Decreasing Supply, Steady Demand
R-22 prices have been volatile since the R-22 production reduction schedule was announced. We saw sharp swings up and down over the last several years, but there is reason to believe that after the ‘floor’ was found, we are seeing a slow increase in R-22 prices again.
See our pricing for the Honeywell R-22 30 lbs cylinder.
Generally, as supply goes down, demand goes up, and prices increase. This is exactly what the refrigerant market experienced as contractors speculated about the effects of the R-22 phase out. As the price of R-22 went up, contractors passed those costs to homeowners. Many homeowners chose to either retro-fit their aging a/c system or buy a new one rather than pay for a $700 R-22 recharge. With aging A/C systems and new refrigerant alternatives, the market discovered that demand wasn’t exactly as anticipated. R-22 prices fell to more normal levels and have stayed there.
During the winter season, I usually see slower demand for refrigerant. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case this year with R-22; in fact, prices seemed to stabilize across the market. Now it appears that as we’re looking at the final months of the phase-out and summer approaching, there may be an upward shift in demand again.
I believe that despite the age of the systems that use R-22, the prices of the refrigerant fell enough last year to make a re-charge a sensible option for many homeowners, compared with the cost of a new system. HVAC contractors continued ordering R-22 to meet a slower, but stable demand. With warmer weather, that demand is likely to increase over the following months.
My prediction for R-22 prices in 2019 and 2020 is that prices will remain stable, with any demand from decreasing R-22 supplies offset by aging systems. However, there may be a small increase after 2020 when there is no more new production and older systems remain in use.
If prices do spike again, the timeline for that price point will be even shorter than in 2016 and 2017. With those old A/C systems three years older, homeowners will be even quicker to upgrade to new systems in the face of a costly service.
Will it be illegal for R-22 recharges after 2020?
Homeowners and contractors should know that despite no new R-22 production allowed after 2020, it is still legal to use what has already been produced. Homeowners are not required to replace older units, and it will remain legal to service units requiring R-22, as long as it is with recycled or stockpiled R-22 refrigerant. Homeowners are even able to purchase R-22, as long as they certify that it will be installed by an EPA certified technician.