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Air conditioning repair costs could go up after new nationwide ban on refrigerant

AC repair
Posted at 4:25 AM, Oct 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-03 23:27:25-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Your old, leaky air conditioner may soon be even more costly to fix by next year.

That is because a nationwide ban on the type of refrigerant used in hundreds of thousands of air conditioning units takes effect in 2020. Experts estimate half of all residential A/C units in the U.S. run on R-22, a refrigerant banned from production and importation in the U.S. beginning January 1.

Steve Cormier, a HVAC contractor and owner of AC Guyz in Tampa, is already seeing prices double and triple for R-22.

“It doesn't make sense to pour money into an older system,” said Cormier.

RELATED: Stranger tricks Tampa homeowner into paying for repairs on her air conditioner

Homeowner Judy Holmes decided to replace her old R-22 unit rather than make repairs when her air conditioning recently broke down.

“When the air conditioning company came and out and explained to me the cost of repairing versus replacing it was not a big decision,” said Holmes. “It was a no brainer.”

While R-22 may be great for cooling your home, it is poisonous for the planet.

David Hastings with the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science calls R-22 one of the worst offenders when it comes to destroying the ozone layer and triggering greenhouse gas emissions.

“Eliminating this both saves the ozone layer and increasing the temperature even more,” Hastings told Taking Action Reporter Jackie Callaway.

When you use your air conditioner, refrigerant can escape in the form of a leak, which travels through the air as a gas. Chlorine atoms in the refrigerant can break off and tear apart the ozone layer.

Depending on the brand name, size and efficiency rating, new residential air conditioning units can cost between $5,000 and $11,000.

The last R-22 units were made in 2010, but many of them may not need replacing anytime soon. Experts say with regular maintenance of these systems can make them last 15 years or more – and they may not need new refrigerant.

Bob Sheehan of NoVent Refrigerant Services said he doesn’t expect a R-22 refrigerant shortage anytime soon.

“We have an abundance of R-22 in the marketplace right now,” said Sheehan.

Sheehan is a government-certified refrigerant reclaimer. Air conditioning companies sell him the refrigerants they pull out of old units. Sheehan then processes, filters and repackages the refrigerant to sell back to licensed contractors.

“We took in about 15,000 gallons over the summer,” said Sheehan, who told ABC Action News he has seen the price of R-22 drop this year.

Holmes said the cost of repairs and the environment played into her decision to buy a new air conditioning unit.

“Anything better for the environment is a good thing," said Holmes.