If you are a home or business space owner, then you need to have at least basic knowledge of the functions of heating and cooling systems. And with that basic know-how comes something that you will surely come across: refrigerant. Refrigerants in your air conditioner are a very important component, as, without them, you cannot really expect your AC unit to produce cool air. What a refrigerant does basically is to absorb environmental heat present in the air, run through the unit’s compressor and evaporator (and changing form to gas and liquid in the process – impressive, huh?) before finally producing the cold air.
But you also have to take note that there is more than one kind of refrigerant; there are actually three different types of them that are present and being used in AC units across the world. These three refrigerants are distinct from each other and are not interchangeable – using one type of refrigerant to a unit that uses a different type can damage it. Thus, you also need to know what these three kinds of refrigerants are and which your AC uses.
Chlorofluorocarbons used to be the most common type of refrigerant present in the earlier generations of AC units. They were prevalent because they were affordable and easiest to procure. But if you are familiar with environmental efforts in the later 1980s, CFCs became very unpopular because it was discovered that they are major contributors to the greenhouse gas effect, which in turn means that they are highly damaging to the environment. Thus, production of CFCs like R12 has altogether stopped since 1995, and AC manufacturers dropped their use for AC units since the start of the new millennium. Now, if you have an old house that has not experienced any changes in equipment since 2000, that still-functioning AC almost certainly contains CFC. It is highly encouraged that you don’t use it anymore or better yet, replace it.
Don’t buy equipment that uses CFC refrigerants. Consider product life and future availability of refrigerant when considering purchasing equipment that uses HCFC refrigerants. If possible, avoid purchasing equipment that uses HCFCs.
With R12 CFCs earning a very bad reputation in the 1990s, freon or R22 took over the reins as the most popular refrigerant variety. However, it didn’t take long for scientists to conclude that like R12, R22 is also dangerous to the environment and is also linked to ozone depletion. Thus, in 2010, the Clean Air Act was passed and manufacturers have also stopped using freon. Last year, efforts have already commenced in completely phasing out the use of freon.
If you’ve been getting by with an air conditioner that’s leaking refrigerant by periodically adding more R22 refrigerant (which we DO NOT recommend by the way), that will become cost-prohibitive and now is the time to figure out your plan for replacing the system.
With R12 and R22 gone, R410A has come into the picture as the most popular refrigerant. Also known as Puron, R410A does not have chlorine as an ingredient, therefore was concluded to not be as damaging to the environment while still having the same cooling characteristics as R12 and R22. Puron-driven ACs have also been noted to run more efficiently and produce higher air quality. Take note, though: an AC system that still runs on R22 cannot run on Puron. So, if you have an AC that runs on freon with microscopic holes on its refrigerant lines, you cannot replace the freon with Puron. You need to replace the entire unit.
While an R-410A system still uses harsh chemicals, it is not as damaging to the environment. It does not harm the ozone layer or cause cancer like R-22 refrigerant does, and will help your system work efficiently with less environmental impact. It is still not perfect, but it’s the best the industry has for now.
What to use?
There is usually information on what refrigerant an AC uses on its compressor or evaporator, where you will find a plate or sticker declaring it. As stated earlier, you cannot interchange these refrigerants, so as of the moment, upgrading your system to ne that uses puron is the only available option for you, since production of R12 and R22 have already stopped.
As the supply becomes limited, you may end up paying more for a repair that requires R22 refrigerant than a down payment on a new heat pump or AC system. Just remember that ACs and heat pumps are not designed to consume refrigerant.
To make your search for home cooling and heating repair services a breeze, look no further than Air Check’s Repair Page.