I live in the Washington DC area and it has come time to replace my 20 year old RUUD a/c unit. There are leaks in both coils and the compressor is going bad.
I've recieved estimates that range between $3,000 and $3,600 for a 3 ton unit from a number of contractors in the area. Most of them have recommended Bryant or Carrier units. My current concern is which refrigerant to use. The contractor that came in with the lowest bid recommended a Freon (R-22) unit. When discussing his choice, he stated that it was more expensive than R-22, that it had been something that was initially hyped but has lost market momentum, and that his techs didn't like working with Puron (R-410a) due to the high pressures and the number of problems they have seen with the new refrigerant. He also stated that chlorine free replacements for Freon were soon to be available.
Another one of the contractors had the opposite opinion, saying that Freon was a thing of the past and that there was no concern with the use of R-410a as a refrigerant -- all the kinks had been worked out, the pressures weren't anything worth worrying about and that it was the refrigerant of the future. If I was planning on staying in my house for only a few years, I might choose freon, but for the long term R-410a is the way to go.
To me it seems the epa is neutral on the whole thing: http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/phaseout/22phaseout.html
I guess my biggest concern is that the price of freon will skyrocket over the next few years. I'm planning on staying in this house for awhile, so I'd like to choose the system that will be the least expensive to maintain and operate over the long term. I'm not as concerned about the environmental impact of Freon because A/C is a closed system and a well maintained unit should leak nothing into the atmosphere (if I'm horribly wrong-minded here, I'd be interested to entertain opinions). I guess my second concern is whether the increase in efficiency of R-410a over R-22 is a big deal over the long term.
The only reason this is even a question for me at this point is I tend to be an early adopter and I have to feel pretty justified in not going with the latest and greatest. However, when homes are concerned, it's a tough call -- for example I have aluminum wiring in this house (not put in by me) and well, that 'technology' didn't turn out so hot.
So, any advice would be appreciated -- even if it's someone who's saying I have a R-410a unit and is has/hasn't worked well for me.