Friday, March 30, 2012

Air Condition Coolant Being Phased Out, Prices Triple

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - If the air conditioning unit at your home was manufactured before 2010 expect a common summer repair to cost up to triple the usual amount.

There is now a new, environmentally friendly, version of Freon — the coolant gas used in a/c units. With the development of the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-backed product, the old Freon, R-22, is being phased out.

Air conditioning professionals say with the elimination of R-22 consumers can expect repair costs to increase substantially.

“The refrigerant’s definitely gonna, it has tripled in cost so obviously that cost has be passed on to the consumer,” said Randy Kelly, with One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. “So, if someone has a refrigerant leak and it has to have R-22 put back in it, it’s really gonna make that repair cost more.”

According to Kelly, the price for a pound of R-22 has jumped from around $20 a pound to up to $90.

Refilling air conditioners with Freon is anything but unusual and is often done annually, as opposed to undergoing expensive mechanical repairs.

“Air conditioners do develop leaks, over a period of time, and it is a common repair,” said Kelly. “There are no telling how many units out there that have leaks that people just a pound, or two pounds, in every year.”

Kelly suggests that homeowners with a serious problem either fix the leak immediately or replace the unit.

The EPA is now requiring air conditioning manufacturers to use Freon R-410A in their units, which is a cleaner gas.

R-22 Refrigerant Shortage Anticipated

Michael Garry

MORRIS TOWNSHIP, N.J. — Because of a proposed revision late last year by the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the availability of R-22 refrigerant, “there’s a very good possibility the R-22 supply may not meet the demand,” said Ron Vogl, technical marketing manager for Honeywell Refrigerants here.

Vogl made those comments as the main presenter today during an SN-hosted webinar, sponsored by Honeywell, on the R-22 phase-out and retrofitting refrigeration and air-conditioning systems.

As an ozone-depleting gas, R-22 has been subject to a federal phase-out that began in 2010 and will proceed through 2020. On Dec. 30, 2011, the EPA published a proposed rule that would remove an additional 30 million to 100 million pounds of R-22 from the marketplace between 2012 and 2014. The final EPA rule will be published later this year.

The EPA is projecting between 27 million and 43 million pounds of R-22 will be reclaimed by users in 2012 — not enough to meet demand, Vogl said. Supply concerns and price increases have “caused a little bit of angst” among retailers, he noted. “Supermarkets are aggressively looking to retrofit away from this refrigerant.”

In selecting a replacement refrigerant, Vogl pointed to several criteria: capacity, efficiency, mass flow, global warming potential, superheat and oil return.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cap & Trade Hearing

Western Climate Initiative 

Today, March 27, California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary D. Nichols will appear before the California Senate Select Committee on the Environment, the Economy, and Climate Change (Senator Fran Pavley, Chair) to present an update on the cap and trade regulation under A.B. 32 (Statutes of 2006). 

The hearing is in Room 4203 and will begin upon adjournment of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee (approximately 3:30 pm PDT).

To hear audio of the hearing, please go to For a televised version, please go to:

In addition, Chairman Nichols' testimony will posted online at the conclusion of her testimony at: under the "What's New" section.

Price for air-conditioning service has 'tripled to quadrupled' due to new EPA rules

As temperatures increase with the onset of spring, so, too, will the cost for repairing and refilling air conditioners with the coolant gas known as Freon.

Northeast Florida air-conditioning contractors have already started to warn customers seeking repairs to brace for a dramatic jump in adding the gas that provides the coolant in air conditioners. Compared to a year ago, the price for putting Freon in a residential or commercial air conditioner will be radically more expensive.

The price jump affects air conditioners that were mainly manufactured before 2010.

“What it means is they have tripled to quadrupled their price on Freon for a service call,” said Tom Karol, a service technician at Don’s Air Conditioning in Jacksonville. “That’s a hell of an expense.”

