June 7, 2019

How will the R22 refrigerant phase-out affect me?

If your air conditioner was installed before 2010, an R-22 refrigerant phase-out has been taking place in the air conditioning industry (since 2013) that will affect you—if it hasn’t already. (Some systems after 2010 were manufactured with the use of R-22. You can check the nameplate on your condenser for the refrigerant type.) The R-22 refrigerant, Freon, was introduced in the 1950s and has been used in air conditioning systems that predate 2010. The phase-out of production and imports will continue until January 1, 2020, when all production and imports will be stopped. Once it is gone, new supplies of R22 refrigerant will no longer be available leaving recycled quantities the only option until they are depleted. Due to R22’s reduced amounts, imports, and recycling, prices have increased significantly. R22 refrigerant has been replaced by R410a refrigerant, Puron, a more responsible refrigerant.

Why is there an R22 phase-out?

Decades ago, the EPA determined that R-22 (an HCFC refrigerant) poses severe environmental risks. Leaks in A/C compressors contribute to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFCF’s) being released into the air depleting the ozone layer.

Will R410a work in an old R22 system?

The answer, in short, is no.

Let’s start with a simple example to explain. At roughly 32 degrees Fahrenheit, ice is formed or melts at Standard Atmosphere (ISA). But, if you’re at a higher elevation, that temperature is going to change because the atmospheric pressure has changed; this is the basic concept of how the refrigeration cycle operates.

Within an HVAC system, pressure, temperature, and volume are interconnected. There is a fixed volume within a refrigerant piping system, and when the pressure changes, the temperature changes. Refrigerant is moved through four major components—compressor, condenser coil, expansion valve, evaporation coil—where pressure and temperature are changed.

R-410a refrigerant operates at a higher pressure than R-22 and design specifications of new HVAC systems are built to support higher pressure. If you put R-410a refrigerant into an older system designed for R-22, the pressure would be too high, causing the system to fail.

What are my options?

  • RETROFIT

This bullet is listed as a caution. Air conditioners are pressurized, and parts and refrigerant for R410a units are not interchangeable with the older R22 units. Be cautious of retrofitting promises; they can be dangerous, damage the unit, and cause safety risks.

  • HOLD OUT

Wait out until your older system needs an expensive repair before you install a new unit and pay higher costs in utility bills and recycled R22 refrigerant in the interim.

  • BE PROACTIVE

Replace your older unit with a new system now. New compressors are more energy efficient, and with the combined savings from less expensive refrigerant and utility savings, over time, you will realize a cost benefit.

  • PLAN

If your system predates 2010 and is still operating, make sure to keep up with routine maintenance and start planning for the expense of a system replacement. Get a quote for a replacement system now so that you can prepare for the cost.

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