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AC repair may be the best time to bring your HVAC equipment into compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act. That’s the act that requires all production of R22 Freon to cease, in compliance with the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

If your air conditioner is among the 80 percent in the country that use R22 refrigerant (those manufactured before 2010), you have another factor to consider when making AC repair, service, and/or replacement decisions.

Overall, the HVAC industry has done a good job of transitioning to alternative refrigerants such as R410A, while phasing out R22 Freon. R410A, also known as Puron, Forane 410A and other brand names, does not harm the ozone layer. New high-efficiency air conditioning systems and heat pumps use this refrigerant.

So if you’re upgrading and building on your home, or even considering upgrading your HVAC system, make sure your new system uses R410A. You’ll save energy, and R410A prices are consistently low and stable.

AC repair or replacement?

Sooner or later, all systems fail and need to be repaired or replaced. With air conditioners and heat pumps, repairs often involve the compressor, expansion valve or a leak in the heat exchanger. Any one of these repairs may require replenishing R22, and by a substantial amount, which adds to the cost of the AC repair. Generally, if a major AC repair occurs, and it costs roughly half of what a replacement system would cost, it’s wise to opt for the replacement upgrade if it’s within budget.

Well-maintained AC systems are expected to last about 15 years, which means if it was made in 2009, you’ve got about 12 years left. If it was made in 1997, you’re looking at some AC repair and replacement issues soon. If your system is getting up in years, it’s wise to start thinking about options.

No one knows the cost of replacing the R22 once 2020 rolls around, but you may be better off looking for a replacement during your next AC repair call, rather than when the demand for AC repair techs is heavy, and it’s harder to find them.