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Why you should care about what refrigerant is in your AC

Older AC units likely use R-22, which can no longer be made or imported

SAN ANTONIO – Come summer, if your air conditioner isn’t humming, you might have a problem. Also, if it uses R-22 to keep it cooling, you could be in for a surprise the next time you need a repair.

The refrigerant R-22 is going to be obsolete. The new year brought a new rule: R-22 can no longer be produced or imported because it depletes the ozone layer and is bad for the environment.

The phaseout actually began a decade ago, so if you have a newer AC, yours probably takes a newer, environmentally-friendly refrigerant like R-410A.

“If your unit is 12-plus years old, chances are it’s an R-22 system,” said Ben Hubbert, with Champion AC.

One way to see for sure what your AC uses is to look on the sticker on the unit.

The phaseout has lead to some confusion by consumers who wonder if they need to now buy an entirely new HVAC system.

“The answer is ‘no,’” Hubbert said. “Our take is to continue to use the system you have. If you’ve taken care of it and maintained it, use it, run it into the ground.”

But if and when you have a leak and need R-22, it’s going to cost you.

“The repairs are going to skyrocket,” Hubbert said.

R-22 can still be used and some companies stockpiled it. But, because it will be in an increasingly shrinking supply, costs are expected to soar.

That’s when it will be time to do the math and consider replacing your system.

Bottom line - know what you have and budget accordingly.

There are other refrigerant replacements for R-22, such as R-407C and TdX-20, which may be compatible with older units. Another option is to replace the system.

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