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Is the Cost of Coolant Making You Hot Under the Collar?


Every week during warmer weather, MK Russell & Abbott gets calls about adding coolant to air conditioning systems. “It’s time to top off my system?” and “How much is a pound of Freon?” are the questions we hear most often. (“Is Olive there?” is another one. Yes, I’m here! Check the couch.)

Now I’m a specialists a keeping cool, whether that means panting and drinking lots of water, or helping our customers understand how air conditioning works. So let me clear up a few thing: First, your air conditioning unit is a sealed system. If you are having to “top off” coolant periodically, that isn’t normal. It means that you have a leak which needs to be repaired by a qualified company before your system suffers from permanent damaged.

The second thing is the per-pound cost of coolant. If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it could use an AC coolant known as R-22, or “Freon.” The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the complete phasing out of R-22 by 2020 because of the refrigerant’s ozone-depleting properties. Manufacturers are no longer producing cooling equipment that uses R-22, and the production of R-22 itself has been reduced by more than two-thirds.

The law of supply and demand comes into play (yes, I’m also a bit of an economics dog): When a desired product is scarce, its price increases. There is talk of actually rationing Freon among contractors. A time may come when your heating/cooling company simply won’t be able to get R-22 Freon. If you’re price shopping, it may help to realize that the prices that heating/cooling companies quote you can vary significantly by company based on how much Freon they have stored and how much they paid for it when they purchased it. You can expect to pay $125 to $175 per pound at current market value, making the per-pound cost of R-22 Freon six times as high as it was before the EPA mandate.

Our philosophy at MK Russell & Abbott is to diagnose and fix the leak that has caused your coolant to be low, not just “top it off.” Don’t expect a per-pound price over the phone.

The good news is that a more environmentally friendly refrigerant called R-410A has been developed for newer air conditioning systems and it works very well. Unfortunately, the older R-22-charged units are not compatible with R-410A.

If you do find yourself in a situation where you need to replace a leaking R-22 unit with a more efficient, eco-friendly unit, we’re happy to help you find the system that is right for your home. And we offer easy, affordable financing terms. You can even pre-qualify and schedule an appointment online.