Like many homeowners in Sacramento, CA, you’ve probably heard of the forthcoming change in residential AC refrigerants. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency began phasing out the use of R22. The first step in this phase-out was to outlaw the production of new air conditioners that rely on this refrigerant. As of January 2020, R22 can no longer be legally produced within the United States, and the importation of this refrigerant has been outlawed as well. If you haven’t started doing so already, now is the time to learn more about R401A and its effectiveness as a replacement for R22.
Why Has R22 Been Outlawed?
Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are chemicals that deplete the earth’s ozone layer. R22, also known as Freon, is an HCFC. Its widespread and long-term use throughout the country has had a significant impact on the natural environment. Recognizing this, legislative bodies throughout the world are making a concerted effort to eliminate the use of HCFCs throughout both the public and private sectors. In fact, many nations throughout the world have banded together to accomplish this. By 2030, very few HCFCs will remain in circulation. Freon is unlikely to be among them.
What Is R401A and Why Is It Better for the Environment?
R401A does not deplete the earth’s ozone layer. Also known as Puron, R401A is a non-ozone-depleting hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). As more consumers throughout the country switch to R401A, air conditioners in general use will have a far lesser toll on the environment.
However, R401A does produce some greenhouse emissions. These gases contribute to the global warming effect. As such, researchers are still looking for a refrigerant that provides efficient cooling and has a minimal carbon footprint. Fortunately for both HVAC companies and consumers alike, R401A is poised to remain the industry standard for residential AC refrigerants for many years to come.
Even as new refrigerants are being discovered, the widespread adoption of these alternatives will take time. As such, the R401A air conditioners that are being purchased and installed right now will have already reached the ends of their lifespans before the next residential refrigerant phase-out is implemented.
Can I Still Buy R22 if My Current Air Conditioner Needs a Recharge?
At present, there remains a finite supply of Freon in the country. For now, most homeowners are still able to access it from local HVAC companies and other suppliers when recharge services are needed. However, they may notice that Freon recharges are slightly more costly than they once were. This is truer for larger air conditioners with greater cooling capacity. However, as time goes on, Freon stores will invariably become scarce. If the demand for this refrigerant remains high even as the available supply declines, the cost of recharging an R22 air conditioner could become excessive.
New R22 air conditioners have not been manufactured in the United States since 2010. Due to this fact, most air conditioners that still rely on Freon have been in use for at least ten years. After approximately a decade of use, many AC models lose a considerable amount of their efficiency. Moreover, this is the time in their lifespans during which the need for repairs often arises with increasing frequency.
When you consider both the rising costs of maintaining any outdated air conditioner and the increasing costs of R22, upgrading to a modern R401A air conditioner makes the most financial sense.
Can I Still Get My R22 Air Conditioner Maintained?
Just as the industry standard for AC refrigerants has changed, the industry standard for air conditioners has changed as well. All new air conditioners that have been manufactured for use in a residential setting are R401A air conditioners. This has been the case for more than 10 years. Throughout this time, HVAC training has gradually moved away from the maintenance, repair, and installation of R22 air conditioners and towards servicing R401A equipment. As such, the ability to work on an R22 air conditioner is becoming a highly specialized skill.
Even though there are still a number of licensed HVAC companies and technicians that are capable of working on this equipment, this won’t always be the case. In addition to struggling to find and pay for R22, many homeowners may find it increasingly difficult to locate qualified contractors to perform the work they need. This is yet another reason to consider upgrading your air conditioner soon.
Is It Possible to Put R401A In My R22 Air Conditioner?
R401A and R22 are comparable in their effect. However, this is where their similarities stop. These two refrigerants have very different compositions. R22 operates at far lower pressure levels than R401A does. The air conditioners that use R22 are not built to handle the significantly higher pressure that R401A subjects cooling equipment to.
Attempting to recharge your R22 AC system with R401A could prove both damaging and dangerous. With the related pressure increases, many air conditioner components would rupture or collapse. Sadly, the first to go would likely be the AC compressor.
It is possible to retrofit an R22 air conditioner to tolerate the pressure that using R401A entails. However, doing so would instantly void any active warranties, including any home warranties that cover HVAC equipment. It is also important to note that retrofitting an R22 AC for R401A is costly, time-consuming, and not always guaranteed to work. Nearly every major component within your current air conditioning system would have to be changed out. In most cases, the cost of this project would match or exceed the costs of buying a new air conditioner outright.
Should I Get Rid of My R22 Air Conditioner?
For many homeowners, upgrading to an R401A air conditioner isn’t an immediate concern. This may be the case for your home if your air conditioner is well-maintained, performing optimally, and still has a significant amount of service life remaining. However, although well-maintained air conditioners rarely need refrigerant recharge services during their lifespans, even a minor refrigerant leak can change all of this.
For consumers who are concerned about their carbon footprints or their overall impact on the natural environment, the sooner that this upgrade is made, the better. The task of eliminating ozone-depleting HCFCs is the responsibility of governments, businesses, and private consumers.
Why R401A Is Actually Better for Air Conditioners
Surprisingly, in addition to being better for the natural environment, Puron also happens to be better for AC compressors. This starts with the fact that R401A air conditioners use a synthetic lubricant that’s far superior to the mineral oil that R22 air conditioners rely on. This synthetic lubricant helps minimize compressor wear and promotes optimum compressor performance.
R401A additionally has superior heat absorption abilities. This refrigerant both absorbs and releases more heat than Freon does. It also limits stress on AC compressors, prevents burnout, and extends their lifespans as a result.
Throughout the greater Sacramento, CA area, Gallagher's Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning is a trusted provider of HVAC and plumbing services. We also offer air purification systems, duct cleaning, and indoor air quality services. If you’re ready to upgrade your R22 air conditioner to an AC system that uses Puron, we’ve got you covered. Give us a call now to schedule an appointment.