ON YOUR SIDE: Phase out of popular refrigerant may raise your AC repair costs

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It may soon costs more to fix your air conditioner when it breaks.

If your air conditioner is several years old or older, it likely takes R22. The EPA says manufacturers can no longer manufacture that refrigerant starting January 1, 2020. Prices have skyrocketed as manufacturers begin to phase it out. AC companies already are having trouble getting very much R22 because it is being rationed.

Rich Callahan of Air Services Heating and Cooling say putting the refrigerant in your air conditioner will cost you about three times what it did a few years ago.

The industry is transitioning to a newer refrigerant called 410A. But the older systems cannot use that refrigerant, because it works at a much higher pressure. Callahan says there are some mixed replacement refrigerants for the older systems, but they have some problems.

"First of all, none of them are made to just add to the R22. So you can't just top off a system with these add on refrigerants," Callahan says. "So you have to completely evacuate and take every bit of the old refrigerant out and put the new refrigerant in."

He says the replacement refrigerants also don't have the same capacity, so make your AC work longer and harder.

As R22's production ends, Callahan suspects the commercial sector will be stock piling it to postpone replacing giant roof top units. "What I see in residential though, that R22, after next year, is going to be almost impossible to get," Callahan says.

For many homeowners, he says the best choice may be to soon invest in a new air conditioner.

After the manufacturer of it stops, AC repair companies believe they can get some recycled R22, but the cost and quality of that is still unknown.