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Question DetailsAsked on 5/16/2017

What happens when R22 leaks freon? Does it cost more to run it. It stills cool house.

Our R22 is 14 years old. Should we replace it or wait till it stops cooling the house.

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1 Answer


Yes it costs more to run because the system is exchanging less heat with each minute of compressor run so it has to run longer to achieve the same cooling - will eventually, as pressure leaks, down, get to the point where the unit will either shut down because it is overheating with prolonged running, or if no such safety sensor on it will run continuously because it can no longer cool the house down to the temperature the thermostat is calling for.

The refrigerant also moves the lubricating oil through the system - so if you have significantly low pressure the compressor gets inadequate lubrication and eventually fries, or the oil get so burnt that it clogs up the filter/drier or the TXV (gas control valve).

So - with an older unit like yours, which is probably at or just beyond its expected normal lifespan, you normally have three choices:

1) if a minor leak taking months to noticeably drop in pressure, if the leak isnot readily locateable have the unit recharged periodically - though that does risk the leak rapdily expanding and causing total unit failure without warning.

2) have the unit diagnosed in detail (for a couple to few hundred $ typically) to locate the leak, then decide if the repair cost is worth it for that age unit. Generally, if the leak is in the evaporator coil itself, the cost of replacing that commonly being around have the cost of a new unit replacement, that is where people get a new unit. There are a number of ways to detect leaks - sound, thermal, dye being the most commonly used.

3) once the leak becomes significant replace the unit - or like you say run it till it dies or is running continuously.

You can find a LOT of previous similar questions about the repair/replace question and how to assess the economics of a repair (including ones about the rapidly increasing price of Freon) versus new unit with new warranty - click on the Home > HVAC link under Browse Projects, at lower left.

One thing about the Freon replacement cost - R410a, the most common new unit refrigerant, is also bouncing around in price because under Obama-era regulations/Paris Accords that gas is also scheduled to be phased out, so whether its price will skyrocket like R-22 (Freon) is open to anyone's guess - it might also drop back down to $20's/lb if the Trump administration revokes that treaty and hence the phaseout requirement. Under current rules, R-22 (Freon) is supposed to be out of use by 2030 - R410a is scheduled for 80% phaseout by 2030, with no current total phaseout date. So - the presumption is that new units with R-410a will be serviceable until after 2030 - and with the number of new systems using it, it is likely a replacement serviceable gas will be available at that time for still-operating units.

A recommendation whenever you get a new unit - make sure you have a record of the exact manufacturer of the gas put into it, and the exact type of lubricant (different types used by different manufacturers) and that info be also noted on the unit case itself, so in the future any makeup gas is of the same gas and lubricant type, as different lubricant types even with the same gas are not compatible.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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