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Switch To New Refrigerant Likely To Boost Cost For Consumers

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- With a string of 80-degree days ahead, chances are good your air conditioner will get lots of use.

Metro Heating & Cooling is already getting calls.

"It's time to have the cleaning and checking done of the systems to make sure they're working properly before we get into the heat of the summer," Metro technician Jim Kerns told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Monday.

But here's a wrinkle.

The refrigerant most old window and central AC units use called R-22 or Freon is being phased out beginning this year through 2020.

"R-22 is a type of refrigerant that has chlorine in it, and they're trying to eliminate all the chlorine because of the ozone layer," said Scott Lynch, an instructor at the Pittsburgh Technical Institute. "So by eliminating the R-22 that'll be pretty much the last refrigerant that has chlorine."

Lynch has been teaching HVAC cooling systems at PTI for over 25 years, and he says the old systems are out.

"We're all going to have to change over at some point in time."

You can use your old air conditioners until they fail, but replacing coolant for the old systems will get problematic.

Metro's Kerns says the cost of the old R-22 Freon is going up, while the new environmental coolant – 410A -- is cheaper but not usable in old AC units.

"Right now we're charging $90 a pound for the R-22 and $42 a pound for 410-A," said Kerns.

While the old window units are being replaced with new ones with the new refrigerant, here's a problem.

When your central air conditioning system goes down, the chances are very good you're going to spend a whole lot more money to replace it.

"With a small system in a small ranch style home it could be as little as $3,000 to replace the system," noted Kerns.

"With a very difficult installation and a large system it could be as high as $8,000 or $9,000."

And there's no guarantee that would be the end.

"At some point in time, they'll go by the wayside as well, as there are some newer refrigerants coming into the market now," added Lynch.

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