Repair or Replace A/C with Low Refrigerant?

A/C not cooling to set temperature

Repair or Replace A/C with Low Refrigerant?

Repair or Replace A/C with Low Refrigerant? 800 657 Chinook

What to Know About R-22 and Older Air Conditioners

You’re calling for help with your A/C again and even as you dial, you know the news isn’t going to be particularly good. Your cooling system will need to be upgraded soon, they told you that last year. If your A/C is suffering from low R-22 refrigerant due to age or a small leak, the days are numbered.

A/C Issues Start on a Hot Day

It never fails, the first heat wave of the season is when your A/C will decide to go offline. You start by checking your indoor and outdoor system and come up with these observations:

    • The unit is running almost continually, however the temperature indoors is rising as well.
    • The unit is getting nosier the longer it runs.

You run your hand over the vent inside and the air is warm, despite the thermostat being set to 65 degrees

Chances are your refrigerant is either leaking or low due to age. Over time, refrigerant needs to be added to keep your air conditioner doing it’s main function, cooling air from the outside to be sent throughout your home.

Repair or Replacement?

To answer this question depends on the age of your system. If installed after 2010, your air conditioner likely relies on R410A. Not only is this coolant better for the environment, it can be easily purchased and re-charged for an affordable price to homeowners.

If installed decades ago, your system definitely relies on R-22, better known as “Freon” to cool and “condition” air. Problem is, R-22 has been phased out by the EPA as it was discovered to harm the ozone. Ever since, this common refrigerant has been getting more expensive as supply is low.

Typical Refrigerant Repairs:

  • Low on refrigerant due to use/age and needs charged.
  • Coil leaking-needs replacement, then recharged.

What used to cost a few hundred dollars for a part and refrigerant recharge is now getting into the thousands. R-22 is now $200-$400 per pound in the Washington area and your system will likely need 6 – 12 pounds to be fully charged.

A recharge with R-22 may not even fully fix your problem. An air conditioner that leaks or needs a large amount of refrigerant is likely decades old and will face additional repairs. January 2020 caused further price hikes for freon, as the EPA is banned the importation and production of the coolant. As of 2018, R-22 is banned from being used in new air conditioners.

Choose Replacement Over Repair

Let’s face it, does the math really make sense? Replacement of parts, service labor and the cost of R-22 makes this repair $3500+. At that rate, replacing your air conditioner with a high efficiency unit that relies on R410A sounds more and more sensible.

But wait a second, what about a retrofit to something like MO99? (

Same issue, the retrofit may help you to use your existing equipment a little longer, but ultimately the time for replacement is inevitable and will you will be required to move to a more environmentally friendly unit. So once again we add repair cost to replacement cost, is that 2009 unit worth that?

Everyone knows, there is never a good time for replacement, but sometimes we need to consider the long term costs and impact. Need help deciding between repair and replacement? Call Chinook Heating and Air at 509.736.1211. Be the cool kid on the block and save money in the long run.