The jump in Freon costs is the result of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directive implemented this year. The EPA is phasing out production of the old Freon, known as R-22. That’s because the coolant contained hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which are the gases believed to be eroding the earth’s ozone layer. Instead, the EPA is requiring air conditioning manufacturers to use Freon R-410A, which is a cleaner gas.

That means the price of the old type of Freon has jumped from about $40 per pound to about $90 per pound. A refill of Freon in an air conditioning unit usually takes about 5 to 10 pounds of the gas.

“These are direct costs that we are paying to buy this refrigerant and we have no choice but to pass this along to the consumer” said Ed Miller, president of Snyder Heating and Air Conditioning in Jacksonville.

The bulk of the high cost in Freon to customers is almost entirely linked to repairs to existing air conditioning units in homes and businesses. Vehicles are not affected, Miller said, because the environmentally-threatening Freon was eliminated from use in vehicles long ago.

But since the new Freon was introduced and the old style of Freon’s production was ordered by the EPA to be reduced, old tactics for maintaining an air conditioner, such as simply refilling a leaky refrigerant gas chamber, are no longer financially feasible, Miller said.

Miller said a single repair cost has jumped from about $100 to $400.

“Sometimes they [air conditioning units] have small pin-hole leaks that cause them to leak out. … Making the repair and fixing the refrigerant leak is more necessary now because of the high price of the refrigerant,” Miller said.

A slow leak in the past was simply refilled by many owners of air conditioning units, Miller said. But refills are so expensive, it’s best to actually repair the device or replace it rather than just refilling it.

“Now, you’ve got to replace the whole thing or the compressor,” Karol said. “When we’re explaining it to people they’re kind of taken aback and they don’t know what to do. They’re trying to hold off on doing anything right now because it’s not that hot or that cold right now.”

The increased Freon costs come on top of a new Florida regulation that requires air conditioning contractors to complete an energy calculation survey of a structure before a system is installed. That went into effect March 15 and adds another cost of about $100 to $300 owed to contractors for the inspection work.

But as summer and hotter temperatures approach, Karol said there will be less R-22 Freon and anyone putting off air conditioning repairs will pay a stiff price.

“When it starts taking effect, the cutbacks of Freon R-22, it’s really going to hit people hard,” Karol said. “I look for Freon to probably go over $500 for a 28-pound tank.”, (904) 359-4098

Cost: About $90 per pound
High pollution: Contains hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which erode ozone layer
Obsolete: Meant for air-conditioning units made before 2010
Production: Being phased out due to EPA mandate
Cost: About $80 to $100 per pound
Environmentally friendly: Contains no hydro-chlorofluorocarbons; no impact on the ozone layer
Contemporary: Can be used on new air-conditioning units as well as those manufactured before 2010
Production: It’s in high production and will replace the original Freon R-22 gas entirely

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Refrigerant shortage driving AC repair costs up

Shortage of R-22 refrigerant driving costs up; could require new AC units for some

By Bruce Henderson 

The soaring cost of some refrigerants will mean sharply higher air-conditioner repair costs this spring, experts say, adding a bit of gloom to this week’s early bloom.

The refrigerant known as R-22 is being phased out because it eats Earth’s protective ozone layer. R-22 air conditioners were made until 2010, and millions still operate.

But owners who need to replace leaked refrigerant this year are in for a nasty surprise: R-22 prices have tripled since January. Homeowners who would have paid $100 to recharge an R-22 system last year can now expect to pay $300 to $350, says an industry group, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

It could get much worse, as Charlotte’s Tracy Lee found Friday.

An evaporator coil rusted in one of his home’s cooling units, installed in 2005, and leaked its refrigerant. The repair technician “said the most expensive part of the repair was the refrigerant,” Lee said.

He barely exaggerated. The $1,958 estimate included five pounds of R-22 at $188 a pound, nearly half the repair cost.

Industry officials expect the price spike to smooth out over time – but not before July, in the depths of hot weather.

“In the meantime, I’m going to be caught in the crosshairs,” said Lee, whose house has two other air conditioning units of the same vintage.

