Saturday, June 9, 2012

A/C Unit Is Now “Yard Art” Because of R-22

I don’t use my air conditioning unit – because of the cost.  I haven’t used it in about 3 years. – sweltering out the infrequent unbearable summer days.  But with the news that this summer would be hottest in years – I thought I would have a technician come out and get me ready – until I heard a news article on TV and because of that -

            My seven year old A/C unit has now become “yard art”.

A news article I saw on our local TV station the other night, set me off – so I thought I would do some research on it.

This particular part of the coverage– pissed me off
A lot of people are now looking at new units, because the cost of Freon is up as much as 300 percent.

“It means a lot more people are going to buy new ones because repair leaks can be very costly,” said Kevin Nance, a Twin Cities air conditioner technician.

So now rather than keep up with repair costs, a lot of people are choosing to buy new, more energy efficient units instead.

Buy a new air conditioner unit – YEH!  With what?
FREON up 300 percent because of shortages – WHY??????
    R22 is NOT completely outlawed for another 8 years.
Sounds like consumer gouging if you ask me.

Up, up and away….
With R22 in 85% of air conditioners – window and central air -
With the hottest summer projected for this year
– we just got screwed.

Here’s the history behind the story

If you work in the HVACR business, you have probably heard that the US Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are calling for the gradual elimination of all ozone-depleting refrigerants. This includes the most commonly used refrigerant today, HCFC R-22, which is found in residential and commercial systems everywhere. The regulations currently state that there will be no production or importing of HCFC R-22 beginning in 2020.

Here's everything you need to know:
1.While recharging an AC or Heat Pump is not typical, if your system develops a leak or requires service, replacement refrigerant may be necessary.  If your existing A/C system has R22 refrigerant it can be serviced and if necessary recharged up to 1/1/2020. However, after 1/1/2020 refrigerant manufacturers must cease all production of R22 refrigerant completely.
2.There is currently no EPA requirement on the servicing or usage of existing R22 A/C units. R22 A/C equipment may continue to be used indefinitely.
3.Substitutes for R22 refrigerant may be available to service and recharge R22 air conditioners. Any substitution should only be applied by NATE-certified technicians who are skilled and EPA certified in air conditioning repair. NATE-certification includes the recommended EPA refrigerant handling certification (Section 608 certification).
4.If you purchase a new air conditioning or heat pump system after 1/1/2010, it may or may not utilize Freon. It will most likely use the more environmentally friendly R410A. Most manufacturers are already manufacturing Air Conditioning and Heat Pump units with the environmentally friendly R410A refrigerant.  These units are widely available today and should be strongly considered if you are looking to replace your home comfort system.
5.Prices of R22 refrigerant are very likely to increase as the 2010 deadline approaches, as R22 manufacturing slows and supplies dwindle from now through 2020.

Will I be required to stop using R-22 in my home air-conditioner or other equipment?

No. You will not be required to stop using R-22 and you will not be required to replace existing equipment just to switch to a new refrigerant. The lengthy phaseout period provides time to switch to ozone-friendly refrigerants when you normally would replace your air-conditioner or other equipment. This transition is important because supplies of R-22 will be more limited after 2010, which may cause the price of R-22 to increase. Starting in 2020, new R-22 may no longer be produced, so consumers will need to rely solely on recycled or reclaimed quantities to service any systems still operating after that date.

But – here’s the hitch for the consumer.
From an April 2012 article

At the start of 2010, use of HCFCs in the United States was mandated to be 75 percent lower than a baseline amount established by the EPA. It is being replaced by R-410a and a variety of other refrigerants based on the application. Although R-22 will still be available for another eight years, its cost will be significantly higher as supply and demand struggle to match-up.

At the current time, there are no planned restrictions or allocation reductions of the R-22 replacement refrigerants.

WELL - It's June 2012
AND prices did go up!!

A jump in the cost of a common refrigerant is putting building owners in a jam — and could force some to pay for unplanned and expensive HVAC upgrades.

R-22, a gas also known by the Dupont brand name Freon, is used in most commercial and home air conditioners. The wholesale price went from $4 per pound in 2010 to around $10 per pound in January, said Michael Day, owner of Rockwood Consulting and division president at Beutler Energy Services and Technology Co. Some dealers report the price rising as much as 60 percent in the past month alone.

The shortages and higher prices began after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Latest from The Business Journals Fort Lauderdale’s 110 Tower owner refinances Environmental agencies make the grade with EPA Follow this company announced early this year that it would cut production quotas of the refrigerant by anywhere from 11 percent to 47 percent per year through 2014.

