The good news is that most homeowners may never be forced to deal with this issue. Since the refrigerant is enclosed in a sealed system, it only needs to be replaced if there is a leak.
The phase-out of R-22 is already in motion.
"We still have the refrigerant but it's getting more expensive every day," said Nick Lopata, a service manager at Silverstate Refrigeration, who goes out on dozens of calls every day.
He can use a new coolant, R-410A, but only on the newer units. The older air conditioners can't use the updated chemical and that is why the R-22 is getting costly.
"R-22 in the past four to five months has gone up about 400 percent," Fernandez said, adding that he hasn't passed on that extra cost to his customers - yet.
The bigger problem is that if you have an older model unit, it's not an easy fix. The refrigerants can't mix, which means you would have to buy a whole new air conditioner.
"The homeowner has to decide based on their position and based on the challenges of their system - is it time to get that system replaced?" Fernandez said.
It is fairly easy to find out what type of refrigerant your unit uses. The new ones will have a pink sticker on the side of the outdoor unit, while others have the information printed on a data tag inside the outdoor unit.
The old chemical, R-22, will still be around in decreasing quantities until 2020, but the cost by then is expected to be much higher as supplies run out.
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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