When manufacturers of vehicular air conditioning systems phased out the old R12 refrigerant in favor of the environmentally friendlier R134A, car owners whose AC systems were compatible only with the older coolant were scrambling for answers. Today’s homeowners now face the same dilemma concerning the replacement of the R22 refrigerant with the safer, EPA-compliant R410A. They must either refit or replace their entire air conditioning systems now or be forced to do it after 2020 when the less expensive R22 refrigerant disappears from the market for good.
More commonly known as Freon, R22 was once the refrigerant of choice for home air conditioning systems across the country. Today, its reclassification as an environmental danger has led to government restrictions on its manufacture along with a mandate to phase it out completely by the end of this decade.
For the homeowner, the gradual changeover will pose a few problems. Since R22 will soon be obtainable only as salvage that’s been drained from older systems, people whose units require a refrigerant boost will find its price has risen considerably. That is, if they can get it at all.
This results in a quandary. Should you wait until your current unit gives up the ghost, replace just the outdoor unit, or change out the entire system now to avoid any headaches in the future?
The Case for Doing it on a Shoestring
When the outdoor temperatures start to rise and the indoor conditions quickly follow suit, the natural inclination is to get your problem fixed in a hurry. Of course, not everyone is keen on the expensive idea of ripping out an entire air conditioning system.
Don’t panic: there are ways around it. In an emergency, some lower-cost options do exist. They might involve:
- Replacing a broken R22-compatible compressor in the outdoor unit with a similar working model. While this will solve the immediate problem, it will still leave you dependent on the future availability of R22 refrigerant.
- Enhancing your current unit with a high-grade retrofit. Although this option is somewhat more expensive than the others, it has the advantage of lowering your energy bills while improving the unit’s efficiency quotient.
- Swapping out the entire outdoor unit but leaving the older indoor components in place. This will work only if the indoor coils are compatible with the newer R410A refrigerant.
Whether you can solve the problem by making repairs to the outside unit alone will depend entirely on whether your indoor coils are or are not R410A-compliant. Starting in the year 2005, some equipment manufacturers were already designing their coils for compatibility with both types of refrigerant. By 2010, all new equipment had moved to R410A. If your current system can handle it, making the upgrade will likely entail cleaning the coils and adjusting or replacing the expansion device.
The Case for a Total System Replacement
Although stopgap measures may do the trick in the short run, older systems are bound to require more frequent repairs while their cooling capabilities continue to decline. Instead of regularly patching things up on a piecemeal basis, your most cost-effective path may entail a total replacement of your current air conditioning system indoors and out to a new and modern model.
You might want to consider taking this step if:
- Your current system is 20 years old or more.
- You have experienced inconsistent cooling performance.
- Your energy bills have begun to soar.
- You’ve started to see your HVAC repairman a bit more often than you’d like.
If you do decide on a complete replacement of your air conditioning system, you’ll want to make sure that the job’s done right. An improper installation can result in reduced efficiency and higher utility bills.
Las Vegas residents have long put their trust in Windy City Air to keep them cool in a desert environment that is often as punishing as it is beautiful. With the phasing-out of R22, their up-to-date knowledge becomes even more critical. Don’t take the chance of a system failure during the region’s hottest season. Contact Windy City Air today for information concerning the new refrigerants, the pros and cons of upgrade versus replacement and the eventual impact of the government’s new regulations on your home’s air conditioning system.