The most common alternative to R-22 is R-410A, a non-ozone depleting refrigerant that isn’t compatible with the R-22 unit and requires homeowners to invest in an entirely new system. Nursing along an older system just prolongs the inevitable, says Paul Sammataro, owner of Samm’s Heating & Air in Plano, Texas. “I can’t imagine what the cost of R-22 is going to be in three years,” he says. “It’s cost prohibitive.”
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Jon Love, co-owner of Love Heating & Air Conditioning in Indianapolis, says homeowners trying to maintain a R-22 unit may end up paying twice what it would cost to purchase a new A/C, which he says can range in price from $2,500 to more than $4,000, depending on the size and efficiency. A/C owners can expect sticker shock when they try to buy Freon, as the coolant's cost is rising with the continuing phase-out. “In 2012, we were charging $139 for the first three pounds of R-22 refill, and already this year, we’re at $170 for the first three pounds,” he says. “It wouldn’t shock me to see prices go up even more.”
To install a R-410A unit, the price will vary depending on a few factors, primarily its size and seasonal energy efficiency ratio, or SEER number. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the air conditioner — the current national minimum standard is 13 SEER. Sammataro says in Texas, a 13 SEER, 3-ton unit costs $4,500 to $5,500 to install; a 20 SEER unit costs $12,000 to $15,000. While a complete R-22 unit can no longer be purchased, the cost to replace the exterior portion of a R-22 unit can cost between $3,200 and $4,000, plus the cost of the refrigerant.
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