Our blog returns to the story of our captivating leading man, Outlaw R-22, in the second installment of the new hit Western, “The Good, The Bad and the Ozone-Depleting.” In installment one, you may remember the drama about whether to dump the dashing Outlaw R-22 in favor of one of the kinder, gentler new R-22 replacements. You’ll have to check into Part One for the rest of that story.
In installment two, we find ourselves kneeling before a lifeless R-22 unit trying to decide how to proceed…
What do I do if my R-22 unit dies?
R-22 units are still being made. Clever manufacturers are skirting the ban by selling the R-22 units dry, meaning without R-22 in them. Because of the uncertain future of R-22, new R-22 units are typically only purchased in a situation where a customer has a fully functional R-22 air handler, but the R-22 condenser has died. So rather than replacing the whole system, they buy just an R-22 condenser. This is especially common when the air handler is difficult to access. Replacing half the system saves money, obviously, but it is a judgment call on whether biting the bullet now and replacing the whole system is a better option.
Purchasing a unit is a long-term investment, lasting 15-plus years, far beyond the date when R-22 is expected to be completely phased out of production. The most common new refrigerant for AC units is R-410A refrigerant. R-410A is more environmentally friendly than R-22 and no one has outlawed it yet, so it should stay readily available and reasonably priced for the foreseeable future. R-410A is not a substitute for R-22. The new units that use it are specially made to work with R-410A’s higher pressures and slightly lower cooling capacity – this is why replacing an R-22 condenser with an R-410A one is unfortunately not a good option. If you need to purchase a new unit anyway, and it is feasible logistically and financially, I’d recommend purchasing a whole new unit with one of the new refrigerants.
At some point, R-22 will be fully outlawed (right now it is scheduled for 2020, but who knows?) and the only R-22 available after that will be that which is recovered and reclaimed (cleaned) from old units that have been taken out of operation. Once that happens, prices will climb extremely high due to shortages and processing costs.
Does that mean we should all run around ripping out all of our R-22 units? Nope. Nor does it mean that you should immediately remove all of the R-22 from your perfectly healthy units and replace it with an R-22 substitute. It does mean that you should tread carefully around that crazy old outlaw R-22, especially when making long-term investment decisions. At some point, R-22 will ride off into the sunset and you need to make sure he doesn’t take your train-load of gold with him.