Well, overall, home heating and cooling account for nearly half of home energy use. And it’s responsible for nearly 100 million tons of carbon-dioxide emissions every year. But when it comes to cooling, the refrigerant that we’ve relied on for decades is known as Freon or more accurately, R22. But as of this past January, the EPA has banned further production of Freon and is now requiring manufacturers to switch to a newer and more Earth-friendly alternative.
LESLIE: That’s right. With us to talk about how this could impact those with existing cooling systems, as well as those who are buying new systems, is Andy Armstrong, the vice president of sales and marketing for Fujitsu.
TOM: Welcome, Andy.
ANDY: Thank you very much. Great to be with you.
TOM: Hey, so I first have to tell you as we sit here in the studio doing this interview, right now, I’m glancing up at my Fujitsu split-ductless. We’ve had this in the studio for years because it keeps us cool and it’s, of course, very quiet which is very important for a broadcasting studio. But what do folks like me and the millions that are like me, who have existing systems – how are they going to be able to work with these new requirements? If the system fails, are we going to have to replace it?
ANDY: It’s a great question and it’s absolutely not required that you replace it. It’s just time to think about it. These systems have been in place for quite a while. All manufacturers who supply products to the U.S. have been building non-R22 products for at least 10 years. We knew this was coming. The EPA has phased us out gradually over time.
So, if you happen to have a system that has R22 in it, it’s probably been in your home 10 or 12 years and is getting close to the end of its useful life anyway. So, there’s a couple of options for you at this time, though. There still is R22 refrigerant available and it will be for a while.
ANDY: It’s just time to think about whether or not to change out that system because A, it’s older and B, that R22 is going to become less readily available. And when that happens, the old law of supply and demand comes into play and the price goes up.
LESLIE: Now, you can’t then use the newer coolant in that old system? They’re not interchangeable? It’s like you can’t mix diesel with regular fuel sort of thing?
ANDY: It’s exactly that. They use a different type of oil and it will cause tremendous problems inside your system if you try to use one to replace the other. So it’s possible to fill it up with the refrigerant and make it work and get it up and running.
But the challenge is is the reason it probably needs refrigerant is there’s probably a leak in the system somewhere. Those systems are sealed and the refrigerant is supposed to stay in there for the life of the system. So if you do need refrigerant, there’s probably indications that there’s a bigger problem within the system and equally important, a huge chance to upgrade the efficiency of your system and save some money.
TOM: Now, the reason that this is happening is because the EPA is moving us towards more Earth-friendly alternatives for refrigerants. Those that are more ozone-friendly won’t impact the atmosphere. So, what are the new refrigerants that are going to be going into systems in the future, Andy?
ANDY: Yeah, the ones that we’ve been using for the past 10 years are – it’s called R410A and it is not threatening to the ozone in the slightest. And that one has been a very effective refrigerant for us and is keeping millions of your listeners comfortable right now. The industry has made that switch and is pretty comfortable with it. It’s going well.
But for your listeners, over the next three to five years, we as manufacturers are going to be choosing a new refrigerant that has lower global-warming potential. So we’re not only fighting the situation with the ozone but we’re also fighting the global-warming potential of these gases. And R410A and R22 both are not terribly friendly to the environment in that way.
So, over time, there’s going to be another refrigerant. But for right now, R410 is a wonderful option for heating and cooling. And over time, your contractors will be able to make you aware of new choices down the road.
LESLIE: I mean Andy, these are all smart moves that you can make for your home and for the Earth itself but let’s talk about the efficiencies. Are we just going to see things that are much more financially efficient for us as the homeowner and we’ll see savings in the long run? Or are we going to notice a lot of other changes throughout?
ANDY: Great question. The reality is that the system is – that has R22 in it – the chances are very good that it is a 10- or 12-SEER system. And that’s what is was when it was new.
Now, the products are significantly more efficient. And you can increase your efficiency by a factor of three, so tremendously reducing what it costs not only to cool your home – but also with the new high-efficiency, high-quality heat pumps, you can cover a lot of that heating, as well, which can take a lot of the carbon out of the air from the natural gas or oil that you’re using to heat your home. So a lot of really good options. More friendly for the environment because you’re not only using less power but you have a more friendly refrigerant inside the system.
TOM: That’s a great point and you mentioned just briefly before – I want to point this out, though. You mentioned the SEER, the seasonal energy efficiency ratio. That’s the – that’s a way that consumers can compare and contrast systems. If they used to see 8 to 10, what are they going to be looking for with these new systems that are more efficient?
ANDY: Well, the Fujitsu systems peak out at 33 SEER, so getting significantly better. And you’re really talking about pennies compared to what you might be paying now. So it can really reduce your bill by a significant amount.
TOM: We’re talking to Andy Armstrong, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Fujitsu, about the phaseout of the refrigerants in air-conditioning system across the country. Freon is leaving and more efficient, more Earth-friendly products are coming to market and they’re being incorporated into new systems. Andy has created a great post just for us called “A Homeowner’s Guide to the EPA’s 2020 Freon Phaseout.” It’s live on the home page of MoneyPit.com right now. And it will walk you through everything you need to know, as well as provide helpful links to more information.
So, Andy, what’s next for Fujitsu?
ANDY: The reality is is we, as a country, are starting to strategically electrify the grid. And that basically means we’re trying to take carbon out all across the country. And if you pay attention closely to the news, you’re hearing cities ban natural gas in new construction. They’re finding better ways to incentivize all-electric homes. And Fujitsu’s paying very close attention to that.
And with our high-quality, efficient heat pumps, we’re able to heat and cool in most of the U.S.A. today. It’s only the most cold corners of the country where we are not able to completely cover heating and cooling. As you look at what Fujitsu can bring into the home, you’re not only talking efficiency, you’re talking comfort. We do a tremendous job just putting the comfort in the room you need and when you need it, as opposed to trying to heat and cool the whole home at one time. So that is just another way to make your home more efficient and more comfortable.
TOM: Andy Armstrong, the vice president of sales and marketing.
Thank you so much, Andy, for stopping by The Money Pit. And again, Andy’s post, “A Homeowner’s Guide to the EPA’s 2020 Freon Phaseout,” is on the home page of MoneyPit.com right now.
Thanks again, Andy.
ANDY: Thank you.