It’s Gonna Cost You More to Recharge Your Air Conditioning

The cost to recharge your air conditioning is going up, up, up. Here’s why:

Recharging your air conditioning system can really empty your wallet this spring and summer if you have a unit that’s more than two years old. The refrigerant that older air conditioning units use, R-22, is being phased out, and with less R-22 to go around, prices have spiked.

If your AC unit was manufactured in 2011 or later, it uses a different refrigerant, R-410A. Lucky you.

Last spring, R-22 was $180 for a tank about the size of a propane BBQ tank. This spring, the same tank cost me $400 wholesale here in Baltimore. The tank has enough R-22 to recharge a bunch of AC units, so if your AC guy tells you he needed a whole tank of R-22 to recharge your one AC unit, it’s time for either a new AC or a new AC repair guy.

The EPA is phasing out R-22 between now and 2030, limiting its production every year. When R-22 leaks out into the atmosphere, it eats a hole in the earth’s ozone layer. Limited supplies of new R-22 equal rising prices, so expect the cost of recharging a leaking AC to continue going up, rather than down, until you replace your current system with one that uses R-410A.

The shortage of R-22 may be bad news for your wallet, but it’s good news for the environment, because the higher the price of R-22 goes, the more worthwhile it is for an AC repair person removing an old unit to capture and recycle the system’s R-22 rather than release it.

In fact, if your system is leaking really badly, then the AC tech may not even be willing to refill it.

But if it’s leaking just a little and the leak can’t be fixed, you have two things to consider:

  • Do you recharge or replace? Multiply the cost of recharging the system by the number of years you plan to stay in your home and compare that to the cost of the new AC system to see which is the best option for you.
  • How do you feel about the environmental cost of having an AC system that depletes the ozone layer?

It’s decisions like these that reveal which green is more important to you — the green in your wallet or the green of your environmental consciousness.

How much would you be willing to spend to recharge your AC every spring before you buy a new unit?