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What To Know: A Comprehensive Guide to R22 Refrigerant Replacement

Refrigerant Replacement

The world of air conditioners is changing quickly. In one way, the machines themselves are becoming more efficient and effective at achieving the perfect level of comfort in your home. 

But that’s not the whole story. Refrigerant, a compound that is used in air conditioners to cool warm air from outside, is also changing. Currently, the most common refrigerant—R22, which was used in all air conditioning units manufactured before 2010—is being phased out.

R22 has been found to be extremely harmful to the ozone layer and to air quality standards, which led the industry to develop other, safer refrigerant alternatives. However, using a new refrigerant means you typically need a new air conditioning system. 

All of Meenan’s air conditioning technicians are EPA-certified, which means they’ve received training to safely and effectively deal with R22 and all other types of refrigerants. Before you contact us to replace your air conditioning units, we wanted to inform you of what R22 is, its impact on the environment, and what alternatives are being used to make air conditioning systems more environmentally friendly. 

As always, contact Meenan today if you have any immediate questions, or want to schedule a technician to check out how to optimize your air conditioning system. 

Refrigerants - An FAQ

R22 - What Is It?
R22 is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), a type of colorless gas that can be used as a propellant and refrigerant. 

Used in all types of cooling systems including residential and vehicle air conditioning systems, R22 essentially removes heat from a space that’s been sucked into a heat pump, allowing cooled air to escape. 

Why Are We Phasing Out R22?

While many types of chemicals impact the health of our ozone layer, HCFCs are known to be especially destructive. Research has revealed that R22 is not only one of the worst depletors of the ozone layer, but it is also a greenhouse gas more than 1,800 times more powerful than carbon in warming the planet. 

The United States Clean Air Act and the international Montreal Protocol have put forth guidelines to end production of R22, only allowing it in limited amounts to be reclaimed from the air.

Since 2012, the price of R22 has risen by well over 300 percent, meaning it’s becoming prohibitively expensive for air conditioning services—and eventually consumers—to replace in air conditioning units.

Does My Air Conditioner Use R22?

While other refrigerants have been used since R22 was introduced, chances are very likely that your air conditioning unit does use R22. Nearly all units produced in 2010 and prior were outfitted to use R22.

If you’re curious, you can check the nameplate on the air conditioning unit to determine what kind of refrigerant it uses. 

When Will R22 Be Totally Phased Out?

According to the Montreal Protocol, R22 production must be completely finished by 2020. That means the only way to obtain R22 is through environmental reclamation, a prohibitively expensive process.

If R22 is Unsafe, What is a Safer Alternative?

When it comes to refrigerants, there are many alternatives to R22 available on the market. 

Air conditioning units being currently produced use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants. These compounds have no effect on the ozone layer and have a much lower Global Warming Potential rating (GWP). They also cool spaces as well as R22, so there’s no loss in effectiveness.

Common new refrigerants being produced are R410A, R134A, R407C, and R407A.

What Are My Options if My System Still Uses R22?

While it would be more environmentally responsible to replace your system, that is not the only option. 

Continue Using Your R22-Compatible System - If your air conditioning system is working properly, you do not have to replace your R22-compatible system. It is advised to have your system repaired if it isn’t running at peak efficiency.

If you do need more refrigerant, know that R22 is quickly becoming even more expensive as no new R22 can be produced or imported into the United States. 

Drop-In Refrigerants - Other “drop-in” refrigerants are available as a replacement of R22, but they are not nearly as effective as new refrigerants or fresh R22. 

Install a New System - The most cost-effective and environmentally responsible option is to have a new system that uses a modern refrigerant installed. While this may create a large up-front cost, our technicians can install a high-performing, modern system that will pay for itself from the utility savings you’ll experience. 

An added financial benefit to installing a new system is being one of only a few improvements that will actually increase the sale value of your home. 

What About Using A Modern Refrigerant in My R22-Compatible System?

This is unfortunately not an option. If you put R410A—or any other modern refrigerant—in a R22-compatible system, your unit could break down.

How Do I Safely Dispose of R22?

It is illegal to dispose of R22 improperly. You also can’t throw out your old air conditioner without paying a fee for it to be picked up. 

Having one of our EPA-certified technicians service your old system—or replace it with a modern system—is the best way to safely and effectively deal with your aging air conditioning unit. Failure to effectively dispose of your R22 refrigerant will put you in violation of the Clean Air Act and current EPA regulations, so contact us today!

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