R22 Replacement: What You Need To Know - Today's Homeowner (2024)

R22, also known as hydrochlorofluorocarbon 22 (HCFC-22), is a refrigerant responsible for absorbing and removing heat from your air conditioner, heat pump, and car air conditioning system.

Unfortunately, R22 is a contributor to global warming and the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer. To reduce its harmful effects on the environment,R22 is being phased out of productionand is illegal to use as of January 1, 2020. The R22 phase-out meets the standards set by theU.S. Clean Air Act.

After the phase-out, R22 will be available only from reclaimed, recycled, or old stock. This will create a price hike and ultimately make it more difficult to maintain existing R22 units.However, units made after 2010 can use R22 alternatives such as R410A, R134A, R407C, and R407A. These refrigerants cool just as effectively as R22 without the ozone-depleting features, and they have an acceptableGlobal Warming Potential (GWP).

If your unit runs on R22, you can replace it with a refrigerant alternative yourself or contact a professional to help you switch out the refrigerant. If the above options aren’t possible, you do have the option of installing a new, modern system in which a R22 alternative is already in place.

R22 Refrigerant Replacement

Ideally, you should not have to add freon to your AC unit often. For a quick temporary fix, you can use a “drop-in” refrigerant. However, it’s important to note that this refrigerant can reduce the cooling effectiveness of your system and cause additional wear on your AC unit. Therefore, “drop-in” refrigerant should only be used as a temporary fix when necessary.

I rcommend the following long-term solutions for replacing R22.

How To Replace R22 Yourself

You may continue using R22 freon after production ends in 2020. However, finding R22 will be increasingly difficult as people with older systems will be competing for the R22 that’s left. Eventually, this refrigerant will become completely unavailable.

Keep in mind that a system running R22 was likely made before 2011 and in 2020 will be at least 10 years old. These systems using R22 are running at a decreased capacity due to age and may not be worth investing in further.

If you find and are able to refill your unit with R22, be sure to fix any leaks you find in the refrigerant lines.

Hiring a Contractor To Replace R22

If your R22 cooling system is down and you can’t afford a new system, a certified contractor may be able to retrofit your current unit using Freon™ MO99 refrigerant.

Freon™ MO99 is an eco-friendly R22 alternative and can help revive older systems that have little to no refrigerant charge or need a component replaced. This is also one of the more affordable R22 replacement cost options.

A contractor can convert your system without changing the oil (Freon™ MO99 is compatible with mineral oil, Alkyl Benzene (AB) oil, and polyolester (POE) oil), cutting out the compressor, or changing lines.

Installing a New System

If your system is not compatible with other replacement refrigerants, you’ll either have to source R22 to keep your system running or purchase asystem replacementthat uses more affordable refrigerant options. You can save money by installing a new system, help the environment, andreduce your energy billsand repair costs.Plus, the installation of a new cooling system will increase theresale valueof your home.

R22 Replacement: What You Need To Know - Today's Homeowner (1)

What To Do with Leftover Refrigerant

A R22 unit cannot be placed in a standard garbage can or dumpster because it’s illegal for this substance to leak into the environment (per the Clean Air Act and Environmental Protection Agency).

If you have leftover refrigerant in an old unit or in coolant lines, the best way to dispose of it is to call a professional. An HVAC technician can drain the refrigerant lines with the correct equipment. This is part of a replacement service they provide when switching to a R22 alternative or installing a new system.

Alternative Refrigerants

A few popular R22 alternatives are R410A, R134A, R407C, R407A, MO99, and RS-44b.

R22 alternativeUsed inBenefits
R410A– Industrial refrigeration
– Residential air conditioning
– Industrial air conditioning
– Commercial centrifugal compressors
This type of refrigerant is safe for the environment, affordable, and easy to store, use, and transport.
R134A– Domestic refrigeration
– Commercial refrigeration
– Transport refrigeration
– Residential air conditioning
– Commercial centrifugal compressors
– Mobile air conditioning
Eco-friendly, non-flammable, and non-toxic, R134A is one of the more affordable alternatives and comes with a single component for easy installation.
R407C– Industrial refrigeration
– Residential air conditioning
– Commercial air conditioning
R407C is retrofit for R22 and safe for the environment.
R407A– Commercial refrigeration
– Plug-ins
– Vending machines
This HFC blend offers a substantially lower carbon footprint and improved energy efficiency.
MO99 (R438A)– Commercial refrigeration
– Plug-ins
– Vending machines
– Industrial refrigeration
– Residential air conditioning
This alternative is ale to retrofit to current R22 systems, doesn’t require oil changes, and is safe for the environment.
RS-44b– Refrigeration systemsThis type of refrigerant is a direct replacement to R22. It offers the same flow rate as R22, has a lower pressure than R407A, demonstrates lower energy consumption, is the lowest GWP R22 replacement, and requires no oil or system component change.

One drawback of most R22 alternatives is when POE oil is used, it can cause excess moisture, causing acid buildup within the refrigerant lines. Refrigerant alternatives also operate at a higher pressure causing more wear and tear on components.

Tip: When using alternative refrigerants, you should never combine them with R22 or other gases. R22 should always be drained completely before using an alternative.

R22 Replacement: What You Need To Know - Today's Homeowner (2)

Benefits of Replacing R22

The benefits of replacing your R22 unit far outweigh the costs of maintaining it. Even if you don’t consider yourself environmentally friendly, you might be swayed by the money you can save. Here are just a few benefits of R22 replacement:

  • It’s better for the environment — by ditching R22, you can significantly reduce the number of harmful chemicals you contribute to the environment. Switching to a R22 alternative cuts down on ozone depletion and global warming.
  • You can reduce cooling costs — Older units are prone to wear and tear and can lose coolant through leaky lines, and a decrease in energy efficiency year-over-year. Not only will this lead to a breakdown, it can increase cooling costs over time. Get a new HVAC system to avoid these costs.
  • It will contribute to a more efficient cooling unit — Have you ever felt warm in your home when the air conditioning was running full blast? An older unit has to work harder on hot days to keep your home cool. Investing in a newer unit can make a significant difference in the temperature inside your home. You might even notice that your thermostat can be set at a higher temperature and remain comfortable.
  • R22 alternatives are cheaper to maintain — Installing a new unit with a R22 alternative is cheaper to maintain in the long run. R22 is difficult to source. Some HVAC companies forgo R22 altogether due to its scarcity. Meanwhile, R22 alternatives are in full production and much easier to afford and obtain. It’s best to upgrade your refrigerant and take advantage of energy cost savings.

While replacing R22 units is inconvenient and a large upfront investment, trying to maintain an older unit will be more costly in the long run. While change is not always ideal, the phase out of R22 is better for the environment, your health, and your wallet.

For more general info about replacing R22 and other types of refrigerant, read our guide to air conditioner recharge costs.

Article Update Log

5/23/24

Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Laurie Engle.

R22 Replacement: What You Need To Know - Today's Homeowner (3)

Alora Bopray

Staff Writer

Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today's Homeowner. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master's degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today's Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she's not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.

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R22 Replacement: What You Need To Know - Today's Homeowner (4)

Laurie Engle

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Laurie Engle is a freelance writer who provides insights to homeowners on topics such as the home warranty industry, relocation issues, and real estate trends. As a licensed Realtor since 2001 Laurie has acquired extensive expertise in dealing with home warranty companies and navigating the intricacies of the real estate market. In addition to her commitment to helping clients with their home buying and selling needs, she maintains a sharp awareness of market dynamics, including property values, interest rates, and local regulations.

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R22 Replacement: What You Need To Know - Today's Homeowner (2024)

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