When looking at the price of Freon refrigerant, it is important to take into account the history of the product as well as the future of the product. When Freon 12 was introduced in 1931, it provided a safer, more reliable method for consumers to maintain the appropriate temperatures for their food. As time progressed, the technology surrounding refrigerants and the items we use them became more complex and we were able to store items for much longer periods of time and we were also able to transport items more easily.
Fast forward to today and you will find that the most commonly used Freon is (aka r22 freon), which was being produced at a rate of approximately 800 Gigagrams per year as of 2008. Unfortunately, R22 comes with some negative side effects that can be felt both by the individual and by the world. Speaking from personal experience, if a can of R22 is pierced and the gas begins to escape, then you will smell a somewhat sweet scent in the air and you will quickly begin to feel a piercing sensation in your lungs. Once the gas reaches high enough in the atmosphere, it has the potential to eat away at our O-Zone layer. To give an idea of how toxic it is, R22 is more corrosive than carbon dioxide is to our own atmosphere by 1,810 times. Because of this, R2 was banned by the US Government in 2010 and has already begun to be phased out.
The first step to phasing a product out is to halt the production altogether. The only issue with the Heating and Air industry is that so many of our products require R22 to operate properly and when we service the machines that our consumers rent, we have to use the refrigerant that the machine is made for (i.e. R22). Since production has stopped and the demand for R2 is still there, the price has begun to climb drastically. This is no fault of anyone, but rather simple rules of “Supply and Demand”.
The second step to phasing a product out is finding a viable replacement for it, which in this case is R-41OA. This gas is similar to R2 in that it pulls the heat out of your systems, but it does so at a much more efficient pace and is cheaper to make. Luckily, R-41OA does not have as lethal a result as R22 (R-41OA is 1,725 times more corrosive than carbon dioxide) and because of its higher efficiency, the units that use it will last longer. A system’s ability to withstand higher pressures keeps it from cracking when it is used more frequently, such as an outside refrigerator in the Summer time, and systems built for R-41OA are built as such. R-41OA also has the capability to absorb and release heat at a fast pace than R22 does, which helps prolong the use of the system’s compressor.
While it may be expensive, phasing out Freon usage across the US. is the right move if we are to be more sustainable in the future.