Why Is Refrigerant So Expensive?

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Why Is Refrigerant So Expensive?

Have you ever had to recharge the refrigerant of your air conditioner? Or have you bought two pounds or more of R 22 refrigerant recently? If you said yes to any of these two questions, chances are, you were in for an unpleasant surprise when you received your bill. You probably felt ripped off by your service company.

Well, no one can blame you. Every homeowner who had to charge or refill their R 22 refrigerant within the last five years or so felt the same way you did. How can a simple refrigerant charge or a small amount of R 22 to refill an AC unit cost too much, right?

The price of the coolant Freon or R22 refrigerant has been steadily increasing over the years, with no sign of hitting a plateau any time soon.

Why Is Refrigerant Important?

Since its invention, the refrigerant has revolutionized how we cool residential and commercial spaces every day using air conditioning systems. To say that refrigerant is an important part of air conditioning systems is an understatementㅡit is the reason why air conditioning takes place. Without the refrigerant like Freon, the air conditioning process wouldn’t be possible at all.

As you probably know, air conditioners do not create cool air. It is the refrigerant, as the life-blood of the air conditioning system, that absorbs heat and releases it outdoors as the refrigerant changes from liquid to gas and back.

A refrigerant is neither gas nor liquid. It changes states depending on its temperature and the pressure applied to it at any given time. The refrigerant is a compound that readily absorbs heat from the environment. The compressor turns liquid refrigerant into a high-pressure gas. As the refrigerant travels through the evaporator coil, it absorbs heat, which it then releases outdoors through the condensation process. This may sound simple, but it’s actually one of the most complex processes involving air conditioners.

Every home with an HVAC system, including a heat pump or air conditioning, relies on the refrigerant for cooling solutions. When something is wrong with the refrigerant, it affects the whole heating and cooling system. Finding the right technician to inspect and repair the refrigerant of your HVAC system for leaks, ice, or low charge has gotten challenging and expensive too, as there are now fewer and fewer qualified technicians with clearance to meet the labor demand.

Why does a refrigerant cost so much?

EPA Regulation

About thirty years ago, by virtue of the Montreal Protocol, it was discovered that Freon, the registered trademark of R22 refrigerant, is harmful to people and the environment. The toxic substance is odorless and tasteless, but when released in the air, a small amount can be extremely dangerous.

When Freon leaks, people who breathe in the substance experience difficulty breathing as the coolant blocks life-giving oxygen to vital parts of the body.  In fact, some news reported poisoning in residential places due to Freon.

It was also discovered that Freon releases harmful chemicals that contribute to the depletion of the ozone, one of the biggest challenges the modern world is facing until today. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA ordered R 22 refrigerant to be phased out by gradually reducing its production in the United States.

Differences in Supply and Demand

In 2010, R 22 production was down to 75 percent. By 2015, R 22 refrigerant production was down to 90 percent. When you consider the lifespan of most air conditioners, which is typically 8 to 12 years in Arizona homes, it’s easy to see how a dwindling supply of R 22 refrigerant can cause a sharp price increase. 

Homeowners with an HVAC system that runs on Freon scramble to find refrigerants at reasonable prices. When a refrigerant has a low charge, leaks, or ice, finding proper repair services with reasonable prices is just as challenging.

Based on the law of supply and demand, when the supply of a commodity is low and its demand is high, the price of the commodity skyrockets, and that’s precisely why refrigerants are now very expensive.

Stringent EPA regulations have discouraged fewer service companies from getting licensing clearance so that when homeowners need a technician to fix a refrigerant leak or refill an air conditioner with Freon, homeowners have limited options. Again, we see a disparity between supply and demand that leads to unreasonable prices.

With limited supplies in the market and limited licensed companies who can deal with R 22 refrigerants, you can expect the price of R 22 refrigerants to continue its upward trend.

How much does refrigerant cost?

While the environmentally friendly R 410a has steadily gained footing in the air conditioning market ever since EPA regulated the production of R 22, homeowners are still hard-pressed to charge or refill their older model air conditioner that functions on R 22. Obviously, homeowners want to maximize their air conditioner even if it runs on harmful Freon. These days, doing so comes at an exorbitant price.

It’s common for an air conditioner refrigerant to leak. Depending on the size and type of the AC unit, the average cost of recharging an air conditioner after a leak ranges between $200 and $700. However, owing to the low supply of Freon, the cost per pound of the substance may range from $80 to $300.

How to Avoid Costly Refrigerant Issues

As of 2010, AC manufacturers are required to produce AC systems pre-charged with R-410A, a more environmentally friendly refrigerant. As of January 2020, all production and importation of Freon have ceased. In addition, service companies are required special permits to deal with R 22.

What do these things mean for homeowners with AC systems still running on Freon? It means a more expensive R 22 refill or recharge for their air conditioning unit in the future.

The best way to avoid the ever-increasing cost of R 22 refrigerant or Freon is to upgrade your heating and cooling system at home. Today, you can easily install a heating and cooling system that runs on R 410A. While the upfront cost to upgrade can be disheartening, over the course of a few short years, it will prove to be a cost-effective step to enhance the efficiency of your AC system at home and avoid expensive R 22 charges.

AC refrigerant

What are the Advantages of a Refrigerant Upgrade?

Upgrading your heating and cooling system from R 22 to R 410A refrigerant has its advantages. Among them are lesser repair and maintenance costs and cleaner and safer air.

Cleaner and Safer Indoor Air

It doesn’t matter if your heating and the cooling unit run on Freon. Most R 22 older models are compatible with R 410A. While an upgrade can be costly upfront, it gives you peace of mind, knowing your home is safe from poisonous substances. You never have to worry about inhaling Freon again in case of refrigerant leaks. The safety and cleanliness of the air you breathe are worth the cost to upgrade.

Environmentally Friendly Solution

Protecting the environment is a huge incentive for upgrading to R 410A. R 410A is a chlorine-free coolant that is more environmentally friendly than its predecessor. Using R 410A in your heating and air conditioning unit may earn you possible energy tax credits.

Lower energy bills and repair costs

R 410A is up to 5 percent more efficient than R 22. It absorbs and releases more heat than its predecessor, and because it’s more efficient, it saves more energy than R22 ever could, effectively reducing energy bills.

Unless you switch the refrigerant of your heating and cooling system at home, you can expect to pay more and more for R 22 and R 22-related services as supplies continue to plummet. Over time, recharging or refilling R 22 refrigerant may cost more than upgrading your unit today.

Contact Us

To learn more about refrigerant upgrades, contact us by phone or online. You can request a free estimate and ask everything you need to know about R410A. Our reliable technicians will be happy to answer your questions or give your home a quick inspection.

Homeowners in Phoenix and nearby cities in Arizona should call Air Care Cooling & Heating LLC for system upgrade inquiries.

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