R-22 is a refrigerant that had been used in most home air conditioners for more than 40 years. However, due to government regulations, it will be phased out by the year 2020 in favor of a new refrigerant called R-410A, or Puron.
The problem is that R-22 contains chlorine. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were found to be harmful to the Earth's protective ozone layer when released into the atmosphere. They also increase the greenhouse effect. Thus, the phaseout of R-22, and similar compounds, began in the mid-90s.
Since so many home air conditioning systems still use R-22, a significant percentage of homeowners will be effected - in a big way - by costly repair bills or the need to replace their system.
If your air conditioner was built after 2010, congratulations, your system is most likely using the new refrigerant Puron. And, as long as it's running properly, you should still get some good years out of it.
For those systems built pre-2010, or are older than 10 years, you could be in for some expensive repair bills.
The production of R-22 has been in sharp decline for decades and will no longer be produced after 2020. This has caused its price to skyrocket. Considering the fact older systems using R-22 haven't been built in quite some time, replacement parts can also come at a premium.
Technically, you have a few options:
1. Convert your equipment - You can convert your old R-22 air conditioner to run on R-410A, much like you can convert a diesel engine to run on gasoline. However, this process voids your warranty and an is only temporary fix. We don't recommend it.
2. Keep using your current equipment - You could keep using your current equipment until the deadline of 2020, or until it breaks down. But, 2020 is just around the corner and you're really just delaying the inevitable.
3. Replace your system - Replacing your home HVAC system isn't cheap, but it's really the only good option here, especially considering that either of the first two options can also be an costly choices. We highly recommend replacing your soon-to-be-obsolete air conditioning equipment. Not only will it save you from the pricey repairs, the new system is bound to be more energy efficient, which will save you money in the long run.