What You Should Know About the R-22 Refrigerant Phaseout

Have you ever wondered how your air conditioner keeps your home cool on even the muggiest summer days? It relies on a refrigerant called freon or R-22 to remove heat from the air, maintaining a comfortable temperature.

While there are lots of moving parts that make your air conditioner work, the refrigerant is arguably the most essential component. Technically, your air conditioner can run without refrigerant, but asking it to do so can damage your unit and cause you to need repairs.

What Is Air Conditioner Refrigerant?

The refrigerant you rely on to keep your cool all summer is a chemical that can alternate rapidly between liquid and gaseous states. They are perfect for use in air conditioners because the process of cooling air involves condensing a refrigerant from a gas into a liquid.

Unfortunately, refrigerants have had a negative impact on our environment over the years, contributing to global climate change and the depletion of Earth’s protective ozone layer. For that reason, the EPA has been gradually phasing out the use and manufacture of R-22 and similarly harmful chemicals for the past several years.

Refrigerants contain chlorine, which destroys the molecules in our ozone layer. These ozone molecules can replenish themselves through a natural process, but unfortunately, they can’t do so very quickly. Human use of chlorine-based refrigerants has been chipping away at the ozone layer much more rapidly than the planet can recreate it.

The ozone layer is vital to protecting our planet from the runaway greenhouse effect, so the EPA is phasing out and eventually banning the manufacture and sale of R-22 refrigerants to protect our ozone layer from further destruction.

How Does the Freon Ban Affect You?

The answer to that question depends on whether your air conditioner was manufactured and installed before or after 2010. Companies that manufacture air conditioners have been banned from using R-22 since Dec. 31, 2009, so if you got your air conditioner anytime within the past nine years, you can feel confident it uses an EPA-approved alternative refrigerant.

If, however, your air conditioner was manufactured and installed before 2010, you may run into some problems as your system ages.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • R-22 production will halt completely in 2020, which will make it scarce. Because R-22 will be much harder to find, the cost of getting an A/C recharge will likely become much more expensive.
  • If your air conditioning system develops a refrigerant leak, a qualified HVAC technician can recharge your A/C unit with R-22 as long as supplies are available.
  • You do not have to replace your older air conditioner if you’re not experiencing any problems with it.
  • You will not be able to get an A/C unit that relies on R-22 to use an EPA-approved refrigerant. Your smartest and safest option is to replace the old unit.

What Is the Replacement for R-22?

The most reliable EPA-approved freon replacement currently available is called R-410A. Though it can contribute to global warming to some extent, it does not contain ozone-depleting chlorine. This new class of refrigerants has also allowed air conditioner manufacturers to increase the efficiency of A/C units, which is good news for our environment and your bank account.

The freon ban might increase your A/C maintenance costs if you have an older air conditioning unit, but the overall advantages of getting rid of R-22 far outweigh the downsides. New air conditioners that use R-410A run more efficiently than their older counterparts, and they don’t put a dent in our ozone layer.

Whether your air conditioner is brand-new or approaching the end of its lifespan, regular maintenance by an experienced, qualified professional is the best thing you can do to keep it in good shape for longer. Your locally owned experts at Nu-Temp Heating and Cooling are your best resource for everything from routine seasonal maintenance to buying and installing a new air conditioning unit at your Philadelphia-area home. Contact us today for your free estimate.

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