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What is a fair price for R-22?

By 2015, there will be a 90 percent reduction in the production of R-22. By 2020, it will no longer be produced at all. Because production is limited, costs to charge existing units that are leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are only expected to rise. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member John R. of Lake Mary, Fla.)

By 2015, there will be a 90 percent reduction in the production of R-22. By 2020, it will no longer be produced at all. Because production is limited, costs to charge existing units that are leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are only expected to rise. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member John R. of Lake Mary, Fla.)

Dear Angie: My air conditioning contractor just charged me $100 per pound for R-22 refrigerant. This is a lot more than I paid four years ago. Is this a fair price these days? – Albert M., West Babylon, N.Y. 

Dear Albert: Prices for R-22 refrigerant, commonly known as “Freon,” have definitely risen over the past few years.

Here’s why: About 25 years ago, the EPA ordered the phasing out of R-22 as part of the international treaty on protecting the ozone layer called the “Montreal Protocol”, because of the refrigerant’s ozone-depleting substances.

As part of the agreement, production ended in 2010 for new air conditioning units “charged” with R-22 and production of the refrigerant itself was reduced by 75 percent. By 2015, there will be a 90 percent reduction in the production of R-22. By 2020, it will no longer be produced at all. Because production is limited, costs to charge existing units that are leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are only expected to rise.

I’ve spoken with a number of highly rated heating and cooling contractors on Angie’s List and, depending on how much of a supply they have and how much they paid when they purchased it, these companies are charging three and four times the cost they were just a few years ago. Companies have quoted prices ranging from $35 to $175 per pound. That comes with a caveat, though. For example, one Long Island-area company representative I spoke with said he charges $35 per pound, but that does not include the cost of a service charge. Most companies seem to charge about $115 for the labor portion. So, if your contractor charged you $100 to replenish one pound and that included the labor, then it sounds like you got a pretty good deal. 

All that said, I think you need to look at the bigger issue here. You said you paid to have R-22 added to your A/C four years ago. Really, R-22 should never need to be replaced. If your system needs R-22, that means you have a leak. Rather than continuing to pay these increased costs to replenish the leaking R-22, I recommend you find a qualified heating and cooling company to repair the leak.

A reputable HVAC technician can also advise you if it makes sense to continue investing in your existing A/C, or if you’re better off replacing it. Heating and cooling companies can recycle R-22 from existing units, which can then been reused to service units beyond 2020. However, as these costs continue to rise, you might find you’re better off replacing your old R-22 unit with one that uses the more environmentally friendly R-410A. Unfortunately, R-22 charged units are not compatible with R-410 refrigerant, so you’ll have to replace the entire system.

The good news is that, if you do invest in a new unit, it will be more environmentally friendly and more energy efficient. You’ll save money on your monthly cooling costs – those long-term savings can really add up – plus you can take advantage of federal Energy Star tax credits of up to $300 if you buy a qualifying air conditioner this year.

Angie’s List collects about 65,000 consumer reviews each month covering more than 550 home and health services. Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angie’s List to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com


More Like This

Air conditioners going green with R-410A

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) phases out the old R-22 refrigerant, air conditioners can become more environmentally friendly by using the new refrigerant, R-410A.

Comments

30lb cylinders of R22 are widely available for around $230 - $250 per cylinder (less at wholesale / in quantity) to anyone with 608 certification which is easily obtained by open book test online. Higher prices for 30 lbs is a ripoff. Just do a search on 608 certification. Getting the certification and buying the refrigerant doesn't mean you'll actually be qualified to service the equipment though. Proceed at your own risk.

? Big price drop? even 14 a pound to 10 a pound wholesale affects a 4 lb addition by _ $? so a call is 400 bucks +/- 16... eh?

30lb of r22 freon wholesale is $425.00.Any a/c company has to pay $25-$35 on hour for their man,truck,gas,insurance,tools,and so on.For any a/c company to stay in business just to check your system they have to charge at least $80 per hr + lets say freon $60 and up.If you want somebody to come to your house and fix your stuff please do not be cheap about it or do not own your residence,simply just RENT!

R22 price has actually dropped down quite a bit in recent months. They are $299 per 30lbs. at our store location. Of course only certified person can purchase them and with insurance, labor and other overhead we won't see end user's price come down anytime soon.

