Freon phase out: what you should know

Published: Jul. 26, 2017 at 2:15 PM CDT
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Freon is a chemical that's been used for years to provide fuel for air conditioning systems in many different household appliances. The EPA has ordered a phase out of the refrigerant by the year 2020 -- driving prices for replacements sky high.

The Freon phase out is nothing new and, in some ways, it started out in the 1970s.

"We were still using that as a propellant in common every day items like shaving cream, spray deodorant, hairspray," says George Nora, an associate professor at Northern State University.

We've eliminated Freon in many every day products already, with experts saying we've already at 90% of completely phasing it out.

"Older refrigerants are just hazardous to the atmosphere and the ozone layer, so they're getting rid of them to be more environmentally safe," explains Cam Schock, president of Climate Control in Aberdeen.

But phasing out Freon, also known as R-22, can increase repair costs up to 300 percent.

"They're getting to the point where they're making less and less," says Schock. "It depends on what type of refrigerant it is, but some of the refrigerants aren't allowed to be manufactured anymore and that drives the cost up harder to get."

However, there are plenty of alternative options for those needing their R-22 replaced. Some HVAC companies say there's hundreds of different types of refrigerants and the options make things easier to get R-22 out of your appliances.

"If you've bought a refrigeration unit of some sort, whether it's a refrigerator or a freezer or a new car with an air conditioner after 2010 you don't have to worry," explains Nora. "They already have phased those out of new appliances."

But you should consult a qualified professional to change out any refrigerant. "It's only illegal to intentional discharge it into the environment, so I highly discourage you from trying to do it yourself," says Nora.

Old refrigerant is still valuable and can be used again. In fact, many technicians recycle it for future use.

"We actually pull all the refrigerant out and we capture it for reclamation. Once we get enough of it, we send it in for rejuvenation," explains Schock. "They clean it up and then they can sell it again."

The Freon phase out may sound like a big process, but experts say it's no different than switching out your light-bulbs.

"It's just like the incandescent light phase out where we went to LED. It's not going to be a huge kind of moment when 2020 comes and that's the day we quit bringing it in or making more ," says Nora.

The EPA hopes to have a complete phase out of Freon by the year 2030.

If you want more information on the phase-out, visit the links found to the right of the article.