What’s going on with the price of R-22?!?
Many of you have heard that the price of R-22 has gone through the roof. Unfortunately, the rumors of a price spike are true, and there aren’t a lot of definitive answers as to what the future holds for this common chemical used in air conditioning systems.
R-22 production limited over 20 years ago
In 1987 the Montreal Protocol was signed by President Ronald Reagan, charting the course for the phaseout of R-22 in the United States. Ever since that point, the Environmental Protection Agency has determined the amount of R-22 that can be made or imported into the United States. Up to this point, these amounts were set well in advance on a schedule that would result in a steady decline of new R-22 through the year 2020. At that point no new R-22 could be made in or imported into the States; we will have to rely on recycled R-22.
Less R-22 available this year than expected
For the year 2012, we were led to believe that the EPA would allow approximately 80% of the previous year’s production. However near the end of 2011, the EPA stated that they intended to delay the final ruling of allowed R-22 production until mid-2012. Until that point, manufacturers are required to work under the assumption that they are only able to produce 55% of the 2011 amounts. Instead of a 20% reduction, we’re now looking at a 45% reduction!
Market responds with jump in price
When this news hit, the price of R-22 quickly began to rise. Locally, the wholesale cost rose more than 300%! This has the potential to be a major shock for many homeowners who have grown accustomed to paying for “a shot of refrigerant” every summer.
Where do we go from here?
Good question, and I don’t have a good answer. We don’t anticipate much change until the EPA finalizes its ruling sometime this summer. Quite frankly, even if they do decide to allow more refrigerant to be made, at that point it will be too late for most homeowners. Those whose system requires R-22 to be added will be faced with a choice of either digging a little deeper into their pockets or changing the equipment out with a system that uses the new environmentally friendly R-410a.
Step by step instructions if your system is low on R-22
- Don’t let a contractor convince you to “gas & go”. In other words, don’t add R-22 without having a leak search performed.
- Locate the leak! A good contractor will have an electronic leak detector that will allow them to locate the leak most of the time.
- If possible, repair the leak. Some leaks are on copper fittings or weld joints, and can be repaired. If it’s repairable, pay the money to have it repaired so you don’t have to keep paying for Freon.
- Replace the component. If repair isn’t an option, replace the component that is leaking. You may be better off replacing the component anyway, depending on how old the equipment is.