How about one type of freon for all uses.......b

In the united states you are required to have passed an epa test to buy any refrigerant. 608 universal ( must pass all 4 parts) for hvac systems 609 for car ac systems And any drop-in for r22 you will loss capacity

Good article . however there was one thing that was not exactly accurate. If you have to change the outdoor unit to a 410 a system It does not mean you absolutely have to change the indoor evaporator.. many of the evaporators that were being manufactured can work both for 410a and 22. It's just a matter of changing the metering device. You won't have to change the furnace. And as long as you clean out the line set very well, with a flush, you can get away with just changing the condensing unit... So no you don't have to change the entire system.... all the time....

Yes you're technically correct..however if one is to purchase a 16 seer condenser and only change the metering device it will no longer be 16 seer. As a matter of fact, even if you change the metering device and do not replace the furnace with matching equipment, you will still not have a 16 seer system. Simple fact is: the rating of 16 seer is based on the fact that all 3 major components are matched appropriately and the line set and duct system are measured properly. But tell your customers whatever you please and hopefully they will call me next time

Actually you loose nothing as the SEER is only relating to the condensing units. Air handlers don't care what SEER you have on the condenser.

SEER is even including blower speed and dry bulb and wet bulb - dewpoint conditions in tests I think there more need for homework... because all components are the SEER consideration through to the register, even...

Simply confusing EER of a condenser with total system SEER is common. Absolutely matters what blower speed even to get the SEER rating, as well as refrigerant metering devices in-line.

Wrong. Seer rating is based on Total system performance. You can put a 16seer condensing unit on an ahu with a pcm blower with a piston type metering device and you will never hit 16seer.

Most leaks occur in the evaporator coil in the air handler, also go find a manufacturer that will support installing a 16 SEER unit on someone else air handler. Also government incentives are based on particular condensers installed on matching air handlers.

The truth in the matter is not all units are the same! I have an 18 SEER unit that is R-22, therefore I would NOT save a dime replacing it! I MIGHT save due to weathering, dirt, etc from the 18 SEER, but not enough to buy a new unit just to use 410A. I installed it in 1995, and haven't added 1 oz to the system.!

75-100 p/lb is VERY reasonable. Only certain people can LEGALLY PURCHASE IT, and and even smaller number can competently charge it. 100 per lb OR burn/freeze to death OR try adding some(quality undocumented) yourself and kill your compressor. A compressor is REALLY gonna set you back!

A lot of the comments above are just dead wrong and reflect price gouging by overly greedy companies. "Angie" should be really ashamed to abuse innocent customers by supporting this kind of dishonest behavior. Real price is about $30 /pound, summer 2013. [There is also a new "friendly" R22B on the market that may continue after above dates]. This $30 can reflect a markup of about 50% aready. Anyone can get this if you just look around. On top of freon cost, everyone charges initial visit fees. An honest and reasonable person may charge $50 to $70, others and crooks can charge up to $200 or more. All also charge a fee for adding freon, but it only takes 5 minuts or less per pound, so $100 per pound is dishonest and abusive. When an honest technician charges $30/lb and $22 per 15 minutes service, it is still only $40 per pund for 2 pounds, which is an unusually high amount to need.

I just bought 50 lbs for $300.00 that's $6 per lb and that was for a quantity of only one 50 lb cylinder. In true bulk i.e. by the pallet it's cheaper. 30lb Cylinders are readily available in the $230 and up range.

