Freon is technically hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and more commonly known as freon, a registered trademark of DuPont. HCFCs replaced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were the world's first refrigerant because of the damage it caused to the ozone layer. Freon has now been found to cause the same problems, so it's being phased out. This article provides information about freon pricing, to help homeowners understand the HVAC crisis that will affect millions of homeowners in the near (by 2020) future.
The US signed the Montreal Protocol in 1987, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of substances responsible for ozone depletion.. In 1990, the US amended the Clean Air Act to implement regulations for managing ozone-depleting substances (ODS).
Homeowner Systems & Appliances Affected by Freon Pricing
The challenge is how do homeowners learn about the pending changes and how they will affect them. The changes aren't trivial, affecting HVAC systems and many appliances. Homeowners need to understand that the cost of adding freon to existing equipment is escalating with June 2016 retail prices quoted at $100/lb.
- Central air conditioners
- Window AC units
- Ductless air conditioners
- Air-to-air heat pumps
- Ground-source heat pumps
- Packaged AC units
- Packaged heat pumps
This article on freon started because it's pretty easy to find information about the EPA's phasing out of Freon (R-22 or HCFC-22) … but how would a homeowner know to research this? At the same time, it's almost impossible to find the rules governing the sale of HVAC systems and other home appliances that have depended on Freon for many years.
Note: Most of this freon pricing data is from RefrigerantHQ.com, so thanks Alec Johnson.
Homeowner Options to Respond to Freon Phase-Out
Sadly most homeowners have no easy way to learn about this problem before they're faced with some type of HVAC emergency. That's what happened to us and we thought we were prepared with a homeowner warranty that let us down, and hid the problem. So this article is the beginning of my work to alert homeowners and share these choices.
- Start researching new HVAC systems now, and start saving for a replacement system. This is critical because most homeowners don't have $8,000 available to pay for a new system today.
- Find a reliable HVAC company and work with them to extend the life of your existing system as long as possible. It's important to build these relationships before there's an emergency.
And for those who want to understand how the EPA is phasing out production of freon (R-22) and systems that use it, here's a recap of the multiple phase-down steps.
2010 to 2014 Freon Phase-Down Step
- HVAC system manufacturers may not produce new air conditioners and heat pumps containing R-22. Virgin R-22 many not be used in new equipment, only to service existing equipment.
- The Clean Air Act does not allow HCFC refrigerants to be vented into the atmosphere during installation, service or when removing old equipment. R-22 must be removed through one of these 3 methods.
- Recovery and Recycled
- No non-EPA-approved coolant, including R-22 and R-142b, may be used in newly manufactured HVAC equipment.
- 75% phase-out of HCFC (freon) coolant through production and consumption limits.
2015 to 2019 Freon Phase-Down Regulations
- No HVAC equipment manufactured after January 1, 2010 (my replacement system manufactured in August 2014), which uses R-22, will be allowed to be recharged.
- US must reduce consumption of HCFCs by 90% below US baseline.
2020 to 2029 Freon Phase-Down Step
- Refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled/reclaimed will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems.
- Recycling is allowed but only by licensed reclaimers operating under strict new regulations.
- US must reduce consumption of HCFCs by 99.5% below US baseline.
2030 & End of the Freon Nightmare
- As of January 1, 2030, both US production and import of HCFC coolants completely banned.
- Recycling and reuse of these coolants are no longer allowed.
- Production, distribution, sale or possession of HCFC coolants become illegal.
- 100% HCFC refrigerant phase-out is complete.
Resources Used to Gather Freon Pricing Information & More
-  AC Refrigerant Information and Law, an HVAC company in Phoenix, AZ.
-  Does Your Home’s Air Conditioner ACTUALLY Need a Refrigerant Charge?
-  What You Need to Know about the EPA’s Freon 22 Phase-Out, a Louisiana HVAC company.
-  2015 Refrigerant/Refrigerant Pricing Predictions (follow-up article) offers lots of articles related to refrigerant regulations, pricing and who's been fined for violations.
-  The High Price of R-22 for Air Conditioners May Close the Loophole written by EnergyVanguard.com, an industry leader teaching and consulting on building science, along with designing high performance HVAC systems.
-  Does Your Home's Air Conditioner ACTUALLY Need a Refrigerant Charge?
-  What You Need to Know About R-410A offers one home warranty company's information about the problems associated with switching from R-22 to R-410A refrigerant.
-  The Refrigeration Cycle – How an Air Conditioner Works explains how the refrigerant flows through an HVAC system, covering the compressor, condenser, metering device and evaporator.