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Why is Refrigerant So Expensive?

You notice that your air conditioner isn’t outputting nearly the same amount of cool, refreshing air that you need during summer, and a quick diagnostic reveals that you simply need a recharge. The technician plugs in their tank, fills you up to the proper pressure levels, and then seals everything off after making sure there are no leaks that could be compromising your system. You then get an invoice that sends your jaw to the floor—that simple service cost how much?!

If you have an older air conditioner that relies on R-22 refrigerant to function, then this may sound like something you’ve experienced before. R-22 has skyrocketed in price over the last five years or so, and that’s left homeowners in a world of hurt when they need a service that should otherwise be fairly quick and inexpensive. Before you get angry, rest assured your service company isn’t ripping you off; there’s a good reason for this price increase.

EPA Regulation

The story of this price increase starts roughly 30 years ago. Scientists performing studies on the ozone layer and our atmosphere realized that certain chemicals and substances did a substantially great amount of damage to our atmosphere than others. R-22 refrigerant was on that list of chemicals. As such, the EPA ordered that R-22 be phased out as a utilized substance as a part of the Montreal Protocol in order to try and protect the environment.

Fast forward to the start of the year 2010 and the EPA initiated a total ban on the import and production of any air conditioners that came pre-charged with R-22 refrigerant. To coincide with this, the EPA also demanded that production of this refrigerant decrease by 75 percent, with the goal of hitting a 90 percent decrease by the year 2015. R-22 refrigerant began rapidly disappearing, leaving an extremely limited supply for those who still had perfectly good air conditioners that still relied on the substance.

Limited Supply, Lots of Demand

While many air conditioners don’t utilize R-22 refrigerant today, there are a good number of systems still out there that do rely on it to function properly. The major ban didn’t go into effect until eight years ago, and when you consider that an air conditioner can easily last ten to 15 years when properly cared for, it stands to reason that there are plenty of people who may still need a recharge.

However, with production down so heavily, the supply is extremely limited compared to demand. As a result, you get a sharp spike in refrigerant prices, which now sit at well above $100 per pound. To make matters even more difficult, finding someone who can recharge your system is extremely difficult. Suppliers are only allowed to sell a certain amount per day, and even then only a few suppliers who have obtained proper clearance can even sell R-22 at all. This added licensing requirement adds a considerable cost to your recharge, further contributing to the cost of your simple recharge.

The Solution to Rising Costs

As the supply of refrigerant progressively dwindles and costs continue to rise, you may be wondering what you can do to avoid having to pay this outrageous price to keep your home cool and dry. The solution is simple: replace your old, inefficient, and outdated air conditioner with a new, energy efficient model that runs on an environmentally-friendly form of refrigerant. Today’s modern refrigerant compounds are even more effective at transferring heat, are less expensive to produce, and have little to no impact whatsoever on our environment, making them safe to use.

While upgrading your system may seem like a huge expense, look at it this way: investing now will help you avoid having to pay to recharge your system with a material that’s only getting more expensive by the day. Furthermore, older systems are more prone to breaking down in other ways as well, which will only result in more expensive repair bills and money out of your pocket. Replacing your system now avoids these costly breakdowns and helps you use less energy, saving you hundreds or even thousands over the course of a few years.

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