Owning an air conditioning unit comes with maintenance chores that help ensure the optimum cooling function of the unit. Homeowners must familiarize themselves somehow with basic air conditioning know-how so that in the event of issues, they would not be at a loss on understanding what the HVAC technician is trying to say.
The ban on the use of R22 Freon is one of the issues owners of older air conditioning units may want to understand. How will this impact their ownership of an AC that utilizes such type of refrigerant? Is there a health risk to owning an air conditioner that uses R22? Do they have to replace their unit right away? If they choose to continue using their old AC, will they still get access to R22 or could they use another type of refrigerant? This article aims to shed light on these questions, so read on.
What is R22 Refrigerant?
Air conditioners get their cooling power from a chemical called Refrigerant. The refrigerant is the substance that cools the air within the evaporator coils as it transforms warm to cool air during an AC’s heat cycle. R22 is a type of Freon or Refrigerant commonly used in air conditioners older than 10 years. Both residential and industrial air conditioning systems make use of R-22.
R22 also known as HCFC-22 is a Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) that was found to have been contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. The United States implemented a ban on the use of R-22.
Why did the US ban the use of R22?
The United States government, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), banned the use of R22 Freon following studies that reveal it causes ozone layer depletion. When the ozone layer is depleted, Ultra-Violet (UV) Rays will continue penetrating the Earth causing health risks to people, and great harm to the ecosystem. R22 leaks from continued usage cause this type of irreversible damage, hence in 2010 the US banned the production of air conditioners that use R22.
The 10-year phase-down that ended in 2020 meant that it is currently illegal in the United States to manufacture or import R22. However, recovered, and recycled R22 can still be used to service AC units bought and installed before it was banned.
What does it mean for owners of ACs that use R22?
Well, the US government is not forcing AC owners that use R22 to give up and replace their existing air conditioners. Home and business owners may continue using these ACs however, they should be prepared one day to find out from their AC servicing company that R22 prices have further risen or are no longer available in the market.
Since R22 is no longer produced or imported to the US, it will be very scarce. If the time comes that refrigerant replenishment will be difficult or too pricey, then the homeowner may be constrained to just replace his existing unit and use a newer model instead.
How to know if an AC uses R22 Freon?
One of the best indicators is the time the unit was bought. If it was installed more than 10 years ago then chances are it uses R-22. If unsure as to the time the AC was installed, then these three simple tips may help:
- Check the equipment nameplate: Take a look at the outdoor unit or condenser, or the indoor coils and check if there is a nameplate that indicates the specifications of the unit. It is in the same nameplate where the type of refrigerant is usually indicated.
- Take a look at the Owner’s Manual: The Owner’s Manual shows the information on the type of refrigerant utilized by the air conditioning unit.
- Ask a professional: If in doubt as to the type of refrigerant required by the AC system, know that you can always ask a professional. Call us up at Reliable Standard Heating and Air and we will be more than happy to tell you the type of refrigerant used by your system, and how the R22 ban could affect your household.
Is R22 Freon still available in the market?
Yes, there are still recovered and recycled R22 Freon in the market. But since supply is scarce and diminishing, expect to see higher rates demanded by those with existing supplies. It is crucial to have ACs, specifically the tubing or tank for the condensate pump well-maintained to prevent refrigerant leaks that deplete the freon supply. Get in touch with an AC professional who can regularly perform air conditioner maintenance work and tune-up.
How often does an air conditioner need an R22 refill?
Fortunately, ACs do not need regular refilling of R22. Find out the cost of recharging your ac unit. Since air conditioners are a closed system, air conditioner refrigerants get used every cycle, and will only get depleted if there are leaks. It is not like fuel that gets depleted through day-to-day use.
Below are some of the signs of refrigerant leaks or depleted refrigerant supply:
- The AC fails to cool the house.
- There is a sudden spike in home cooling bills.
- The air blown from the vents is not cold at all.
- The refrigerant lines are frozen.
- The heat pump condenser is freezing.
- The unit is making bubbling or hissing sounds when in use.
The only way to confirm if there is a toxic refrigerant freon leak in the AC system is through a thorough professional assessment. An HVAC technician has the technical know-how and equipment to determine whether there is an existing leak, how much refrigerant is lost, and how much replenishment is required by the system.
Usually, leaks are caught during routine AC tune-ups, so it is best to schedule these regularly. Apart from determining and preventing full-blown refrigerant leaks, routine professional care also keeps the AC performing at its optimal condition.
Is there a replacement for R22?
Fortunately, there is a substance that can be used in place of R22. R410A is a designated replacement for R22.
What is the difference between R22 and R410A?
The main difference between R22 and R410A is that it does not cause damage to the environment. R22 is labeled as a greenhouse gas that depletes the ozone layer when leaked into the atmosphere. R410A on the other hand is not a greenhouse gas, therefore safe to use.
Below are some of the benefits of using R410A:
- R410A performs better when it comes to absorbing and releasing heat.
- It does not harm the ecosystem.
- It can be used for all newly manufactured air conditioning systems.
- It is the cheaper option.
What are the options if I have R22 in my AC system?
There are two options available to households that utilize HVAC systems that have R22. They could either replenish R22 using recycled and recovered supplies in the market or replace their existing air conditioning unit. While an outright replacement is expensive, sticking it out with an older AC unit might get costly given the diminishing market supply of R22. If the homeowner chooses to keep using the old AC unit, then he might as well keep it well-maintained to prevent refrigerant leaks.
An advantage to getting a newer AC is that newly manufactured models are more energy efficient. Moreover, the homeowner can avail of federal tax credits that could help cushion the cost of buying a new air conditioner.
Whatever choice you may opt for, know that we at Reliable Standard Heating, Air, & Solar are ready to assist you! We can help you pull out your old AC and install your new AC unit, OR, we can help you keep your existing air conditioner in its optimal condition. Keeping the AC well-maintained helps prevent refrigerant loss. Get in touch with us today!