Russell's Heating & AC
Jul 17 2018

Should I Replace an Air Conditioner That Uses R-22 Refrigerant?

You may have heard something about air conditioners that run on R-22 refrigerant, and realized that your home has one. What you probably heard was that R-22 is being phased out and it’s a good idea to have a new AC put in as a replacement before too long. These aren’t just rumors or hearsay: if you have an older air conditioner that uses R-22 refrigerant, we strongly urge you to arrange for an air conditioning replacement in Palm Springs, CA in the near future.

What Is R-22?

The earliest refrigerants used for air conditioners were toxic or flammable, but they were eventually replaced with safer chemical blends. R-22 (chlorodifluoromethane) was one of the most widespread, both for residential and commercial use. It became the most common type of refrigerant for both central air conditioners in homes and for window units. It replaced a number of known ozone-depleting blends such as CFC-11 and CFC-12.

Unfortunately, R-22 is still not ozone-depleting enough for the current standards, and it’s also a greenhouse gas with high global warming potential that’s more than 1800 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. For these reasons, global phaseout efforts started in the late 1990s to replace R-22 with an ozone-safe blend called R-410A, which also is a less powerful greenhouse gas.

The Phaseout in the U.S.

In accordance with the Montreal Protocol, the United States has started in earnest a complete phaseout of R-22 to be completed by 2020—right around the corner. The first three stages have already been reached:

  • 2004 – The U.S. reduces consumption of R-22 and all hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by 35%.
  • 2010 – All U.S. manufacturers of air conditioners no longer manufacture systems that use R22. (If your current system was installed after this, then it uses R-410A or another non-ozone-depleting blend.)
  • 2015 – The consumption of R-22 and other HCFCs reduced by 90%.
  • 2020 – Phaseout completed, with no further R-22 produced to service existing systems. Only refrigerant that has been recycled and reclaimed will be allowed to be used.

What This Means for Your AC

Air conditioning system do not “use up” refrigerant as they run, so if you have an R-22 system, you theoretically shouldn’t need to worry about having to add more refrigerant. But that theoretical part is important, because leaking refrigerant is a common problem. Right now R-22 is extremely costly to purchase because so little of it is being manufactured. And in a few years, it will be almost impossible to fix an R-22 air conditioner with a leak. We encourage you to start planning to replace your aging system—and it’s probably old enough that you’d want to replace it no matter what.

With fall coming up in a couple of months and a period of cooler weather (well, cooler for where we live), we’d recommend scheduling an air conditioning replacement service with us to install an AC that uses R-410A. There are many benefits to reap from a new system, such as increased energy efficiency and fewer worries about an AC breakdown. But knowing you’ll always be able to replace the refrigerant without worry in case of a leak is one of the best benefits.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning: We’re open 24 hours to serve the Inland Empire and the Desert Communities.

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