Mar 10, 2019

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs – On The Rise?

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs

It sure seems like air conditioner refrigerant costs keep climbing year after year.  If it seems that way, it’s because they are. There are different types of refrigerants, and the difference in their prices is significant. You need to know which type your own unit uses, and the base price for air conditioner refrigerant costs across the board. The more you know, the better prepared you can be!

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs

Air conditioners use refrigerants to move heat from inside your home to the outdoors and are essential to all air conditioning systems. You may know it as “Freon,” however, that’s the brand name. We might regularly call every tissue, “Kleenex,” most air conditioner refrigerants are commonly referred to as, “Freon.”  R-410A and R-22 or “Freon” is the lifeblood of an air conditioner’s cooling system, but R-22 air conditioner refrigerant costs have definitely risen over the past few years.

First, a little history lesson. The old refrigerants were bad for the ozone layer in the stratosphere. A government mandate reduced the amount of production of R-22 every year until it is completely stopped in 2020. As part of the agreement, production ended in 2010 for new air conditioning units “charged” with R-22.  To date, R-22 production has dropped by 90 percent. Because production is limited, costs to charge existing units that are leaking R-22 refrigerant are rapidly increasing.

R-22 was meant to be a transition until a new type of refrigerant could be developed to take its place. That’s when R-410A came into play. It’s an environmentally friendly refrigerant which has replaced R-22 in all new air conditioning units.

But through the transition, air conditioners using R-22 were still being installed due to a loophole. A lot of new R-22 air conditioners were installed, despite the EPA’s intention to accelerate the transition to R-410A.  This left a lot of units out there still needing R-22. So the simple reason for high air conditioner refrigerant costs is supply and demand. There is more demand than there is available supply.

R-22 Prices On the Rise

The price of R-22 has soared and often runs 3 to 5 times the cost of R-410A. And if you think it costs a lot now, just wait.  Five years ago R-22 sold for $10 per pound. Today R-22 can be as much as $50 per pound, depending on where you purchase it. Typical residential air conditioning units hold from 5 to 15 pounds of R-22.  Even more, according to the EPA, production and sale of R-22 be cease completely by 2020.  

Should you need R-22 for your air conditioning unit, your best best is to work with Fixd authorized HVAC companies to find the best price. It’s a matter of supply and demand. It will also depend on what these companies paid when they purchased R-22, so prices will vary.  Companies have quoted prices ranging from $35 to $175 per pound. Be sure you ask if this cost includes the cost of service charge and labor.

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs Per Pound – R-22

To see if you are getting a fair price, you can always look at the current price on Amazon and other online sites.  As of April 2019, the cost is running on average at $20 per pound. That’s double what it was five years ago.  Please keep in mind, if you are trying to purchase R-22 for personal use, you need to be 608 certified with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Now, let’s figure out your home’s specific air conditioner refrigerant costs:

The rule of thumb is two to four pounds of refrigerant per one ton of your unit. You should always check the specifications of your unit.  However, most home air conditioning units are between one ton and five tons. Anything over five tons is considered a commercial grade unit.

A two-ton system would need eight pounds of refrigerant to completely refill your unit (two tons x four pounds).  Eight pounds of refrigerant times the cost would equal $160 to refill your air conditioning unit. But that’s just the cost of the product – not including labor of a certified HVAC technician.

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Costs Per Pound – R-410A

Let’s do the same math on a home that uses R-410A.  On Amazon, you would pay around $100 for a twenty-five-pound cylinder.  That’s just $4 per pound of refrigerant. Eight pounds of refrigerant will cost you just $32 to refill a two-ton system.  That is a big price difference!

A company will need to mark that charge up in order to stay in business, but it pays to know exactly what the current cost is to determine if you are getting a fair deal.

Another important note: You should never have to continuously add refrigerant to a system. If that is the case, you probably have a leak which could result in a much larger repair, for example, replacing the coil.  If your system is old and out of warranty, this can be a pricey repair and perhaps time to consider upgrading your system. Check out these great tips for air conditioning troubleshooting.

Now that you know exactly why air conditioner refrigerant costs vary so much, you can better judge what you should be paying. Arm yourself with this knowledge so you’ll never be taken advantage of again. And keep your eye on the market prices, as after 2020, they will most likely double again.