R22 refrigerant is a chemical that was introduced in the 1950s that is used to keep the air coming from your air conditioning unit cool. It is better known as "Freon", and is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle when it comes to keeping your home comfortable. For years, it was the leading coolant in the air conditioning and refrigeration industry. So what's the big deal with R22 these days?
If any of you reading this post have an A/C unit older than a 2010 model, and have had your unit serviced recently, it is likely that your HVAC technician has mentioned to you about the phase out of R22. Freon has been discovered to be a harmful toxin to the earth's ozone layer. Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a phase out of many harmful chemicals that negatively effect the earth, and R22 just so happens to be one of the worst offenders. Production of R22 has become prohibited, however it is still allowed to be used for servicing existing units that call for freon, if the supply is available.
The problem this creates for homeowners is caused by a basic principle of economics: supply and demand. As the supply of R22 dwindles down, the demand for it still stays relatively the same, as many people across America still have units that require R22 to function. This causes the price of R22 to rise drastically, as the supply is limited. Servicing a unit with R22 becomes more and more expensive. If you are curious as to whether or not your unit uses R22, you can find out by looking at the data plate on your outdoor AC condensing unit. Somewhere on the data plate, it will say something along the lines of "contains HCFC - 22" or "Refrigerant - R22".
Nowadays, newer units are being charged with a new type of refrigerant: R410a, or better known as "Puron" (puron is a name brand, other companies do manufacture R410a). Puron performs slightly better than freon, delivers a higher safety rating, is environmentally friendly, and has been known to provide slightly better energy efficiency. Now, you are probably wondering, "Can I just switch the refrigerant in my current unit from R22 to R410a?" The short answer to that question is "No". Some of you may have heard of "drop in" replacements for units where the unit is retrofitted to utilize R410a. This is not recommended. Almost every time, it voids the manufactures warranty, and also can cost you the same, if not more money to have your unit retrofitted for R410a, rather than replacing the unit entirely. Additionally, this is typically just a temporary fix, and you are almost guaranteed to have future problems if you go this route.
So what are your options? The best and easiest option is also the most obvious: replace your inside and outside unit. This option is not always achievable for homeowners who don't have the extra cash available to make such a large repair. The good news is that some HVAC companies do offer financing for new units, so that can help relieve some of the stress of purchasing an entirely new unit at one time. Another option is to begin budgeting for a system replacement, and ride your current A/C system until servicing it is no longer possible. Again, retrofitting a unit to utilize R410a from R22 is also an option, but not recommended. In a climate like South Louisiana, our air conditioning systems are one of the most important systems in our home, so maintaining them to keep them in good working condition is a must. The more you know about your unit, the better off you are.
Southern Source Inspections, LLC is your premier home inspection company for Baton Rouge, Mandeville, Covington, Slidell, and New Orleans.