Were you recently told you need an AC refrigerant “recharge”? If so, you might be shocked by the price you were quoted and probably want to know if you’re being ripped off or not. We don’t blame you.
Don’t worry—we’re here to give you honest answers about the cost of R-22 refrigerant.
Let’s start with the question at hand—what’s a “normal” price range for R-22 refrigerant? Well, the cost of an R-22 refrigerant recharge can range anywhere from $350-$1,450 (including labor costs)*.
*The numbers above reflect the market prices for R-22 in 2018 but prices change frequently.
Note: The price you pay depends on how many pounds of refrigerant your central AC needs. For example, a 4-ton AC with a very bad refrigerant leak that’s been ignored for months may need a complete fill-up, which requires approximately 16 pounds of R-22.
To help you better understand the rising prices of refrigerant, we’ll discuss:
- Why R-22 refrigerant prices are so high (and still rising)
- Refrigerant recharge “scams” to look out for
- Alternatives to an R-22 refrigerant recharge
If this is your first reaction to the prices above, we have bad news: R-22 prices are only going to get higher.
Why are R-22 refrigerant prices so high?
Why? Well, the bottom line is that it’s simply a matter of “supply and demand.” A lot of homeowners have AC units that need R-22 refrigerant specifically but there’s a severely limited supply of R-22 refrigerant.
You see, it turns out that R-22 is an “HCFC” (hydrochlorofluorocarbon), which is basically an ozone-depleting gas. Because it’s so harmful to the environment, governments across the globe have slowly phased out R-22 production and use over the past 20 years. According to the EPA, all production and sale of R-22 refrigerant will end completely by the year 2020.
Want to learn more? Check out these EPA articles:
- What Is the Phase-Out of Ozone-Depleting Substances?
- Phase-Out of Class II Ozone Depleting Substances
Because of R-22’s potential to deplete the ozone, it’s against the law to buy, sell or handle R-22 refrigerant unless you’re an EPA-certified HVAC professional.
Remember, you’re also paying for skill & safety…
This certification requires extensive training and ensures that techs do not release R-22 into the environment and know how to dispose of old R-22 refrigerant safely. That said, the price of an R-22 refrigerant recharge also takes into account the extra certification and skill of the tech performing the repair.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of dishonest techs out there who will take advantage of homeowners who aren’t educated on how refrigerant works in an air conditioner.
Refrigerant “scams” to look out for
To save you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars, let’s look at 2 common refrigerant “scams” to avoid:
1. The tech says it’s time for a “routine” recharge
Why this is a scam: Refrigerant in an AC system runs in a closed loop and does not run out like gas in a car (unless there’s a leak).
For example, a completely healthy AC (without leaks) should have the exact same amount of refrigerant on the day it dies as it did the day it was installed. That said, any tech who claims you need to top off your refrigerant “routinely” or “on a regular basis” is dishonest and is just out for your money.
2. Your tech says you’re low on refrigerant but doesn’t mention/fix a leak
The only explanation for “low” refrigerant levels is a refrigerant leak.
Refrigerant leaks can occur from simple wear and tear so it’s very possible that you have one if you notice warm air from AC vents or ice forming on the AC system. The “scam” comes into play when a tech determines you’re low on refrigerant levels but doesn’t mention a leak and/or doesn’t repair the leak.
Think about it—if you don’t first repair the leak, all that refrigerant you just paid for will eventually leak back out, wasted. And your (dishonest) tech is all the happier for the unmended leak because he’ll be there waiting to charge you for more refrigerant when it all leaks out again.
Learn more about both of these scams in our blog, “How Often Should My Air Conditioner Need a Freon Charge?”.
No, it’s not. In fact, you can switch out your older R-22 AC for a new one that uses R-410A (or another approved refrigerant).
Is adding more R-22 to my system my only option?
We know—that sounds crazy expensive, right? But if you have an older AC (10+ years) with an extensive refrigerant leak, paying hundreds, or even thousands of dollars, to recharge your system is like putting a new motor inside an old clunker. In other words, the money you’ll put into that old unit just won’t be worth it.
And remember, the price of R-22 refrigerant will only get higher and higher before it’s completely unavailable. So, if your old unit suffers another refrigerant leak (which is very common in old units), you’ll be looking at even more expensive repair bills in the near future.
So let’s say you (wisely) take our advice and are looking to replace your R-22 AC. What kind of refrigerant should your new AC use?
Well, R-410A is the most popular choice today. R-410A is a less harmful refrigerant than R-22 and is EPA-approved for use in residential ACs. The price of R-410A refrigerant is around $6 per pound, not including the cost of labor to recharge the system (as of 2018).
We’re the experts when it comes to all things AC refrigerant in the New Jersey area.
Have more refrigerant questions? Ask our NJ techs
If you have questions, need a quote for a refrigerant fill up or are wondering if you should replace your old R-22 AC, we can help.
Just contact us.
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