Cool and comfortable. As long as it stays like this at home, most of us don’t spend much time thinking about what goes on in our air conditioning unit. Despite the complexity of these mechanical systems, one common thing all refrigeration equipment needs is refrigerant. Refrigerants have low boiling points and are ideal substances to absorb heat from spaces needing cooling. The first air conditioners and refrigerators used dangerous gases such as ammonia, methyl chloride, or propane. DuPont developed the first non-toxic, non-flammable refrigerant gas, Freon, a chloroflurocarbon (CFC) in the 1920’s. Unknown at the time of development, the chlorine found in CFC’s chemically interacts with the protective ozone layer and depletes it. R-22 Freon has been the most widely used hydrogenated CFC (HCFC) in residential air conditioning.
The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer initiated in the late 1980’s aimed to phase out halogenated hydrocarbons thought to deplete the ozone layer. Central air conditioning unit manufacturers stopped producing R-22 air conditioner systems with encased R-22 in 2010. Production of R-22 will be reduced 95% by 2015, and 100% or complete reduction by 2020. After 2020, the phase out will be complete.
R-410A is the most popular choice to replace R-22 in home air conditioners because its performance is similar to R-22. R-410A does not contain chlorine, and hence it is less damaging to the ozone layer. Even though the air conditioning cycle of R-410A and R-22 are same, there are some major differences. R-410A operates at 60 percent higher pressure than R-22, so it puts extra pressure on all AC components. It is also not compatible with mineral oil used in R-22 systems. Compressors or coils that work with R-410A cannot be mix-matched with compressors or coils of existing R-22 systems. All manufacturers have developed replacement central air conditioning systems that operate with R-410A.
As the supply of R-22 dwindles, repairs to R-22 based systems will become more expensive. It is unknown how long manufacturers will continue to make replacement parts for R-22 systems. The question home owners will face in the coming decade is whether to put a bandage on their HCFC-based system through repairs, or to convert to a more environmentally-friendly option in R-410A systems. For advice in Nashville, TN and the Middle Tennessee area, please call 615-837-4449 or visit our website.