For many years, R-22, commonly known as Freon, has been the standard refrigerant used in air conditioners and heat pumps. Due to growing environmental concerns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that this coolant is phased out in favor of a more environmentally friendly solution. Cooling system manufacturers have stopped producing units that use R-22 due to this, in favor of producing units that use a new alternative: R-410A.
R-410A: An environmentally friendly choice
R-410A is a chlorine-free refrigerant. Its blend of hydrofluorocarbons does not contribute to ozone depletion, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to R-22. Leaking systems which use R-22 cause harm to the environment, whereas a leak involving R-410A will not pose that danger. R-410A is also much cheaper than R-22.
R-22 Phase-Out: What it means for you
Because the R-22 phase-out mandates a reduction in R-22 production through 2020, when production must cease, there is less of it available. So, if you have a system that uses R-22, it’ll be harder to find and more expensive to buy if your system needs to be charged; plus, in a few years, you won’t be able to get it at all. Some manufacturers produce R-22 alternatives which can be used in these older systems, but you risk compromising your equipment’s performance.
Unfortunately, older R-22 units cannot be converted to use R-410A. Their condensers and compressors simply can’t produce the necessary amount of pressure.
So what should you do if you have an older HVAC system that uses R-22?
We recommend you consider upgrading to a new system that utilizes R-410A as its coolant. Newer units as a whole are more efficient than older systems, as your air conditioner loses a percentage of efficiency with each year of service. With an R-410A system, refrigerant will be widely available and at a much lower cost, should you require it.
If your older cooling system is still performing well, there is no urgent need to run out and replace it with an R-410A system. HVAC professionals are still permitted to charge systems manufactured before 2010 with R-22, but you may pay a premium for the coolant due to decreased supply. If your cooling system is nearing 10 years of service life or if you have experienced a more frequent need for repairs over the last few cooling seasons, it’s time to begin investigating your repair options; look for a system which will meet your comfort needs using environmentally friendly R-410A.