You may have noticed an increase in refrigerant prices when you’ve needed air conditioning repairs recently. You're not alone — prices have gone up around the globe. Every HVAC company that does air conditioner repairs has felt the pinch.
Things are getting more dramatic now. The price of R410A has jumped by 300 percent in just the past two weeks. Right now, there’s no telling when the cost will stop going up. Unfortunately, this increase will be seen by consumers.
Why are the costs of refrigerants going up so much?
The rising cost of air conditioning refrigerant is in response to the Montreal Protocol and an increasingly limited supply of R22 refrigerant and new R401A anti-dumping tariffs.
What is the Montreal Protocol?
The Montreal Protocol is a 30-year-old global agreement ratified by every country in the world. It's purpose: to phase out the use of certain substances that harm the ozone layer and hasten global warming. The Montreal Protocol will eventually eliminate the production of ozone-depleting substances like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons.
Why? There is universal scientific acceptance that we need to save what we can of earth’s ozone layer. Stratospheric ozone filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation, which may increase skin cancer and cataracts. Harmful substances like CFCs and halons have stripped away this protective layer, leaving everyone on the planet more susceptible to UV-related diseases.
The Montreal Protocol is projected to prevent over two million cases of skin cancer per year by 2030. The Protocol’s Scientific Assessment Panel estimates that the ozone layer to return to its pre-industrial level by mid-century. That’s the good news.
Why is R22 refrigerant is being phased out?
The Montreal Protocol phased out the use of HCFC R22 refrigerant (which you probably know as Freon) in 2010. The chlorine in R22 was burning a hole in the ozone.
All new air conditioning machines manufactured after 2010 use R410A instead. This refrigerant is better for the environment and in much greater supply, making it a safer alternative.
Although no new R22 is being produced, the older machines can still be used – although many have yet to upgrade to newer models. For these consumers, the price of R22 dramatically increases each year as the world's remaining supply runs out.
What do anti-dumping tariffs mean for R410A — and me?
The American Hydrofluorocarbon Coalition filed a lawsuit with the United States Department of Commerce in June 2015. This suit claimed that HFC refrigerants – including R22 and R410A – were being imported from China beneath their fair value. This practice is known as “dumping." China was able to trade at dramatically lower prices due to cheaper labor costs and government subsidies.
The Department of Commerce announced in February 2017 its "affirmative final determination" in the antidumping duty investigation of these imports. Then, on March 22, the United States International Trade Commission found that American industries were materially injured by China's dumping.
An anti-dumping duty will now be collected on imports of HFC refrigerants from China. These tariffs on refrigerants like R410A will continue to force prices on air conditioning repair services to rise.
What can I do to avoid overpaying for air conditioning repairs?
When you found a leak in your old HVAC system, you could fix the leak and top it off with R22 or R410A. With these new tariffs, however, you could end up spending $1,000 — or more — for each of these repairs. Topping it off is no longer recommended when your HVAC system has a leak, especially if the system is 10 years or older.
What should I do next?
If you have any questions or concerns about air conditioning repairs or, given the changing circumstances, air conditioning replacement, we’re here to help. John C. Flood offers AC repair and HVAC service in Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, Fairfax, the Washington, D.C. metro region and surrounding areas. Schedule air conditioning repairs now or simply contact us online.