AC service companies are scrambling to make sure they can serve their customers.

“For customers, it means they’re going to pay a lot more than they did last year,” said Morris-Jenkins owner Dewey Jenkins, “and going into the summer no one knows, there might not be enough” R-22.

Jenkins’ company, sensing trouble, stockpiled enough R-22 to take care of its customers who are under maintenance contracts. Jenkins estimated that a typical service call might cost an extra $80 to $120 this year.

Replacing a unit’s full R-22 charge with the newer alternative called R-410A, he said, would cost $1,000 to $1,200.

Brothers’ Roger Costner said his company is still working on pricing, but estimates a typical service call might cost an extra $50 this spring. He does not expect suppliers to run out of R-22 because he anticipates it to be increasingly recycled.

But AC experts say some customers will be faced with hard choices about older R-22 units with serious problems such as leaking components.

“Our thinking is if they do have a major issue with their system, they really should consider paying for a new system,” Costner said. New units will cool more efficiently and are likely to have longer warranties than older ones, he said, helping recoup their costs.

Josh Franks learned Friday that he falls into that unfortunate group. Franks paid $289 to recharge the R-22 in his 12-year-old air-conditioning unit, for the second time in two years.

With a slow leak in the unit, Franks said, “it looks like I’ll have to spend a whole lot more to put in a whole new system.” The repairman quoted a new system at $5,500.

The industry has known for years that R-22 supplies would slowly shrink under terms of a 1987 international agreement on ozone-depleting chemicals. The Environmental Protection Agency sets new manufacturing limits about every five years.

But even a year ago, the refrigerant was plentiful and selling at record lows.

“Nobody really knows how much is out there, or how we got from a glut to uncertainty” about supplies, said Charlie McCrudden, vice president for government relations at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

Last August the EPA, prompted by a lawsuit, proposed reducing manufacturing volumes this year. In December, the agency proposed cutting manufacturing capacity by up to 47 percent for 2012 to 2014, in part to encourage reuse of existing stocks.

That created “a frenzy” that drove prices upward, McCrudden said. He predicts it will be July before the issue is settled.

“I think everybody got spooked,” he said. “I don’t think EPA intended to create this type of price spike and upheaval.”

Henderson: 704-358-5051

Read more here:

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Contractors Need to be Proactive on R-22

March 05, 2012

I’m not sure many people in the HVACR industry started 2012 with a New Year’s resolution that went something like, “I want to be totally confused over the cost and availability of R-22.”

After all, only a couple years ago everybody was on board with the idea of a gradual step down in supplies of virgin HCFC-22. That step down was to come Jan. 1, 2012, and was supposed to be about 11 percent or 10 million pounds less than the previous year. We can deal with that, everyone said. After all, the industry hadn’t used all the 2010 allocations; the economy was still sluggish in 2011 and probably would be in 2012; more HFC equipment was coming on line as R-22 equipment was coming off line; and even though the dry-ship R-22 component issue was keeping more R-22 in the field than may have been first anticipated, supplies seemed to be fine and everyone could deal with the cost.

Then came the curveball, courtesy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Rather than stay with the 11 percent step down, the agency, which determines allocations, said the step down could be up to 45 percent, or about 55 million pounds. Compounding the issue was the fact that 45 percent was not a firm number — just the deepest step down the agency would consider requiring. The agency said it could still be just 11 percent — but it may take until summer to come up with a hard and fast number.

When the EPA gave the go-ahead to produce virgin R-22, it came in the form of a non enforcement statement, meaning the EPA would not go after manufacturers as long as they worked out a production schedule that would not exceed 55 million pounds by the end of 2012.

Of course, the EPA could come back and eventually allow a higher amount. And that is the current guessing game.

