The price for R-22 refrigerant has increased significantly in the past year, and that’s a trend that’s most likely to continue. If you have an air conditioning unit that uses R-22 refrigerant in Boston, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise the next time your unit needs a recharge.
The production and distribution of R-22 is carefully controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA is responsible for ensuring that the United States complies with the Montreal Protocol, an agreement designed to reduce the use of refrigerants that are known to harm the Earth’s ozone layer. The EPA’s regulatory approach includes rationing the materials used to make R-22, and controlling how much gas can be imported in any given year.
Late last year, the EPA needed to make an adjustment to the allocations it had proposed for the years 2012-2014. The adjustment was necessary in order to meet the terms of a settlement between the EPA and two R-22 producers whose allocations from 2009 were improperly calculated.
The end result is that most manufacturers and importers received sizably smaller allocations for 2012 than they expected, and the allocations will be reduced through 2014.
What does this mean for the consumer? Basically, it means consumers will be paying higher prices for R-22 refrigerants in the foreseeable future. Although the total amount of R-22 on the market in 2012 hasn’t changed, the amount of refrigerant that each producer can make has decreased. Further, the amount of R-22 is being slowly-but-surely reduced.
In 2011, manufacturers were prohibited for the first time from shipping new air conditioning units charged with R-22 refrigerant. Thanks to a loophole in the law, manufacturers were able to ship the units “dry-charged” – without any refrigerant at all. Once the units reached the consumer, the consumer would pay an installer to “recharge” the empty unit, skirting the regulation and preserving their opportunity to use what many consumers view as a more capable refrigerant in their air conditioners.
Right now, with the price of R-22 having increased by nearly 2.5 times seemingly overnight, that strategy may not have much of a payout, but the escalating cost of R-22 may provide a little extra incentive to take better care of R-22 units that are still in service. Routine maintenance is the best, most cost-effective way to ensure that your R-22 unit works as efficiently as possible. Having a technician on hand to make sure your R-22 unit is properly maintained reduces the chance that you’ll encounter a catastrophic system failure that will send your R-22 unit to an early retirement.
The market alternative to R-22 is a refrigerant known as R410A. While some industry professionals say that the newer refrigerant isn’t as good at cooling as R-22 has been, it appears to be adequate for most Boston-area applications, given that Boston doesn’t typically suffer from excessively high summertime temperatures. Unfortunately, R410A isn’t a direct substitution for R-22. Units are designed to work with one refrigerant or another, but you simply can’t put R410A into a unit designed to work with R-22.
If you have a central air conditioning unit, routine maintenance is a must. You’ll save time and money by ensuring that your unit operates as efficiently as possible, and you’ll prolong the life of your unit. Don’t expect to catch a break by skipping maintenance for a season or two. Your unit can lose 5-10% of its efficiency every time you skip a maintenance cycle!
Contact Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating at (617) 288-2911 to schedule a maintenance appointment for your central air conditioning unit. We’ll perform all routine maintenance recommended by the manufacturer and we’ll check your system for leaks and other performance problems.
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