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How Will Refrigerant Changes Affect Your Air Conditioner

Posted on: May 10, 2014

If it’s been awhile since you upgraded your air conditioning, there are a few things you should know. Manufacturers have come up with innovative technologies to make air conditioners more efficient and green. Two-stage cooling systems use less energy to run, and they know when to provide a high stage of cooling or ramp down to a lower stage when it’s not so hot. Multi-speed air handlers adjust the rate at which the fan delivers air, reacting in real-time to the cooling load of your home. These components are just two innovations that help air conditioners use less energy, which means lower energy bills for homeowners who invest in them.

How Will refrigerant Changes Affect Your Air Conditioner

How Will refrigerant Changes Affect Your Air Conditioner?

But there’s another change that manufacturers have had to address as a result of a global resolution. Eventually, this change will affect homeowners like you who haven’t yet replaced their old air conditioners. It’s the Montreal Protocol, and its regulations affect the liquid running through your A/C.

The Montreal Protocol

Addressing the problem of ozone depletion, countries across the globe gathered to develop a strategic solution. Out of this meeting, the Montreal Protocol was born. Countries like the U.S. agreed to gradually reduce and then eliminate the production of ozone-depleting substances. One of these substances is refrigerant, or as it’s referred to in the industry, R-22.

Phasing out refrigerant

In the U.S., the EPA is responsible for implementing the phase out of refrigerant. Here’s an overview of the plan:

  • In 2004, manufacturers had to comply with a 35 percent reduction in producing refrigerant.
  • In 2010, no new air conditioning systems could be manufactured using refrigerant. Manufacturing of refrigerant for use with existing systems was increased to a 65 percent reduction.
  • In 2015, manufacturers will have to reduce the production of refrigerant by 90 percent.
  • In 2020, production will be phased out almost entirely, with planned production decreasing to 99.5 percent.

While this plan holds promise for limiting the production of greenhouse gases and their effect on the environment, there are significant implications for homeowners.

What homeowners need to know

In response to the regulations, manufacturers have developed environmentally friendly air conditioners using a new refrigerant called R-410A. If you purchased an air conditioner manufactured after 2010, you’re safe. The system uses the alternative refrigerant.

If you don’t have one of these systems already, here’s how the EPA’s plan will affect you as a homeowner.

As the phase-out plan for refrigerant continues, manufacturers will develop less and less of the harmful product. For homeowners who hold on to their existing air conditioners, the cost of charging the system with refrigerant will increase. With a limited amount of refrigerant produced, the price of the product will increase—and that cost will be passed onto homeowners. Keep in mind that it’s not possible to use the new, safe refrigerant in older systems. If you try to use R-410A with your old system, it will malfunction.

If your air conditioner was manufactured in 2008 and still uses refrigerant, you could be facing a costly repair if one of the components breaks down. You see, a new indoor air handler that employs R-410A isn’t compatible with an outdoor compressor that uses refrigerant. So you’ll need to replace both components if the air handler can’t be fixed.

Even if you’re committed to ensuring the air conditioner lasts by repairing minor problems, as older non-compliant air conditioners are phased out, the cost of replacement parts for these older systems are also likely to increase. Finding compatible parts may be possible, but their high price tag may make upgrading to a compliant system a wise choice.

The ideal option

Investing in new air conditioning requires a sizeable investment. When the time comes to upgrade, however, you can bypass all of the problems that result from the phase out by investing in an R-410A air conditioner. Manufacturers are producing them in volume, you can get a hold of the necessary parts for a fair market price, the new, safe refrigerants will be available in abundance, and you’ll get a system that’s compliant and will last for many years.

For more information about refrigerant changes and how the laws affect your bottom line, contact Jacob Heating & Air Conditioning. One of our air conditioning experts will be happy to walk you through your options, and help you find the best long-term solution for staying cool in your West Volusia County home. We serve the region with air conditioning, furnace and heat pump solutions, as well as dehumidifiers and indoor air quality services.