If your AC system is not cooling properly it may be because your system is low on refrigerant.
Older systems use a refrigerant called R22.
R22 refrigerant, sometimes called HCFC-22 and more famously known in the AC industry as Freon, was introduced in the 1950s and quickly became the standard refrigerant in the HVAC industry.
Seventy years later, the US government has banned the production and import of R22 refrigerants, causing prices of R22 to skyrocket.
If you have an HVAC system using Freon or R22 refrigerant and are debating if to replace your system or have your current one repaired, this article is for you.
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What is an R22 Refrigerant?
Before talking about R22 refrigerants, let's understand what a refrigerant is in your HVAC system.
A refrigerant is a chemical substance charged into your HVAC system coils and copper tubing.
This substance changes form between liquid and gas with the help of the AC compressor and through your home's cooling or heating (if you have a heat pump) cycles.
R22 is the chemical refrigerant that became standard until 2010 when the government began the phaseout process and banned the sale and import in 2020.
R22 is a type of hydrochlorofluorocarbon, hence the name HCFC-22.
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons contain carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine, produced as volatile derivatives of methane, ethane, and propane derivatives.
Why is R22 Refrigerant Banned?
The US government and governments worldwide have banned the production and use of R22 refrigerants due to the environmental hazards they create.
R22, or Freon, is an ozone-depleting substance.
Ozone is the protective layer in our atmosphere, protecting us from the sun's damaging UV rays.
If your system has a refrigerant leak, the R22 gets released into the atmosphere causing damage to the earth's ozone layer.
At scale, this can have serious environmental effects.
For that reason, the US government has decided to phase out the use of these types of refrigerants and ozone-depleting substances.
What is the New Standard (R410A)?
R410A is the new standard in the residential HVAC industry.
R410A is a better alternative to R22 for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, it is not an ozone-depleting substance.
Additionally, it is considered a more efficient refrigerant that reaches much cooler temperatures, therefore cooling your home faster while consuming less energy.
Unfortunately, R410 is also underway to begin a phase-out process that has not been outlined yet.
How do You know if You have an R22 Refrigerant?
If your system was built or installed before January 1, 2010, there is a good chance it is using R22 refrigerant.
To be sure, you can check on the side of your condenser.
Your condenser will always have details regarding the specifications of your system.
Among those is the refrigerant your system uses.
If you are unsure how to read this, you can contact an HVAC professional to help you determine what refrigerant your system uses.
What Should You Do if You Need to Repair an HVAC System With R22 Refrigerant?
If you are debating to repair, retrofit, or replace your system, we will break down some of the pros and cons of each.
Repairing your HVAC system will sometimes feel like a better choice when facing a decision.
However, it can sometimes cost you more in the long run.
A system running on R22 is older and is prone to more problems, costing you more money in repairs in the short run.
R22 refrigerant is no longer in production, and as the supply gets smaller, the prices go up.
Meaning any refrigerant recharge to your system will cost you more than you think it should.
Another alternative is retrofitting your system to work with R410A refrigerant.
This is the last option you should consider.
Retrofitting your system means adapting your current system to operate with R410A.
Retrofitting an R22 refrigerant system requires modifications, which can be costly, and even damaging to your system.
R22 and R410A are designed to operate at different pressure levels, whereas R410A works at much higher PSIs.
High pressure on a system that is designed to work with lower pressures can cause damage.
On the other hand, you can consider replacing your air conditioning system altogether.
There are many HVAC financing options out there. And it could be a reasonable route for you to take.
You will have a brand new system that runs flawlessly, and you may even reduce your yearly utility operating costs with a high-efficiency system.
Before you decide if to repair or replace your system, you should always consult with an HVAC professional.