If you’re wondering how the new phase-out might affect your air conditioning system, you’ve come to the right place. The recent phase-out of Freon that was set into motion on January 1, 2020, was in the making for several years. Most residential air conditioning systems are using R 410a now. The reason behind the change was to reduce the impact the gasses have on the ozone layer and the overall environment.
As technology evolves, the desire to reduce pollutants increases, another phase-out most people may not know of in the works.
What is Air Conditioning Refrigerant?
Air conditioner refrigerant is a liquid that flows between outdoor and indoor air units. When your air conditioning unit is turned on, the refrigerant liquid flows and absorbs heat from the air within your home. After the heat is absorbed, the heat is released to the outside or condenser unit.
3 Types of Air Conditioning Refrigerants
For decades the HVAC industry heavily relied on Freon to provide the cooling effect that most homeowners don’t even think about anymore. And for decades, unless there were major Freon leaks when HVAC professionals performed regular AC maintenance, they’d add Freon when a central air conditioning unit was low on refrigerant.
However, because of new EPA regulations, HVAC professionals must use next-generation refrigerants, like the following, to ensure there is enough refrigerant to properly maintain the homeowner’s AC system.
Here are the types of refrigerants:
This type of refrigerant consists of R 12 and is very harmful to the ozone layer. For this reason, the EPA has banned the use of this.
HCFC Home Refrigerant or Freon
HCFC refrigerant has harmful FREO R 22 that causes an increase in greenhouse gases in the environment. While it may not be as harmful to the ozone layer as CFC, R 22 refrigerant should not be used in your air conditioning system. The most notable type of this is Freon.
With consideration of the greenhouse gas effect, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered a phase-out of R 22 by 2020. R 22 refrigerant is now completely banned, and using it as an AC refrigerant is illegal.
If you have an older ac unit, chances are that your air conditioner uses Freon or R22. The refrigerant prices for Freon are at a record high since the EPA planned to phase it out.
While it might be more beneficial to switch to a new air conditioning system to save money, ask your HVAC service pro about how changing from Freon to the new refrigerant will affect your future electricity bills. Higher electricity bills may not be worth the cost of changing to new air conditioners to save on more refrigerant.
With no harmful chlorine gas, this is the safest type of refrigerant. R 410a falls into this category and is environmentally friendly, which is why there is no restriction on using R 410a in your air conditioning systems.
If other refrigerant types are used in your heating and cooling system, then it might be best to replace it with the HFC refrigerant because, after the phase-out, the production of banned refrigerants will be put to a halt. With no production, prices on Freon and other cooling alternatives will increase.
Air Conditioner Refrigerants Operate in a Closed System
Refrigerant use in a residential AC unit or heat pump alone is a clean process. Refrigerant is designed to absorb heat from the present air and move it away in a closed system.
In several instances, that refrigerant is used for many years, even decades. It becomes a problem when the HVAC system breaks down if a leak is present and refrigerant gas escapes.
HVAC technicians use reclaimed refrigerant in the same home any chance they get so that it can be recycled or properly destroyed. In most cases, it is not legal to dispose of HVAC systems without recovering the substance from the HVAC unit properly.
Legislation Behind HFC Refrigerant Reduction for Air Conditioners
Hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) reduction mandates are being established by national and state governments. The phase-out has been in the works at many different levels for several years.
The federal government authorized a 15-year phase-out of HFC refrigerants, including refrigerants used in residential air conditioning units. The American Innovation and Manufacturing Act (AIM) which was signed into law on December 27, 2021, was designed to reduce the use and production of HFC refrigerants.
Since 2018, a number of states have begun mandating limits on the use of HFC refrigerants in order to reach clean air and climate goals. New refrigerant rules were passed to limit the purchase or use of new high-global warming potential refrigerants.
Residential HVAC manufacturers are going to get a jump on the legislation and begin the phase-out of high-global warming potential refrigerant, meaning that new HVAC equipment that is compatible with the new refrigerant is coming soon.
What are the Pros of New Refrigerants for Your Air Conditioning Unit?
The most important pro of the new refrigerants is that they are considered environmentally friendly. There are some that believe the new refrigerants make air conditioners more efficient by reducing electricity use.
The new refrigerants used in air conditioners will continue to be handled carefully, just like they have been for years. If a refrigerant leak is found, it must be resolved quickly, much like now. Refrigerants will also continue to be reclaimed and recycled whenever possible. These policies are environmentally friendly and make good business sense.
What are the Cons of New Refrigerants for Your AC Unit?
There are a number of challenges in working with the new, more environmentally friendly refrigerants.
Mildly Flammable Refrigerants
As you can guess, this is probably the most worrisome issue. Many of the new refrigerants are mildly flammable and require much more training for HVAC technicians to work with them.
Installation and repair could take longer than it normally would with new equipment like vacuum pumps and extra time for gasses to disperse. While welding pipes is a standard skill that technicians do every day, it will be much trickier with the new refrigerants.
Homeowners will need to use an HVAC technician that is meticulous about training and keeping the most recent safety tools and procedures to keep the risks at a minimum.
New refrigerants will require building code changes, and fire safety testing has already begun for firefighters.
Refrigerant Blends Require Special Care
Several new refrigerants are a blend of more than one substance. Recharging an HVAC system will be more complicated because of this. A professional HVAC technician may be unable to easily top off your HVAC unit’s refrigerant levels when fixing minor refrigerant leaks. Instead, they will have to remove all the existing refrigerant and put in new in order for the right ratio to be maintained.
These new refrigerants will require new equipment in order to work properly. An HVAC technician won’t be able to drop in and replace refrigerants in your existing HVAC system.
More Questions About Home AC Refrigerant? Call Pioneer Comfort Systems!
We want to keep you informed about AC refrigerants as they may affect your decisions on repairing or replacing your HVAC system, whether it’s now or in the future. Contact our Shreveport HVAC technicians for more information or a quote on a new AC unit and heater or heat pump system. Enjoy great customer service from our knowledgeable technicians in Shreveport, Benton, Bossier City, LA, and surrounding areas. Call us today at (318) 795-8000 for more information.