$100 for a pound of freon is not uncommon or unreasonable. There is a lot behind the scenes like some here have pointed out. It's easy and on the surface logical as a consumer to seek out low cost options. It's also easy as a consumer to expect quality results. The problem is low cost and high quality contradict each other in reality. There are a LOT of factors below the surface and behind the scenes that direct pricing without sacrificing quality. Any contractor that wants to stay in business realizes there is a demand for quality repairs, service, and installation. There is a lot of competition between contractors wanting your business, and normally you get what you pay for. About the only consumers that readily relate to the additional behind the scenes costs a contractor must endure to stay in business are the consumers that also own a business. There is a LOT more going on than just a pound of freon when a consumer is charged $100 (or any other amount depending on the area). Start with the guy putting in the refrigerant: would you prefer the guy getting paid $30 per hour or the guy getting $10 per hour working on your AC? How much time did that guy spend from the time he began the trip to your house to the time he made it to the next house? It may not matter to you, but I guarantee you it matters a lot to the guy that knows his expertise is worth $30 per hour. He isn't going to settle for less and will find a quality company to work for that can pay him what he is worth. Many of us contractors are going independent because we know we are worth more than an employer can or will pay us. Yes, you can always find a cheaper option (consumers and employers alike), but will it be a long term or short term gain for you? Any reputable business should reasonably expect to make a profit or go out of business. If you were a business owner, how much would you settle for if you had to pay your employee, pay for the materials, pay for the fuel, insurance, licenses, permits, taxes, tools (I use top of the line tools so I know the job is done right the first time, when I check refrigerant I am thorough so I also check your target temperature split, actual temperature split, target superheat and/or subcool, actual superheat and/or subcool, and more: the tools I use to properly and precisely do this cost me not my employer over a grand), employee benefits on top of a competitive wage to retain them, and many more costs of doing business. The $100 for a pound of freon might sound like a lot on the surface, but I don't care if it only cost the company you bought it from $5 it is still a reasonable charge for quality service. Is $100 too much for a pound of freon? I ask you to ask yourself a more important question, can you get a reliable, dependable, quality long term solution for less? Even more important is should you have invested in upgrading to a new R410a cooling system instead of nickel and diming a soon to be (if not already) obsolete R22 system? A properly sized and properly installed R410a cooling system is often a better long term solution.

If I buy a 30lb. cannister/tank of R22, how long can I expect it to be kept for a long time without losing any concentration or function for future uses; I assume these tanks have on/off valve that allows reuse of the tank from time to time ?

From your question i can tell you do not have an epa 608 part 2 so it would be illegal for you to buy any refrigerant in the united states

I am a landlord. a/c was blowing hot air. sent tech to house who stated unit not leaking, but r-22 had been contaminated and said he replaced 7 pounds of refrigerant. Question, if unit was not leaking, then tech would need to withdraw 7 pounds of refrigerant before adding 7 pounds of refrigerant. Is that correct? And, if unit was not leaking, how could the r-22 become contaminated? And, what would he do with the old r-22 he removed?

If your tech has replaced 7 pounds of refrigent and not cleaned your system, he did you no facors. He should have also added a dryer and filter to the refrigent system. After that, the system should have been vacuumed to a minimum of 300 microns. My system, I vacuumed to 50 microns. (It's hard to do, but can be done) And to follow guide lines, the filteers should be replaced after 3 days! Removing is OK, but my installs and repairs were done this way. Another tip is DO NOT LET YOUR TECH PUTS GAUGES ON UNLESS THERE IS A PROBLEM! All systems can be checked by either the subcooling or superheat method. (Keeps system from getting contaminated) A good tech will not charge the system using pressure only.

You are correct, a good tech will not charge a system by pressure only, can't be done properly. But a simple question on your comment . How in the world is your tech going to check superheat or subcool with out his gauges hooked up to the unit to know what the suction/low side pressure is to determine what the saturation temp actually is for superheat calculations or the discharge/high side pressure to determine sub-cooling?

Yes indeed! The magic technical word for the day is Superheat! If you have a qualified technician who knows what they are doing they should be able to give the definition of Superheat and why it is necessary, if no, tell them to get back in the truck and con someone else!!!

System contamination is almost as common as leaking systems. When this system was installed or last serviced. Non-condensables were allowed to enter the system due to not purging refrigerant hoses etc. A ac system should only have refrigerant and oil in it. I see this all the time. We pull vacuums on systems to dehydrate the system to remove air, moisture also called non condensables.

I'm a licensed contractor in the dc area and we are getting $150 to $200 a lb labor included but the cost of living around here is high along with heavy traffic and fuel cost also helps we have a lot of well off people who will drop 1500 to refill a system rather than wait 2 days for a replacement

There are some really good "drop in" refrigerants out there. I am a commercial refrigeration tech and there are many grocery stores still running with r-22 they are not to to spend several million dollars to change all that equipment. Educate yourself about the type of contractor you use. A lot of a/c companies pay there tech Commision on what parts or equipment is "needed" no contractor that is any good would object to a second opinion before replacing equipment. Also be a little weary about 410a because it is not here to stay either several replacements are being developed by manufactures!

