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Valuable information from one of the senior service technicians at Access Heating & Air! We recently did an interview to hopefully clear up all this confusion regarding whether the freon in your air conditioner is bad or outdated or not AND what you can do about it.

Our Interview with a Senior Technician

Access Heating & Air: So, what is all this talk about “new Freon”? We have been hearing from many of our customers that their freon is old and outdated and the last HVAC dealer told them their air conditioner was no longer serviceable. Many homeowners seem to be mis-informed about this major recent change in our industry…

Senior Technician: Acting in accordance with an international treaty known as the Montreal Protocol, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated the eventual phase out of R22 through the Clean Air Act. As of 2010, the manufacturing of heating and air conditioning equipment using R22 will be prohibited, and by 2020 the production of R22 Freon itself must cease.

Access Heating & Air: Why was this Freon banned?

Senior Technician: R22, technically known as HCFC-22 (H-hydro, C-Cloro, F-Flouro, C-Carbon), is a green house gas and contributes to global warming. The main reason for this regulatory action is that R22 is a hydro chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) compound, which contains the ozone-depleting “chlorine.”

Access Heating & Air: This sounds pretty technical. Wow!

Senior Technician: The current changes in our industry can be daunting to keep up with sometimes! Many consumers are under the impression that their a/c or heat pump has to be changed out immediately, and even many HVAC contractors in Boise and Meridian are riding this wave of mis-informed consumers.

air conditioner
Primary refrigerants in our industry Image is property of Access Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.

Access Heating & Air So, what should our customers know about this Freon change?

Senior Technician: Great question. There are a few things to keep in mind and to be aware of. First, if any air conditioner contractor is telling you that you must change over your heating or air conditioner system because your Freon is “outdated” OR “banned”, be cautious. While the truth remains that this particular Freon is “banned”, we recommend that you be pro-active ONCE your air conditioner or heat-pump develops issues. This is particularly important with the Freon system; a leak in the system or a mechanical failure to a compressor can be expensive because of the limited production of R-22.

Access Heating & Air Supply and demand?

Senior Technician: Exactly. As the demand increases over the next decade for R22, the availability will become increasingly limited, which creates an imbalance in the maintaining and servicing of these systems. We have already (moved position of “already” in sentence for clarity) seen an increase in the last 2 years of R-22, about a 20%-40% jump from 2010. So, what used to be relatively cheap to service and maintain, homeowners now have to give a closer look at repair versus replace options.

Access Heating & Air What other things should our homeowners know about?

Senior Technician: Homeowners should be aware of the rising cost of this Freon due to the lack of production but more importantly the impact this R22 has on our environment. When one of our customers is considering replacing the entire a/c system, it is always best to request the new R410a.

Access Heating & Air Wait- so homeowners can still buy new units with the older Freon?

Senior Technician: Yes. Manufactures are not allowed to sell or produce air conditioner equipment that has this old R22 Freon installed, so manufacturers are building new air conditioners without the Freon in it. We call this a “dry-charged” unit. Prior to 2010, air conditioners and heat-pumps were fully charged from the factory and installation on a home was relatively simple. Now, HVAC contractors have to completely fill and charge that dry-charged system to manufacture specifications.

Access Heating & Air So, why would anybody choose this as a viable option?

Senior Technician: Another great question. When your air conditioner is replaced, there is an indoor coil, also known as the evaporator. This has to be changed to a new coil in order to work with the new R-410 outdoor system. However, sometimes the indoor evaporator coil is in perfect working order and there is no need to install something new. The homeowner now has the option of purchasing a dry-charged air conditioner only, which lowers the overall installation investment. Installing a dry-charged system can be cost-effective for rentals or homeowners who are ready to move

Access Heating & Air Let’s go back to the pro-active measures you mentioned earlier. Does it make sense, in the long run, for a homeowner to purchase one of these “dry-charged” units? What happens if the unit develops a leak in several years or the compressor fails?

Senior Technician: I’m glad you asked. While the upfront cost of a “dry-charged” system is cheaper, any future failures on the system will prove to be more expensive than the R-410a counterpart. Many heating contractors in Boise and Meridian are recommending these “dry-charged” units, consider what the long term benefits will be. While you may save money on your Boise heating system in the short run, it might cost you more in the long term.

Access Heating & Air With all this information, what one thing do you recommend for assisting the decision making process?

Senior Technician: As you can see, it is difficult! I simply provide as much knowledge and information so my homeowners and customers can make better and more informed decisions. Their purchasing decision today will have a long-lasting impact not just on their budgets, but also on our environment as well. A good rule-of-thumb to use for these decisions is the length of time a homeowner plans on staying in the home. If the homeowner foresees they will stay in their house 2 years or more, most often the best decision is to upgrade the evaporator coil. The cost of R410a will become increasingly more affordable over the next few decades…

Access Heating & Air This sounds familiar. Like the automotive industry experienced a few decades ago with car air conditioners.

Senior Technician: You are exactly correct! Many people remember Freon being cheap and readily available for the car, but after the ban on what was known as R-12, the cost of repairs rose dramatically.

Access Heating & Air Well, thank you for your expertise and time today.

Senior Technician: You are welcome! My pleasure!

Contact Access Heating & Air today if you would like to know more information!

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