R22 Outdoor Unit Replacement Decision

Recently, we have received a few questions about the advantages and disadvantages of replacing an older R-22 outdoor unit (partial replacement) versus replacing the whole system (indoor and outdoor components).  Since R-22 refrigerant and related equipment is being phased out over the next few years as part of the Montreal Protocol regulations to reduce the effect on atmospheric ozone, the decision about whether to stay with R-22 or jump to a new system with R410A is causing some confusion among HVAC consumers.  This is becoming a very common situation and there is really no right or wrong answer as it depends on your particular needs and your personal preferences.  We’ve compiled a few considerations and suggestions for reference.

Replacing an R-22 compressor or the outdoor unit (which contains the compressor) is a good, low cost way to get your A/C  system running again without changing the indoor system (which contains the cooling coil, the blower and often is integrated with a gas furnace or other heating system).  This approach can save some money,  if the indoor components are still in good shape and you can find the R-22 outdoor replacement parts along with the R-22 refrigerant. Many people have decided to do this and many contractors support this approach.  We think this repair will continue to be a viable, low cost repair option, at least through 2016 and maybe longer – as long as parts are available.

Some other low cost replacement options should be emerging even after the R-22 availability dwindles.  Many R-22 indoor coils built since 2006 were designed to be compatible with R-410A, which means a homeowner can keep the indoor equipment but upgrade to a newer outdoor unit and metering device. There are some extra parts and steps involved but it should still be lower cost than a total system replacement. Unfortunately, just like with the R-22 outdoor replacement option mentioned above, the overall efficiency of the system typically will not improve when only the outdoor equipment is replaced.

For people who are willing to pay a little more, some new, high efficiency retrofits are becoming available in the market.  These should help satisfy homeowners who want the low cost replacement but would also like to reduce their energy bills or address some comfort issues like humidity control, nighttime temperature swings or sound and air quality.

Please share any additional questions you have in the comments section below.


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10 thoughts on “R22 Outdoor Unit Replacement Decision

  1. HI,

    I have a 12 year old R22 AC condenser that is not working. HVAC contractor said I need to replace it, but since new unit will be R410A, I also need to replace hair handler and furnace (all in one unit), quoting me $8K for a 3 ton system. Does this sound legit?

    • Prices vary a lot from region to region and also from contractor to contractor but $8K could be in the ballpark for a new system installed. Prices also vary based on efficiency and other features so you should make sure you know what you are getting. We always recommend getting at least three quotes from different contractors and not just to check prices. It is good that you and the contractor are on the same page with questions about efficiency, payback, air quality and comfort. You might also ask about a heat pump option (or dual fuel) and high efficiency models (>16 SEER) and some of the advantage of those systems. Making sure your system is installed right is another important factor to consider before deciding.

      • Thanks Frank.

        The house is a second home (at the beach), so the heat is only used at full temp occasionally. Mostly I keep the thermostat at 55 just to keep the pipe from freezing.

        Contractor also stated that a high-efficiency unit may not be the best way to go based on the above, does that make sense?

        • Economic return and payback on a higher efficiency, premium system would be affected by how much you run it. So, if it’s not going to running all the time then going with the minimum government allowed efficiency might make sense. Other reasons to go with high efficiency have to do with comfort (avoiding wide temperature swings between on and of cycles) and humidity control. If you and the contractor are on the same page with your expected energy costs and comfort for the system you select and it gets installed properly you are probably on the right track. Good luck and thanks for using our site!

  2. I had new AC unit installed Rheem model rawl-090az using R410a to replace an old unit:Rheem rawd-091caz serial # 7335f320709077 that I had since 2007 and was using R22. I had no problems getting the old unit to cool down 3000 sq.ft. to 75f and below. the new unit can only cool the space down to 79f and it works constantly to maintain 79f. why? the installer does not want to do anything about it…

  3. Hello, I have a Lennox central air system with R-22. The furnace needs to be replaced. I thought it be best to also replace the a-coil with a A-410 coil at the same time to save labor costs in the future when I need to replace the outdoor compressor which is very old and could go out soon, at which time a replacement would be running with A-410. do you foresee any problems with this plan? I believe the TXV would need to be changed.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Chuck,

      I would seriously consider replacing the outdoor, along with the indoor coil, just to avoid complications later, along with gaining a possible efficiency boost.

      But if you are only considering replacing the indoor coil at this time, then you are on the right path. Most modern R-22 indoor “A” coils are compatible with R-410A. If your certified contractor knows your plan going into this partial system replacement, then I believe he can select a coil which would meet your future needs. You are also correct that the TXV would most likely need to be replaced as well, when the future change to R-410A takes place.

      Hope this helps,

      • When you say “most modern R-22 coils are compatible with R-410a”, what years? I had a furnace replaced in 2005/6 with a new Trane coils installed to get AC when i had the $$. Now want AC, but installer wants to put in new coils, too, because of the R410a change over. I’m not happy about the price….

        • Some equipment manufacturers designed their R22 coils to be compatible with R410A and this started happening from around 2005 to 2010 when all new equipment moved to R410A. You will have to ask the contractor to check with the OEM to see if your coil can be used with R410A. If so, you will still need to have the coils cleaned out and the expansion device changed or adjusted for the different refrigerant.

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