UPDATED: Ban on R22 refrigerant could make air conditioning repairs costly

However, refrigerants currently produced or recovered will still be available, according to one company.
((Source: WTVM))
Updated: Aug. 15, 2019 at 6:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Homeowners and city officials are working on plans to upgrade new air conditioning units ahead of January 1, 2020.

That’s because a ban on one type of refrigerant will halt the manufacturing and imports of what one air conditioning specialist calls the most common refrigerant.

AC units use refrigerant, to keep us cool during the hot summer days. If your unit breaks down or runs out of refrigerant after January 1, you can expect to spend a good chunk of change as new R22 will be illegal to obtain.

Many consider air conditioning a must, especially in the South. But changes are coming to a type of refrigerant used in many residential and commercial AC units.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22, also known as R22, is harmful. The production and importation of this refrigerant is being banned starting January 1, 2020.

“The whole in the ozone is caused by ozone depleting products and this is one of them,” said Bill Bell with Energy Savers.

For the everyday person, the ban is going to cause one issue. Whether you’re a property owner or taxpayer, it will impact your wallet.

“Prices are going to skyrocket,” Bell said.

“The issue is when you have a lot of older buildings, that have R22 units. You don’t want to go out and arbitrarily replace everything at once. However, it is being phased out so getting the R22 coolant will become more and more expensive,” said Public Director Pat Biegler.

Taxpayer funds will have to be directed to replacing more than $5 million worth of old AC units across Columbus, like the units near the Public Works Office.

As for your home or business, Bell said you won’t necessarily need to upgrade right away, but, "Once a leak develops, right now they can get the refrigerant and maybe spend 2, 3,4, 500 dollars and have it kind of continue for them. But we know what’s happening. It’s leaking out all the time. After January, that small repair becomes a major deal. Now it’s a matter of let me throw this old unit away, buy a new unit that has ozone friendly refrigerant, and upgrade my system.”

The ban only impacts R22, one type of refrigerant, not all coolant. For example a bottle is R134A for your car will still be accessible.

UPDATE: This version removes reference to the brand “Freon”, which was acquired by The Chemours Company in 2015. Freon is a brand used for a variety of products, and not a “specific product or technology” according to the company. The use of the word “Freon” in our earlier report was inaccurate and WTVM regrets the error. A representative writes that The Chemours Company offers refrigerants that are safe, HFC alternatives, available for R-22 retrofitted units as well as refrigerants for new air-conditioning units.

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