, which is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.

R-410A refrigerant has the same favorable performance characteristics as R-22, without the negative environmental impact. However, it requires higher compression than Freon, so equipment designed for Freon cannot use R-410A.

New Equipment Offsets Higher Costs with Greater Efficiency:

While AC systems that use R-410A cost more to buy, 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.

Stevens said the net result for homeowners is higher cost somewhere for air conditioning, either for new equipment or maintaining existing units, but that new, high-efficiency equipment will be a money saver for homeowners in the long run.

“Higher efficiency equipment runs less, so it uses less electricity,” Stevens said. “That saves money and is better for the environment. Homeowners also benefit because when air conditioning equipment runs less, it lasts longer and needs fewer repairs.”

About Berkey’s:

Berkey’s Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning has specialized in the needs of homeowners in Southlake, Grapevine, Colleyville and Flower Mound for 35 years. Berkey’s reputation for prompt, honest service from licensed and factory trained technicians assures customers the best in professional service, combined with leading brands including American Standard, Rinnai, Toto, InSinkErator and more. Call Berkey’s at 1-877-BERKEYS, or visit our Website at http://www.berkeys.com.

Contact:

Lee Pogue
Berkey’s Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning
817-481-5869

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