Freon phase-out: Is your air conditioning system going to be obsolete soon?

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Is my air conditioning system going to be obsolete soon?
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Aside from knowing how much the energy bill is, relatively few people concern themselves with what flows through the coils of their unit’s compressor and cooling department.

But in the coming months, AC units may become top of mind for many Americans. That’s because Freon, the cooling agent traditionally used in most air conditioners, is going away.

Freon phase-out: What you need to know

A U.S. government ban of Freon, also known as R-22, is set to take effect on January 1, 2020.

The ban has been preceded by a Freon phase-out, which is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan to rid the United States of all ozone-depleting substances. In essence, Freon is harmful to the environment.

Because the Freon phase-out has been going on over the past decade, the price of R-22 has gone up considerably (you’ve probably felt it in your wallet).

Whether you need to buy a new unit, retrofit your old unit or replace some component parts to comply with the EPA ban largely depends on a few things.

But first, you may want to know whether your AC (or your refrigerator) runs uses Freon or not.

How to know what kind of refrigerant your unit uses

On an air conditioner, you should be able to find what type of refrigerant it uses at the following places:

  • Owner’s manual
  • Manufacturers website (know your model number)
  • Call your local hardware store and tell them your unit info and they should be able to tell you

On your fridge, you can look for a refrigerant label in the following places:

  • Manufacturer’s data plate
  • On a sticker atop or near the condenser
  • Outside the unit, sometimes on or near the condenser

Another way to find out…

If you know the year your system was manufactured, that could help you find out what type of refrigerant your unit uses. Typically, if it was manufactured before 1996, your unit is Freon.

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The environmentally friendly R-410A came on the U.S. residential market in 1996. From that time on until 2010, both R-22 and R-410A units were sold.

If you bought your AC unit or refrigerator after 2010 — which is when the EPA told manufacturers to stop making Freon-friendly units — it likely runs on R-410A.

Freon phase-out: Best R-22 alternatives

Here’s the thing: Consumers aren’t required to stop using their ACs and refrigerators due to the ban on Freon, but it will be obsolete at some point.

When it’s time to purchase a new unit, you’ll be looking for the best R-22 alternatives. Here’s what you need to know:

  • R-410A has become the dominant choice for most AC manufacturer, but R-454B, used by Carrier, is also an emerging alternative.
  • For refrigerators, R-404A is the top choice, along with R-507, according to the EPA.

Ready to shop for your new fridge? Here is the best time and place to buy a new appliance.

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