Is Freon Illegal?

August 28, 2020

Have you gone the whole summer without having to replenish your AC system’s refrigerant? If so, congratulations! Refrigerant does not run out on its own—a malfunction/leak has to occur in the unit for your air conditioner to need refrigerant replacement. Because refrigerant can essentially be used over and over again as long as your system is in good condition, if you haven’t needed to purchase more recently, your AC system is likely functioning correctly and efficiently.

If you have needed to purchase more refrigerant recently, however, you may have already heard about the hottest (ironic pun intended) topic to sweep the HVAC industry in the last year: the impending Freon shortage. According to some of the more hyperbolic reporting, Freon is now totally illegal, and the purchasing and sale of the refrigerant R-22 (the chemical name for Freon) can lead to serious consequences here in the U.S. Yet the situation is a little more complicated than that. If you need a refrigerant replacement, or are thinking of upgrading to a new AC system, keep reading for what you need to know, courtesy of our experienced AC technicians at Winters® Home Services.

What to Know About the EPA’s R-22 Regulations

Perhaps the best kept secret around this recent “Freon ban” is that it isn’t really recent at all. Ever since 1993, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has been trying to regulate what it calls “ozone-depleting substances,” or ODS. In 2003, it began to ramp up these efforts, before beginning an official phaseout of R-22 and other ozone-depleting substances in 2010. The idea was to incentivize those in the HVAC industry and elsewhere to switch to non-ODS using products over the next decade. The culmination of this phaseout occurred in 2020, when the importing and manufacturing of Freon officially become illegal in the U.S.

However, it is important to note that when we talk about the legality of Freon, for now, we are only talking about in terms of those two things—importing and manufacturing. This means that technically, it is still legal to purchase and use Freon. Rather than banning the substance outright, the phaseout simply made it more difficult for everyone to get their hands on Freon, in the hopes that everyone would start using products that were not Freon-based instead.

What Should I Do If I Run Out of Freon?

If you are still using a Freon-based AC system, you have several options. The first is to keep using it until a leak occurs, at which point you will likely have to make the switch. You can also pay to retrofit your current system so it runs on a refrigerant other than Freon. Finally, you can simply upgrade to a non-Freon using air conditioning system now and stay ahead of the curve.

At Winters® Home Services, we suggest installing an AC unit that does not run on Freon if you have not already done this. Retrofitting an old system can be more trouble than it’s worth, and waiting to upgrade is waiting to do the inevitable, as Freon supplies in the U.S. will only continue to dwindle. At Winters® Home Services, we can offer you a brand new, energy-efficient AC system, designed to last for years to come. Our technicians also provide a full range of other air conditioning services, including for ductless AC systems. Call today for money-saving specials, and find out for yourself why Winters® Home Services is trusted across our community.

Winters® Home Services is available for emergencies at 617-221-5899, or you can send us a message online.