We got a lot of questions this summer about Freon, so we thought that we would send out some information in our latest blog. Freon (also known as R-22 or HCFC-22) has been identified as one of the main causes of ozone depletion for the environment because it contains chlorine that damages ozone molecules. The United States has been taking steps to phase out this chemical for the past 30 years. In 2010, the USEPA banned companies from building or installing systems that have been pre-charged, or filled, with Freon and set a 10-year end date for the chemical itself. As of January 1, 2020, HCFC-22 (FREON) will no longer be produced or imported in the US.
However, manufacturers found a loophole and still produced equipment that used Freon. These units were known as “dry-shipped”, which means they were not pre-charged or filled up with Freon, so technically did not violate the new restrictions. Many manufactures sold these types of units through 2018 and, unfortunately, a lot of HVAC companies continued to install these units to the long-term disadvantage of their customers. Leith Heating & Cooling did not adopt this practice and in fact, only installed a single “dry-shipped” unit with full disclosure to the customer.
If your system was manufactured and installed after 2010, chances are you should be fine unless you had a dry-shipped unit installed. If your current system is still using Freon, then you will eventually have to get a new system. For now, you can still use Freon, but with the US no longer producing or importing it, it’s going to get quite expensive and hard to find. It will only be available through after-market sales, as it is recovered from older, salvaged systems.
To check your system, look for a sticker on the side that shows whether your system uses HCFC-22 or R-22 – these are the chemicals being phased out.
In general, owners of R-22 air conditioners will have 3 choices:
- Do nothing until your system needs an expensive repair.
- Retrofit (or convert) your old R-22 equipment to use an existing refrigerant.
- Replace your system proactively.
If you choose to keep your older system for the moment, the best thing you can do is to keep it well maintained, to ensure there are no freon leaks.