R22 Refrigerant and Your Old AC Unit

Date Published: August 17, 2020

Home appliance technology changes over time. This can be easily seen in the difference between current washing machines or refrigerators and the ones we had when we were growing up.

However, some of these changes are more subtle but can still affect us in sometimes costly ways.

One example of this is the refrigerant in your AC unit. There are 2 main types of refrigerant: R22 refrigerant and R410a.

R22 Refrigerant on the tag

R22 Refrigerant aka Freon

R22 refrigerant or more commonly known as “Freon” was the industry standard for refrigerant in all applications for many years. This is likely what you will find on the tag of an AC unit that was built prior to 2010.

R22 Freon worked well in this application for many years, but as more research was done on the chemical, scientists realized it had harmful effects on global warming since the process of using and manufacturing the product was linked directly to stratospheric ozone destruction.

As the world became more in tune with environmental concerns, manufactures and lawmakers found a need to switch to a more sustainable product.

On January 1st, 2010, the use of R22 was outlawed in the production of refrigeration and AC units by the EPA. This was replaced by the more environmentally-friendly R410a and other refrigerant blends.

Although this change has had positive impacts on global warming, the transition process has had other effects on owners of older R22-based AC units.

R22 Refrigerant has been replaced with R410a on this newer unit

Problems with transitioning from R22 to R410a

After the use of R22 was banned in new applications, its production substantially dropped off globally, which subsequently has dramatically increased the cost of the material.

However, there are still millions of devices installed and on the market that still contain R22. These products are prone to issues and will need to be repaired over time. Some of these repairs may require adding more R22 refrigerant to the unit, which now creates a very costly repair.

There are also reports of HVAC professionals having a very difficult time finding the older coolant material at all!

Unfortunately, you can’t simply switch from one refrigerant to another. AC units are designed and calibrated for a specific type. So if a repair is extremely costly, or your HVAC professional can’t find R22, there is really only one solution: Replacement.

Older AC unit with R22 Refrigerant

Benefits of transitioning to R410a from R22

Fortunately, there are a few upsides of replacing that old AC unit for a new R410a-powered device.

The first one is obvious. Using a newer material that is now the industry standard will make any repairs quite a bit easier.

Also, you can feel good about your purchase because R410a is quite a bit more friendly to the environment when it is produced – a small, but important, piece in the puzzle of preventing ozone destruction!

On top of benefiting the earth, you can also benefit yourself. R410a is more effective at its job of retaining and releasing heat which makes it more energy efficient. This will help in reducing your energy bill.

Although it may not have been the smoothest transition, adopting R410a is the right thing to do for the world and for the consumer.

If you are one of the unlucky ones running into this problem, take it as a way to help the planet, reduce your energy bills, and have one less item pop up on your home inspection report.

Speaking of, if you are looking for a home inspection along the Colorado Front Range area, take a look at our inspection services!

As home inspectors, we always visually inspect AC units and test them when the outside temperature allows. And, we note in our reports what type of coolant is present in the unit so that you are aware of what you might be up against down the road.

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About the Author: Chris Scott

Chris Scott is an ASHI certified home inspector with multiple years of experience in home inspections, blower door testing, duct leakage testing, and Boulder Rental License Inspections. Chris is also the Website Coordinator for Scott Home Inspection.

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