I am a HVAC contractor and I can tell you why the price of R-22 has shot through the roof, first the Government allowed the Manufacturers of refrigerant to manufacture or import 110 million pounds three years ago, this year they have cut that production to 35 million pounds, I have been telling my customers for years that the price is going to go up and you need to either replace your unit or fix your leak, most of the time the leak is in the evaporator coil and this coil is expensive to replace, so they would look at the cost to fill it up, compare it to the cost of repairing the leak and then they would say just fill it up, this went on for years because the price of R-22 stayed stable. Then in Jan of 2012 the price of refrigerant tripled so then the cost of "just filling it up" was starting to get prohibitive, that is when we started getting people to actually repair or replace their systems. The price jumped again this year and part of the reason Contractors started charging so much for the refrigerant is because we know that just filling up leaking systems is not doing anybody a favor. First, the system that leaks is not efficient, from the time we drive away that system is leaking and losing refrigerant so therefore losing efficiency, Second that leaking system is taking away from the supply of refrigerant that will be available in the future, since the supply is limited because we are on a clock with the EPA for eventual complete phase out and if we hit you hard enough to just fill it up, you will be motivated to actually fix the problem, that might seem greedy or cruel to you but sometimes you trying to save a few dollars actually cost yourselves hundreds if not thousands. I can say that multiple customers have told me that since they changed their system their house is much more comfortable and their electric bill dropped significantly.

Direct Drop In Replacement for r-22 is r438a or mo99, you would have to replace the full system with the new freon. IF YOU CAN GET IT, a FULL tank of r-22 is $50 bucks with shipping from china...

I'll call your bluff on this one. R22 hasn't been that cheap for a VERY long time. If you have a source for a $50 30lb tank of virgin R22, I'd like to know. I'll take a whole container at that price...

I sincerely do not understand the "ozone friendly" Freon=410a...if it is

Current R22 refrigerant prices wholesale $425.00 for a 30lbs. Drum that's 14.16 per pound. I am a end user in the grocery industry we regulate contractor mark up not to exceed 30% based off of many national wholesale distributors walk-in average pricing above that average our rate agreements require proof of purchase. At $100.00 dollars per pound that's about a 700% mark up. Only in the residential industry does this happen. Now remember residential HVAC is typically seasonal residential contractors need to provide insurance, health care, retirement for there employees not to mention if refrigerant is needed in your system there is a leak and refrigerant leaks can be very hard to identify so there also is a warranty period that the residential contractor needs to cover giving a percentage of gamble for the contractor.

reading your comments I have to tell you that you are misleading people. 30% markup? The wholesalers couldn't be in business if their mark up was 30% and neither can 99.99% of any business. What planet do you live on?

I just had the ac tech back for the third time. we were charged labor and $60.00 per pound. This is clearly over charging the client. The r22 is avilible every where for under $15.00 per pound. Any body charging more than $30.00 is ripping off the consumer. My air still does not work?

Sorry that the tech. Did not do a leak test. If we add more than Two(2lb.) of R22 there's a leak test done on the system. We also ask questions like, "how old is your home? Is this the first time someone been out to service the system. Your system is like a luxury car, maintenance is required !, and by doing this most problems can be found before they become big ones. Keep in mind that our trucks,& vans are moving hardware supply stores, demand and supply. R22 at $15.00 a pound is ridiculous,as a company there's a fare market price and $15.00 is not it and $150.00 a pound isn't it. Company With gimmicks Usually is what most people far for: Service charge free with repair... Look for companies that are listed with the BBB, Nate certified technicians, and part of ACCA Which holds most air conditioning companies to a higher standard of service to customers.

Please take in to consideration the cost of trade school (20k, depending on location), Thousands of hours of apprenticeship to learn and understand the refrigeration cycle (among much more) and how to properly handle and charge refrigerant. There is also an EPA certification and trade license(location dependent). there are hundreds of dollars of tools necessary to perform the task. It's not a basic transaction.

Hundreds of dollars ?? I want to shop where you shop because in my van fully equipped I have about 120 thousand dollars

You also need to take into consideration that an HVAC company is not a store that has 1 store, they in many cases have an office that has operational costs such as utilities and staffing than they have field employees which all need vehicles to bring the service to you, how many grocery stores do that, each vehicle has insurance and some company tools and stock to repair the equipment that they service, the service employees unlike most stores are full time employees that require benefits and bring a higher salary. The area in which the service is being performed also dictates service costs since it is more expensive to live and operate a business in some places than others and that number can very widely. Than there is advertising costs that have to cater to a broader area than many stores. I can say that $100 per pound in my opinion is an average in the area that I service. It is what I charge plus a diagnostic fee of $90 to go over the system to make sure that is not the only problem and do a general service on the unit. I do not believe in being the cheapest as you usually get what you pay for. I believe in providing a good service at a reasonable rate with a good warranty.

