Global refrigerant ban affecting Nebraskans

FREMONT, Neb. (WOWT) -- If your thermostat is telling you that your old A/C unit isn't keeping up with the summer heat, it might be because of the refrigerant it uses.

Many air-conditioning units 10 years and older use R-22 refrigerant, and in just a few short months, you may not be able to get anymore.

"Back in the '80s, the EPA-mandated refrigerant moving forward needed to be more environmentally friendly," said Chris Landgrebe, general manager of Air Comfort.

He's talking about The Montreal Protocol: a worldwide ban that, as of Jan. 1, 2020, will restrict the refrigerant R-22 from being manufactured or imported because the chlorine it contains depletes the planet's ozone.

"It can do quite a bit of harm to our environment," Landgrebe said.

Dee Kohl is a homeowner in Fremont who had her A/C unit replaced Tuesday because it was leaking the refrigerant.

It would have been cheaper for Kohl to replace the refrigerant, but because refrigerant can't be manufactured or imported after the first of the year, it will drive up the price of whatever is left on the shelves.

R-22 already costs around $150/pound compared to the $100/pound for more modern refrigerants. Because of this, Kohl said she wanted to plan for the long term.

"This is it, I'll bite the bullet and get it done," she said.

Kohl is getting ahead of the price-hike that could affect many homeowners. Landgrebe said Air Comfort is working to replace an outdated A/C unit every week.

The good news is if your older unit isn't leaking, and it's keeping your home a comfortable temperature, then you don't need to replace it now. However, there is a good chance an updated A/C unit is a home improvement many will have to budget for — and soon.