Buying a Pre-owned Home? Knowing a little about refrigerants can save you $1000′s!
Although these changes outlined below have been announced for quite some time now, it is still easy to overlook this detail when buying a pre-owned home. For most homeowners, replacing the HVAC system is a big ticket item. Which, in San Antonio, can cost you upwards of $5,000 easily!
A Little Background Info
HCFC-22 (also known as R-22) has been the refrigerant of choice for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems for more than four decades. Unfortunately for the environment, releases of R-22, such as those from leaks, contribute to ozone depletion. In addition, R-22 is a greenhouse gas and the manufacture of R-22 results in a by-product (HFC-23) that contributes significantly to global warming. As the manufacture of R-22 is phased out over the coming years as part of the agreement to end production of HCFCs, manufacturers of residential air conditioning systems are offering equipment that uses ozone-friendly refrigerants.
What Does the HCFC-22 Phaseout Mean for Consumers?
Since 2010, Under The Clean Air Act , chemical manufacturers are no longer able to produce, and companies are no longer able to import, R-22 for use in new A/C equipment, but they can continue production and import of R-22 until 2020 for use in servicing existing equipment. Given this schedule, which was established in 1993, the transition away from R-22 to the use of ozone-friendly refrigerants should be smooth. For the next 10 years or more, R-22 should continue to be available for all systems that require R-22 for servicing.
Alternatives to R-22 in Residential Air Conditioning
As R-22 is gradually phased out, non-ozone-depleting alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer, but, like R-22, contributes to global warming. R-410A is manufactured and sold under various trade names, including GENETRON AZ-20®, SUVA 410A®, Forane® 410A, and Puron®.
What’s the Big Deal for Home Buyers & Owners?
Existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22. The new refrigerant, R-410A, is not allowed in retrofits/conversions due to its higher working pressures. As a result, service technicians who repair leaks to the system will most often continue to charge R-22 into the system as part of that repair.
Here’s the big catch…
The transition away from ozone-depleting R-22 to systems that rely on replacement refrigerants like R-410A, has required redesign of heat pump and air conditioning systems. New systems incorporate compressors and other components specifically designed for use with specific replacement refrigerants. For instance, if a new outdoor unit (typically called a “condensing unit,” containing the condenser and compressor) is installed, it is likely that a new indoor unit (typically called an “evaporator”) will also be required.
You never know when your HVAC System will call it quits. It could be today, tomorrow, or 20 years from now. A neglected HVAC System is definitely something to consider before making that purchase offer.
I strongly recommend hiring your “own” HVAC Technician you feel confident will do a thorough inspection of the HVAC System, beyond that of a regular home inspector/inspection. The added inspection fee is well worth the piece of mind, considering the replacement costs that may arise.
If you’ve found this article helpful, please remember… sharing is caring! :)
Happy House Hunting,
Randy Pereira, ABR
ULTIMA Real Estate
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