Abiding by the Montreal Protocol, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has banned the production and import of Freon, also known as R-22 or HCFC-22. The phase-out of the common refrigerant began on January 1, 2010. All remaining production and import operations have stopped with effect from January 1, 2020.
You can buy Freon for your home AC, but only if it is recycled or stockpiled. You can no longer buy the common refrigerant if it is still manufactured in the United States, imported from any other country, or routed to you through any other prohibited medium.
Home air conditioners and HVAC units manufactured post-2015 are unlikely to use Freon. The stringent government regulations have compelled most companies to switch to other permitted refrigerants, such as R-410A. If you have an old AC using Freon, you should consider a few pragmatic options to keep it desirably operational.
Where to Get Freon for Your Home AC
You have to buy Freon only when there is substantial depletion or loss of the coolant in your AC unit. The refrigerant is always in a sealed system along with the compressor. You can access it through the outdoor unit.
Freon is inert and stable. It doesn’t deplete naturally. However, coolant loss is common and mainly occurs when there is a leak.
Buy Freon From the AC Manufacturer
You can contact the AC brand and enquire if they have recycled or stockpiled Freon. An old AC is unlikely to be under warranty unless you have extended it. If the AC brand cannot offer you a solution, you may ask for a reference.
Source Freon From Your Home AC Technician
AC technicians or HVAC contractors can be a dependable source for recycled or stockpiled Freon. Since these businesses cater to the recurrent needs of homeowners, they can offer you a prompt solution and service.
Find Vendors of Recycled or Stockpiled Freon
You may find vendors dealing in recycled or stockpiled Freon in your area. Trained and experienced technicians recover and recycle Freon, then provide the coolant to suppliers or wholesale distributors. These distributors or suppliers and your AC/HVAC technicians are your best bet.
Freon recharge is essential only when the refrigerant level is low. Adding more coolant unnecessarily leads to an overcharge. Before you buy Freon for your home AC, it is necessary to ensure that the unit indeed needs a coolant recharge.
There are severe risks of overcharging Freon. The AC compressor can get damaged. Different parts, such as the piston, can malfunction. The entire system can shut down. You can watch this video from Word of Advice TV to learn how to check Freon level in your home AC.
There are telltale signs of Freon leakage, depletion, or complete loss. Your home AC may blow warm air, the airflow may be unusually low, there could be frost or ice buildup on the coils, the indoors will not get expectedly cooled, and you might have a higher energy bill.
Check the Freon level in the outdoor unit. If it is low, call your home AC technician. Simply adding more coolant or recharging Freon is not sufficient. Your technician must remedy any leak or other problems before replenishing the refrigerant.
Freon is non-flammable and non-corrosive. Also, it is colorless and almost odorless. Besides, a leak may or may not be evident from the characteristic hissing sound. Physical exposure to Freon or inhaling the gas is hazardous. Freon poisoning can cause asphyxiation and burns, among other symptoms.
Freon comprises many chemicals, such as hydrogen, carbon, fluorine, chlorine, bromine, etc. You must not attempt to fix a leak in your AC unit or unscrew any enclosed components without adequate safety gear. Contact your trusted AC or HVAC technician for inspections and repairs.
The Freon phase-out by the EPA is a part of the larger countermeasure to prevent ozone destruction and protect the stratosphere. More than 160 countries have undertaken these initiatives to phase out ozone-depleting substances per the Montreal Protocol treaty.
The United States ended the production of halons in 1994, many chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs in 1996, methyl bromide in 2001, and the hydro-chlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs starting from 2003. All HCFCs will be phased out by 2030. R-410A and other eco-friendly coolants have substituted Freon.
Homeowners will continue to have access to recycled and stockpiled Freon for now. It is difficult to predict if and when the coolant will become completely unavailable. If you want to consider a sustainable alternative, then you have only two options.
Retrofit Your Old Home AC
You may retrofit your old home AC to replace the Freon or R-22 coolant with an R-410A system. Retrofitting is not inexpensive. Also, it is not a perfect solution for everyone.
You must consult an expert AC technician to learn about all the pros and cons, especially the specific issues you may encounter given the unit you have and its current condition.
There is another Freon retrofit option for your old AC. However, you should still speak with your HVAC technician to know if the solution is suitable, practical, sustainable, and safe for the unit you own. A standard retrofit may not be ideal for every type, style, capacity, and brand of home AC.
Buy a New AC
If you cannot get access to recycled or stockpiled Freon and none of the retrofit options suit your home AC, then the only solution is to buy a new one. All new ACs and HVACs, especially those manufactured after 2020, rely on coolants approved for long-term use by the EPA in the United States.
R-410A is the long-term alternative to Freon. The coolant has different brand names or trademarks, such as Suva 410A, Puron, and Genetron. Do not use this eco-friendly refrigerant in home ACs with R-22 or Freon systems.
While Freon is no longer so easy to come by as before 2010, you can still find a supplier of recycled or stockpiled Freon. But before you recharge or retrofit your old air conditioner, take a look at today’s newer ACs.
Modern air conditioners are more energy-efficient and quieter. Many include smart technology that lets you control your home AC through your smartphone. Recharging your old AC may save money now, but a new AC may save you more in the long run.
You might also want to read: How Much Power Does an Air Conditioner Use?