In 2004, the CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) Freon R-22, which contributes to ozone depletion and global warming, was scheduled to be phased out due to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement. In January 2010 the U.S. required a 75% reduction of R-22, and therefore prohibited the production and import of R-22 supported equipment. R-22 is now being replaced with a new refrigerant called R-410a, which is a greener, more environmentally conscious alternative. So kudos to the government for looking out for Mother Earth’s future–but there’s a catch!

The catch is that most home’s HVAC systems still use R-22 as a coolant, which is increasingly being phased out. Although R-22 should continue to be available for a few years to come, the price per pound will continually rise. Currently, depending on location, R-22 costs around $80 per pound, and by the end of 2011 the cost is estimated to rise well of $100 per pound. R-22’s replacement, R-410a, only costs between $150 and $200 for 25lbs, which comes out to about $8 per pound on the high end. As of today, that’s a $72 difference at the least! The average home’s HVAC unit (both condenser and evaporation coil) uses 10-15lbs of freon to run.

So how exactly does that affect you? Well, say you have a leak in your unit or you are low on freon and need to refill; that could cost you up to $1,200 not including service fees! (Unless, of course, you’re a Casteel Heating and Cooling customer! At Casteel, You Won’t Pay for Freon!) But let’s continue on with the scenario. So you refill your unit with R-22 and pay $1,200, but in 2 or 3 years your unit springs another leak. That $1,200 refill years before has now turned into a $2,500 to $3,000 refill due to the continued rise in R-22 prices. So you decide to go ahead and just replace your unit with a $3,000 unit that is supported by R-410a. By that time R-410a will be a standard, and its prices will have also risen. If you had acted early and just replaced your unit instead of refilling it with R-22 years back, you could have saved yourself well over $1,200, depending on when you refilled and the current cost of R-22. We know, it seems like a costly undertaking to replace an HVAC unit, but think long term and you will save yourself some money!

For more information on the Montreal Protocol and R-22’s replacement R-410a, visit EPA.gov.

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