The immediate effect was to take close to one-half of the planned virgin R-22 off the market, which resulted in the price spikes. I got an email from a contractor literally hours after the manufacturers announced the price hikes asking why. As I told him, it initially related to the law of supply and demand. When supply goes down, prices go up. Those of us old enough to remember the various oil embargos against the United States in the 1970s remember gasoline prices rising almost daily — and long gas lines which resulted in odd/even days for going to the gas station based on the last digit on your license plate. (Today, the price rises make little sense as it seems every time a tanker loses a bit of oil or a foreign country threatens to cut supply, prices immediately go up at the local gas station, even though the gas in the underground tanks at the station has been there long before the spill or threat.)
I will be following this allocation story through 2012 and beyond. For now, here are three thoughts for contractors:

• Make sure you have a really good relationship with your wholesaler. Refrigerant manufacturers have told wholesalers they will do their best to serve their best customers — their best wholesalers — first, and I’m assuming the wholesalers will do their best for their best contractor customers.

• Get serious about reclamation. That sector of the industry has been around for a long time with little product coming back. Remember, reclaimed R-22 brought back to ARI-700 purity standards comes back into the field without the restrictions or limitations of virgin R-22. The more R-22 there is in the field, the more there is to work with.

• Start working with the HFC retrofit alternatives. There are a lot of them with certain ranges of applications. To do the retrofit means recovering the R-22, which in turn can come back into use in the industry for those R-22 systems that might not yet have the right HFC retrofit refrigerant.

There are challenges facing our industry. But there are ways already in place to deal with those challenges.
Publication date: 03/05/2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

EPA Expected to Reduce R-22 Refrigerant Allocation

Maintenance Insider
While the EPA is not expected to issue a final allocation determination until later this summer, R-22 allocations will likely be reduced between 11 percent and 47 percent from the previous level.

Property managers have recently received information from their service providers informing them that the supply of R-22 refrigerant is uncertain and prices have escalated sharply as a consequence.

NMHC’s Eileen Lee says that it has been implied that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has accelerated the phase out of this refrigerant, thus causing the supply disruption. While EPA has temporarily reduced the allocation (the amount of R-22 that is able to be produced or imported), this is an interim measure based in part on the oversupply of R-22 in the marketplace. The final allocation levels of R-22 will be issued later this year, and supplies are expected to be available to meet demand.

Background: R-22 is a member of a class of ozone-destroying chemicals (HCFCs) that is regulated under an international agreement. As of 2010, manufacturers were prohibited from importing R-22 for use in new equipment and, after 2020, R-22 will no longer be permitted to be manufactured or imported. Only R-22 that is recycled from other sources will be available for servicing existing equipment.

EPA sets an allocation level for the amount of R-22 that can be produced or imported. EPA and equipment manufacturers expect that the phase-out timetable for R-22 will enable the servicing of existing equipment throughout its useful lifetime. EPA is not accelerating the phase-out schedule of R-22, Lee says.

However, last year, EPA found that there was an oversupply of R-22 in the marketplace. A trade organization representing the manufacturers and importers of R-22 supported these claims, and advocated for a 20 percent reduction in allocations (the amount able to be produced or imported) for 2012-2014. Additional information on R-22 is available at

Current Situation: In January, EPA issued an interim proposal that reduced allocations for the current period by 45 percent. This reduction caused concern within the air conditioning/ refrigeration service industry. While EPA is not expected to issue a final allocation determination until later this summer, R-22 allocations will likely be reduced between 11 percent and 47 percent from the previous level, Lee says.

Air-conditioning service providers did not anticipate the current supply disruption. NAA/NMHC have consulted with colleagues at the Air Conditioning Contractors Association for an explanation of the current marketplace situation. They have provided a memorandum at

Best Practices: See for the description of the preferred common-sense approach at a technician level. It will help to properly diagnose a problem with an air-conditioning system and repair the system to maintain the smallest amount of R-22 possible. “When it is time to replace the system, recover the R-22 in such a way as it can be reused onsite to reduce the amount of R-22 needed to be purchased. This type of response ensures the smallest financial impact on the community regardless of the supply and price of R-22 in the future,” says Paul Rhodes, National Safety & Maintenance Instructor, NAA Education Institute.