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.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org