Because the EPA’s goal is to wean air-conditioning users from R-22 and encourage recycling of the refrigerant, also called HCFC-22, the agency decided to set lower production allowances for 2012 through 2014, EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourne said in an email. Exactly how much lower will be determined this summer.

“EPA is taking steps to support a smooth and gradual transition away from ozone-depleting chemicals like HCFC-22,” she said. While production of the refrigerant is being phased out, recycled R-22 can be used indefinitely, she said.

Are there options????
In the past few months alone, these heavy cuts in production have led to Freon shortages, and there hasn’t always been enough R-22 to service all the air conditioners that still use it. These Freon shortages have also caused the price of Freon to go through the roof, and it now costs two to three times what it did in 2011.

Homeowners with R-22 air conditioners are left with three options:
    pay much, much more for Freon as it becomes a
      rarer and rarer commodity.
    convert their A/C units to run on a different refrigerant
      such as R-410A.
    replace their A/C with a new system that does not use Freon.
Because R-410A is much cheaper than R-22 and because new air conditioners are usually more energy efficient, the long-term costs of a new system can often be cheaper than repairing an outdated A/C.

Close to 85 percent of the air conditioning units in homes across the U.S. use R-22, and these shortages, the result of an international environmental agreement to reduce ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), will continue and intensify as time goes by

As the R-22 phase-out continues, its price will escalate to the point where it won’t make financial sense to continue using air conditioners with this refrigerant.

Air conditioners can use as much as five pounds of this refrigerant, and experts hesitate to estimate at what point its cost might top out. But if the R-22 Freon shortages force the price over $100 a pound, which is likely, continuing to run equipment that needs refilling annually does not make economic sense. Older air conditioners use much more electricity than newer systems, adding to the financial challenge associated with keeping older equipment running.

Remember the options that were listed above – one of them was
    convert their A/C units to run on a different refrigerant such as R-410A.

But – that seems to be something no one seems to be talking about currently - INCLUDING residential use.

The Quick Switch for R-22 Replacement
DuPont™ ISCEON® MO99™ (R-438A) is the most versatile R-22 replacement refrigerant in the ISCEON® product line.

ISCEON® MO99™ matches R-22 in terms of capacity and efficiency in most systems, but with a significantly lower discharge temperature which may prolong life of the compressor. It’s compatible with traditional and new lubricants, providing quick, cost-effective R-22 replacements and can be topped off during service without removing the entire refrigerant charges.

For most R-22 systems, when retrofitting to ISCEON® MO99™  all you need to do is recover the R-22, replace critical seals, charge refrigerant, restart and monitor for leaks, and you’re done. R-22 replacement can’t get any easier.

  DuPontTM ISCEON® MO99 (R438A) is an easy to use, non-ozone depleting HFC refrigerant blend.
  ISCEON® MO99 may be used in water chiller applications and has advantages over ISCEON® MO29 where the expansion valve has a fixed orifice or is closely sized to the capacity of the system.
  ISCEON® MO99 is compatible with traditional and new lubricants, providing easy, quick, cost effective retrofits and can be topped up during service without removing the entire refrigerant charge.
  ISCEON® MO99 is a close match to R22 in terms of capacity and efficiency in most systems, but with a significantly lower discharge temperature which may prolong life of the compressor.
  As ISCEON® MO99 is a blend it should always be removed from the cylinder as a liquid when charging a system.

Well – I’m screwed for this summer.
Homeowners with R-22 air conditioners are left with three options:
    pay much, much more for Freon as it becomes a
         rarer and rarer commodity.
    convert their A/C units to run on a different refrigerant
         such as R-410A.
    replace their A/C with a new system that does not use Freon.

Should have had it serviced last year, before the R-22 shortage - but I couldn't afford it.
This year I refuse participate in a cycle of consumer gouging:
   pay much, much more for Freon
   convert their A/C units
   replace their A/C
And no affordable alternatives.

So my seven year old A/C unit has now become “yard art”.

1 comment:

  1. Thank the Federal government again for senseless over regulation which is why the price of r22 is $425 for 30lbs. This same 30lbs appx 8 years ago was $33. The EPA cut the production allowance for this year WAY too much hence the current price.
    The ISCEON works fine but is also expensive- $240 for 25lbs. Having the conversion done isnt cheap but its much cheaper than a new r410a system. Hundreds versus thousands.
    Sadly the government is DESTROYING this country.