On January 1, 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ban on Freon® went into full effect. This ban forbids the production or import of Freon (also called R-22) throughout the United States. Since many air conditioning units manufactured before 2010 use Freon, you might wonder what the ban means for you.
Does the Freon ban require homeowners to have new air conditioning installations?
No, the ban does not require homeowners to have new air conditioning installations. If a homeowner’s current air conditioner uses Freon, you can still use that air conditioner. In fact, you can still have an air conditioning contractor recharge it with Freon.
However, finding an air conditioning contractor who works with Freon will be much more challenging. While the ban does not force HVAC technicians to stop using Freon altogether, it does make it much harder and more expensive to source. If you can find an existing supply, you can use it to recharge air conditioners. But once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. And some air conditioning contractors refuse to carry Freon anymore, either due to cost or because of negative environmental impacts.
If homeowners have Freon, can they get still get an air conditioning repair?
Yes. Homeowners who have air conditioners that use Freon can still get air conditioning repairs. The problem they might face is related to the refrigerant itself, rather than the entire unit.
For example, if a homeowner’s air conditioner fan burns out from routine wear, the fact that it uses Freon shouldn’t affect the air conditioning repair process. But if that air conditioner develops a refrigerant leak and uses Freon, the air conditioning repair process may get a little more complex. If the air conditioning contractor carries Freon, they may be able to fix it as usual. But they may also recommend either replacing the unit or retrofitting it.
Replacing the air conditioner is fairly straightforward. It can also be expensive.
The other option a homeowner has is retrofitting their air conditioner to accept alternative refrigerants. This is a much easier and less expensive option than replacing the entire system.
Can homeowners recharge with a similar refrigerant instead of getting a retrofit?
No they can’t. Knowingly mixing refrigerants is illegal. When someone mixes refrigerants, it’s impossible to recycle and properly dispose of the mixed refrigerants. The goal of the Freon ban in air conditioners is to better protect the ozone layer (Freon damages the ozone layer). Mixing refrigerants defeats the purpose and can get homeowners in trouble, too.
Additionally, mixing refrigerants can damage the air conditioner. Alternative refrigerants require different parts to move through the air conditioner properly. But a quality air conditioning contractor can install these parts in a matter of days, not weeks or months.
Do alternative refrigerants work as well as Freon?
Yes! There are many alternative refrigerants to choose from, and they work just as well as Freon. These alternative refrigerants do the same thing Freon does but without the detrimental effects of Freon. Though the government ban will make Freon more difficult and expensive to source, alternative refrigerants are a great solution.
For example, a common alternative refrigerant is MO99. MO99 uses the same kind of oil as Freon, which makes retrofitting for MO99 easy for air conditioning contractors. Another alternative refrigerant, R-410A (Puron), is common in many air conditioners manufactured after 2013.
Whether you use Freon or not, keep maintaining your air conditioner! Proper maintenance is important to extending this expensive system’s life span.