HVAC systems have been around for a long time, with the first modern air conditioner built by Willis Haviland Carrier in 1902. Modern systems use updated components and technology that complies with the current needs of people and various regulations. If you still have an old HVAC system, there’s a chance that it could still be using an R-22 refrigerant, which is an air conditioning chemical that enables air conditioners to cool spaces. Since R-22 is bad for your health and the environment, its production has been stopped since 2020.
Today, we share essential information about the R-22 refrigerant and what to do if your HVAC system still uses it.
What Is a Refrigerant?
The fluid that travels inside the coils of your air conditioner or heat pump is called a refrigerant. Various pressures are put on the refrigerant by the compressor, condenser and evaporator in your system, causing it to physically convert between liquid and gas phases. R-22 rapidly absorbs or gives off heat to the air traveling over the coils when its pressure varies, affecting the temperature of that air. This conditioned air eventually finds its way into the different rooms in your home.
Why Was R-22 Refrigerant Phased Out?
For many years, R-22 has been the most widely used refrigerant in air conditioners. However, R-22 is extremely harmful to the environment, and leaks can cause significant damage to the ozone layer. This is why experts recommended it to be phased out. A treaty made in 1987 called the Montreal Protocol made this happen.
The Montreal Protocol is a global agreement to maintain the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and use of ozone-depleting chemicals. The treaty covers the usage of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and halons that destroy the earth’s ozone layer, which shields the earth from harmful ultraviolet (UV-B) rays generated by the sun. CFCs and HCFCs also warm the lower atmosphere of the earth, changing the global climate. R-22 falls into this category of chemicals and is also known as HCFC-22. This is why air condition repair services are important — leaking R-22 can impact the environment.
What Replaces R-22 Then?
The environmentally friendly R410a is being used to replace R-22. R410a is not only better for the environment, but it is also more efficient and effective at heating and cooling your home. As a result, households using air conditioners with R410a refrigerants typically have lower energy costs and better indoor climate management. Even if R-22 wasn’t phased out, R410a is a far superior choice because of its improved performance and minimal environmental impact.
How Do I Know What Kind of Refrigerant My System Uses?
Look at the sticker on the compressor unit outside to see which type of refrigerant your air conditioner uses. It will clearly state which refrigerant the unit uses. Most systems manufactured beyond 2010 typically don’t use R-22 as a refrigerant. If the label is unreadable or has been worn out, have your air condition repair contractor identify the refrigerant in your system instead. It is important to know that different types of refrigerants work with different types of operating pressures. For example, R410a can’t be used in R-22-optimized systems as it requires an operating pressure that is 40% to 70% higher.
How Does This Affect Me?
The ban doesn’t necessarily mean you should replace your working R-22 unit. However, since the production and import of this refrigerant are now illegal, you won’t be able to buy R-22 elsewhere. That said, if you still have an old HVAC system, it is highly recommended to replace it with a modern unit.
Furthermore, HVAC systems that use R-22 can no longer be replenished if ever leaks start appearing. As stated above, manufacturers are no longer making this refrigerant.
What Should I Do if I Have an R-22 System?
It is important to remember that refrigerant doesn’t run out, but it can leak out, prompting a need for replenishment. You have several choices to make if your system uses R-22 or HCFC-22. Here are some of the things you should consider:
- Repair – Repairing and refilling your system with R-22 would be a viable option before, but not now. You may be able to find R-22, but this will likely be illegal and expensive. If your system is diagnosed to have insufficient R-22, this is likely due to leaks that can’t be easily repaired.
- Retrofit – It is possible to rig your old R-22 system so that it can take in a different type of refrigerant. However, this is not a cost-effective solution. This option will also void your warranties since HVAC systems are designed to work with specific refrigerants only. If you use the wrong refrigerant, it could result in leaks, and your unit could break down simply because it is not designed to work that way. This option is costly and ineffective in the long run, but it can be a viable choice if you’re planning to replace your unit in the future.
- Replacement – This choice is the best course of action as you’ll be addressing many issues in one replacement. You’ll be getting a more modern and efficient HVAC system that works with readily available refrigerants, and you’ll be saving more money in the long term when it comes to repairs and maintenance. Moreover, the level of comfort and convenience you’ll get from modern systems are generally superior compared to older systems.
EZ Air Conditioning and Heating is a reputable air condition service provider with over 20 years of experience. From installation to maintenance, we are confident that our well-trained technicians will provide you with the high-quality HVAC services you deserve. We distinguish ourselves from our competitors by providing first-rate services and having a significant amount of positive comments from our customers. We also offer other services including duct cleaning, home automation, attic insulation and more.
Need an HVAC system replacement? Consult our experts by calling us at (210) 429-9186 or filling out our contact form. We look forward to connecting with you!