Do I Have To Upgrade My Entire HVAC System If It Uses R-22 Refrigerant?

r22 refrigerant replacement

If you are having issues with your old air conditioner, then you have two choices: repair or replace. Repairs are cheaper, faster, and more convenient for relatively new units. However, older systems may be better off retired to make way for a replacement. This aspect is certainly true for air conditioners that are still using the R-22 refrigerant. This product is now illegal to make or import in the US. Homeowners that have HVAC systems that depend on it will be forced to make a decision should their air conditioner leak- repair vs. replace. Of course, the replacement process itself can be tricky. Should the whole HVAC system go? Will an air conditioner retrofit suffice? How long will my air conditioner last if I pay for an R22 topoff?

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R22 Replacement: Why R-22 Has Been Phased Out

Before anything else, let’s be clear about the reasons why R-22 refrigerant is out of production and distribution. The product contains compounds called hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs. These do an excellent job as refrigerants but there is one catch: they are incredibly harmful to the environment. In fact, studies show that they significantly contributed to the massive damage to the ozone layer. We will be more vulnerable to dangerous ultraviolet rays if this does not stop. Fortunately, governments and manufacturers listened. New refrigerants and other HCFC-free products and R22 replacements were developed as alternatives.

The Implications Of The Ban For Homeowners In Massachusetts & New Hampshire

air conditioner technicianAir conditioners need a refrigerant recharge if there is a leak. That means that if the unit requires a refrigerant top off, you will have to pay high r22 refrigerant prices.

Furthermore, older air conditioning units may still continue to run but at a much lower efficiency than before. They tend to consume more energy to produce the desired cooling effect, spiking monthly utility bills. The performance will also suffer gradually until the A/C is no longer able to cool down the space at all.

As for the financial consequences, the law of supply and demand will continue to push the prices of R-22 upwards. Owners who insist on clinging to their old systems will have to pay a hefty AC repair bill. However, it is important to note that manufacturers were not keen on making more before the finalization of the impending ban. They would rather sell out their remaining stocks and move on to creating other refrigerants. It’s not all bleak for homeowners, though. Tax breaks and other perks are available for those who will replace their A/Cs with more eco-friendly models today.

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R22 Replacements: The Development Of R-410a & Other Refrigerant Alternatives

Scientists have stepped up in developing viable alternatives to R-22 that produce the same or even better results without damaging the ozone, such as R-410A. The R-410A cylinders are easily identifiable by the pink color. It was invented by researchers in Honeywell back in 1991. Although the company is the leader in production, other producers have been licensed around the world. It does not contribute to ozone depletion and is readily available from most HVAC service providers. Another is R-421A which is eco-friendly and is considered the refrigerant of the future.

Air Conditioner Retrofits vs. Full AC Upgrades

air conditioner replacementThe cost of full upgrades is not trivial even after the tax breaks. Many are considering low-cost options to this dilemma such as retrofitting. This option would allow them to keep the old unit while using a new refrigerant. After all, if R-22 is the only one causing trouble, then they should just get rid of it without sacrificing the whole system. However, this does not really work that well in practice.

R22 runs at a lower pressure than r22 replacements. Old air conditioners were designed to work with this low pressure and may not be able to handle the stress caused by the change. Problems, such as refrigerant leaks in the condenser and the coil, could emerge over time, leaving you with the same issue that you started with initially.

A full upgrade, on the other hand, would guarantee full compatibility with the newest refrigerants. Owners can expect smooth operation throughout the unit’s lifetime, typically over a decade. If you do the math, then you will realize that this is quite an attractive option. An upgrade will reduce the risk of costly repairs down the road. An air conditioner replacement will improve energy efficiency, thanks to the latest technologies in HVAC systems. Tax breaks and other incentives can be availed to make the purchase more bearable.

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Consider Replacing Heating and Cooling Systems At The Same Time

You might want to consider replacing both the heating and the cooling systems at the same time. You will be able to save money and energy by hitting two birds with one stone. This is a sensible course of action if you installed these systems around the same time. Newer HVAC models will be better overall in terms of specifications and real-world performance.

Meanwhile, mixing an old and a new system in a home can decrease performance because of the mismatched components. Manufacturers may also refuse to honor warranties of incompatible systems. Don’t cut corners. Protect your investments by doing the right thing.


Townsend Energy is a trusted HVAC service provider that offers affordable HVAC services for residential and commercial properties. We are proud to provide exceptional services for your heating and cooling requirements such as repairs, installation, and tune-ups as well as maintenance tasks.

We outshine the competition in every area with friendly service, efficient installation, and affordable prices.

To learn more about the services and systems we offer, contact Townsend Energy today. We will schedule an appointment so that you can meet with one of our professionals for a free consultation. We will be happy to discuss your concerns and find the best available cooling solutions. We’ll answer all your questions thoroughly. Call now!

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