You Sheeple are being fleeced by YOUR Government and many of you have no clue. Every-Time you buy something you have to pay TAX on it and the Government wants you to pay as much tax as they can fleece out of you. Sadly many elderly and poor citizens can't afford to replace their HVAC system and many can't even afford to get them repaired. So Swamp Coolers are making a comeback as are wood stoves to heat homes and cool homes. But the government is making wood burning against the law full well knowing it will force you to use your heating system thus getting the Utility Tax from the energy you use. Sadly the people of this once free nation have allowed the government to regulate what you have to buy, like Health Insurance and soon you will be forced to buy a new car every 10 years and then your government will come up with some environmental issues why you have to buy a new home every 10 years... (Big Ticket Taxes) Now for the better news. If you are at all handy and do a little studying you can pass the 608 EPA test and if you do your homework and study up on HVAC, you can repair your system if it has a minor leak and save hundreds and even thousands of dollars you don't have. I was quoted a wholesale price for R22 as low as 14 dollars a pound but the problem is having to buy a 30 pound can, which was the biggest cost for only needed less than 5 Pounds. But you can resale the unused gas. Gauges are as low as 35 bucks and a leak detector can be as low as 20 dollars, and a scale can cost 100 bucks or so. Some supposed wholesale places charge up to 30 per pound for R22 and double or triple for gauges and the leak detectors. Now R290/R22a is being used to replace R22 but you need to know many of the newer gases are Flammables, and some have higher pressure ratings. There is no such thing as a Direct Drop In Replacement for any refrigerant! All have different aspects. So do your homework before you let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages or Angie's List so you don't get fleeced more than you need to. Freon Jockey EPA Certified Tech

It's not illegal to burn wood.

IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO BURN WOOD YET!!!

First of all a/c repair is a business. If you want to try and do it yourself, feel free. I went to years of schooling(this costs money). The company I work for spent 30k on a work truck for me to use and pays insurance for the vehicle and as to cover any property I work on. Do you go to a restaurant and say, "dang 15$ for a steak dinner...I can buy it myself at walmart for three dollars?" Please tell me where I can get gauges for 35 dollars that dont leak....my basic ones cost $145 with hoses. Leak detector for $20, certainly, I bought mine off ebay straight from china for $29. Does it work, sure, If I place it next to refrigerant that I can visibly see spewing out of bad valves. Otherwise not worth a dime. I'd be glad to sell you my pos if you want it! Btw yes you can use R290 as a drop in replacement. But not in the US it is ILLEGAL. It is also explosive if not handled correctly. You need special equipment that isolates any electrical part of the compressor or pumps away from the refrigerant....which most of American used equipment is not.

I hold 608 and 609 certs. R22 30#/$530(tax included)=$17.67/lb and have to show my license R134a can be found at any Walmart/Advanced/AutoZone etc by anyone without any certs. WTF!

1. You can get 608 1 and 609 certs online open book for $24.95 in about 15 minutes. They send the card in the mail. 2. R22 is an HCFC and R134a is an HFC hence the reason no cert required for 134a. 3. Regulation of all of it is more about $ than for any practical purpose. There is still not a refrigerant as good for automotive AC as R12 but chemical companies couldn't make much money with R12 going for $1.00 / lb for cans and much less for 30 lb cylinders. Yes it was this cheap, I had a BB machine gun that ran on it.

Swamp coolers require low wet bulb temperatures to be effective. I saw them on the roofs of homes in AZ and NM. A swamp cooler is not going to be effective in humid climates. Bacterial growth in the sump needs to be managed. If you do not understand what "superheat" is and how to measure it, I recommend you hire a contractor to charge your system. Superheat is critical in cap tube fed systems. Compressors can be damaged by putting too much refrigerant in the system. Overcharging will also reduce the efficiency of the system.

as an ac contractor for over forty years i can tell you this, the price of r-22 has gone up over the past 12 months. a reasonable price for one pound of r-22 should be between forty and fifty dollars. keep in mind this price is for the r-22 only. most contractors charge a service fee plus freon. our company charges eighty dollars to check and clean your ac, then add freon.freon cannot be checked and added properly without knowing the ac is clean and operating properly. so be sure to use a qualified ac contractor and not a freon jockey as we call them in our industry

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