Is There A Special Coolant Necessary For My Home AC System?

A couple of years ago the government announced that it was changing its refrigerant standards that apply to residential central air conditioners.  R-22, which is the most common refrigerant or coolant that is used in home air conditioning systems, is being phased out and will be eliminated from being used by 2020.  That is due to the fact that R-22 is harmful to the environment.

This new regulation is requiring air conditioner manufacturers to stop shipping R-22 refrigerant with air conditioning systems that are newly produced.  These days, when you purchase a new air conditioner it most likely it will contain R-140A, which is a more environmentally friendly refrigerant or coolant, or a legal alternative.

There are also some manufacturers that are making new air conditioners which are referred to as ‘dry charge’ systems.  They are designed to use R-22 refrigerant, but rather than shipping the units with the refrigerant inside of them, the refrigerant gets added after delivery by a contractor during the installation process.

These new refrigerant policies have many homeowners wondering whether a special coolant is necessary for their AC unit now.  They wonder what the best solution is if they need to have an AC repair done or any problems arise with their air conditioning system, especially in regard to the coolant.  At that point, should a homeowner pay to have their air conditioning system recharged with the old R-22 refrigerant, or try using a different refrigerant, or purchase a brand new air conditioning unit?

When purchasing a new air conditioner, should a homeowner purchase a new R-401A refrigerant system or take a risk and purchase one of the dry-charge systems that are being offered?  Although the dry-charge system might be cheaper in the short-term, over the long-term that will not be any new R-22 coolant produced after 2019, so the cost of this refrigerant is likely to skyrocket.

The best solution for the homeowner in terms of what coolant to use in their AC unit will depend on their specific situation, given that every family and home is different.  The following is some additional information to help guide in your decision-making process.

How can I tell what type of coolant is used in my current air conditioning system?

There is a nameplate on most air conditioning units that details what type of refrigerant is contained in it.  With central air conditioning systems, usually the nameplate is on the outdoor unit to see the best application for tdx20.  You can also check the owner’s manual or contact the company that sold the air conditioner to you or check the manufacturer’s website or contact them directly.

Why has the cost of servicing my home’s air conditioner gone up so much?

In some cases, repairing or servicing your home air conditioning system will require refrigerant to be replaced or added.  There has been a dramatic increase cost of R-22 refrigerant since its production is being phased out due to the new government regulations.

Why are they phasing out R-22 refrigerant? 

For over 40 years, R-22 has been the top refrigerant choice for residential air conditioning systems.  Unfortunately, R-22 releases, frequently due to leaks, is harmful to the environment and contributes to the depletion of the ozone.  R-22 is a type of greenhouse gas, and the R-22 manufacturing process also contributes to the effects of global warming.

Will homeowners be required to stop operating air conditioning systems that run on R-22 coolant?

No, homeowners will not have to stop using their AC with R-22 and won’t be required to replace any of their existing equipment.  They will just need to switch over to a more environmentally friendly, new refrigerant. There is a long phase-out period that gives time for to switch over to an ozone-friendly refrigerant when you replace your heat pump or air conditioner.  However, as R-22 supplies become less readily available, there will continue to be a dramatic increase in cost.  R-22 will not be produced any longer starting in 2020.  Homeowners will have to rely on reclaimed or recycled R-22 refrigerant to service any air conditioning system that is still being used.

Are there approved R-22 replacements that are available and cost effective for necessary repairs?

There are some alternative replacement refrigerants. “Drop-in” replacement refrigerants are sold to use in existing R-22 AC systems. However, many of the substitute refrigerants don’t work well unless some alterations are made to system components. Also, a majority of manufacturers haven’t approved using drop-in refrigerants because of concerns regarding compatibility as well as how they may impact system reliability.  This has results in most HVAC technicians continuing to use R-22 refrigerant for repairs like leaks to the system.

Newer air conditioning systems use R410A, which a more environmentally friendly coolant. Since R410 is a totally different type of refrigerant, it may not be mixed with R-22 or used in an existing air conditioning system that has been designed to run on R-22.  Whenever a new R410A AC unit is installed the indoor coil and outdoor unit both must be replaced.

What viable options are available when an AC system operating with R-22 needs to be serviced?

We strongly discourage the use of drop-in refrigerants, especially if your system is still under warranty. If the air conditioning system is more than 10 years old, then replacing the entire system with a new one that uses R-410A is a good option.  A new system is much more energy efficient and can result is significant savings on energy costs.

As you can see there are several options available for homeowners in terms of the coolant used in their home AC system.  Some of the newer alternatives for R-22 are not recommended since they can void your warranty or may not be fully compatible with AC systems that have been designed to be used with R-22.  Once your AC system is approaching 10 years old, it will often make sense to purchase a new system that runs on the newer, more environmentally-friendly R410A refrigerant.  It will provide you with a more energy efficient system and can save you a significant amount on your utility bills.

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