If you own an air conditioner manufactured before 2010, you may notice that it uses a refrigerant known as R22.
You may also notice that it can be exceedingly difficult to find an R22 replacement. Try as you might; you may not be able to find it anywhere in your local area.
So, what is that all about? Is R22 still available? Can it be replaced with an alternative refrigerant, or do you need to give up your system altogether? We want to discuss that, and a little bit more, on this page.
Is R22 Refrigerant Still Available?
R22 refrigerant is no longer being produced. However, it is still available. Anything produced before the R22 phase-out is still available. Since R22 was a common refrigerant used in air conditioners, any decommissioned air conditions will likely have R22 recovered from them.
As time goes on, there will be a lower amount of R22 refrigerant available. Within the decade, you can pretty much guarantee that supplies will have completely dried up. Even now, it is tough to find in some areas.
What is R22 Refrigerant?
R22, sometimes referred to as Chlorodifluormethane, or HCFC-22, is a refrigerant designed for air conditioners, although it has also been used as a propellant in other applications.
The purpose of a refrigerant is to help absorb the heat from the air that flows through the air conditioner. The refrigerant accomplishes this by cycling between being a gas and a liquid.
A refrigerant is one of the most important components of an air conditioning system. Without it, the air conditioner wouldn’t be able to cool down anything.
Since 2010, the use of R22 in the United States has started to be phased out. This means that it is no longer being produced. No new items are allowed to be manufactured with R22.
The European Union has gone a step beyond this. There, you are not even allowed to repair systems using R22 now. If R22 is used in the system, then it needs to be converted or safely disposed of.
Why R22 Refrigerant is Phased Out
Why Is R-22 Being Phased Out?
First of all, let’s break down why R-22 is being eliminated in the first place.
While the standard refrigerant used in HVAC units for decades, the 1992 Montreal Protocol made it clear in no uncertain terms that freon needed to be eliminated from HVAC units in every possible regard.
Since then, consistent, legitimate progress has been made. The U.S. EPA met its goal to make it virtually impossible to get R-22 by 2020.
R-22 has been proven repeatedly to be a significant cause of damage to the ozone layer. For this reason, the material has been gradually eliminated from the production process involved in creating new HVAC units. Conversely, the resources available to technicians who service these units have been phased out, as well.
At this point, if your R-22 unit still needs work, the technician you hire will need to source their recycled freon. This may not be possible. At the very least, it’s going to be increasingly expensive.
This would be another reason why many experts suggest that those who still own freon-based HVAC units have them replaced.
How do you Tell if you have R22 or 410A?
You have a couple of methods available to you.
Probably the simplest method is to look for a sticker on the air conditioner. This will tell you exactly what refrigerant is used in the air conditioner.
If you do not have a sticker on the air conditioner, you will need to consult the manual for your air conditioner. If you do not have one, then check online.
If you still don’t know, then talk to an air conditioner service agent. They will be able to identify the refrigerant for you.
Remember, you mustn’t put the wrong refrigerant in the system. If you do, it could cause it to break.
What do I do if My Air Conditioner Uses R22?
At the moment, you can still buy R22 refrigerants. It isn’t going to be easy to find, but it exists. As long as you do not have any major leaks, then you should be fine.
However, it is suggested that if you do use an air conditioner that runs on R22, you should probably consider replacing it soon, or at least upgrading it to accept R410A refrigerant. At least this way, you are going to be protected should you be struggling to find R22.
Can I Replace R22 with R410A?
Not directly, no.
You can convert your air conditioning system to use R410A, but this can cost several thousand dollars. At that point, you will probably be best off buying a new air conditioner.
If you wish to convert your R22 system to an R410A, this will need to be carried out by a specialist. Unless you are licensed to handle R410A, you are not legally allowed to refill any system with it. Although, you can still purchase the refrigerant.
Benefits of R410A
There are several reasons why we are starting to see systems convert to R410A. The major reason is that R22 is illegal to produce now. However, there are several other benefits to R410A too.
The major one being that it does not have those o-zone layer-depleting chemicals. It is still going to be bad for the environment, but at least it won’t be ripping a hole in the ozone layer at the same time.
R410A is much more energy-efficient than R22 too. While it does require some heavier duty components to use, when you have a system that operates on R410A, it could save you a little bit of money on your energy bills.
Since R410A is still being manufactured, it is a lot more affordable to recharge your R410A system. The cost of R410A is just a fraction of the cost of R22.
How Much does it Cost to Convert R22 to R410A?
It depends on where you are located and the type of air conditioner that you currently have. However, you can expect it to cost about $5,000 to upgrade an air conditioner to use R410A refrigerant. As you can probably guess, this probably isn’t going to be worth the money if you have an older air conditioner.
Can I Replace R22 with R134a?
No. R134A will not work in a system that has been designed to be used with R22.
This is because an R134A systëm converts between gas and liquid at a vastly different temperature than R22. If you add R134A into the system, it won’t be efficient at all. Well, that is if it even works.
What is the Best Replacement for R22?
R-407C is going to be a bit closer to R22 than many of the other alternatives. It isn’t as efficient, but the efficiency will sit somewhere between the 5% to 10% mark, so it will not be a significant issue.
It tends to be a lot more affordable than other alternatives too.
It is important to remember that if you add R-407C to the system, the system will need to be emptied beforehand. If you do not do this, then it could end up causing issues, i.e., you probably shouldn’t be combining R22 with R-407C. Some people do, but it is never going to be recommended.
What Refrigerant can be Mixed with R22?
While you shouldn’t be mixing R22 with other refrigerants, some people mix them with one of the following:
It is never really going to be ideal, but it may be able to help keep your system ticking over in the interim, i.e. before you can replace the system or upgrade it.
It would help if you only used those refrigerants to top off a small amount, not tons of refrigerant.
What Happens if you Put R410a in an R22 system?
An R22 system probably wouldn’t work if you placed R410A into it.
R410A is designed to be used at a higher pressure than an R22 system. An R22 system wouldn’t be able to operate at those sorts of pressures. Therefore, nothing would happen.
The air wouldn’t cool down. You probably wouldn’t break the components inside the air conditioner either. It just wouldn’t work with R410A.
You can, of course, convert your system to use R410A. If you do this, then it should be perfectly fine to load up with R410A. However, do bear in mind that this is not a simple process. It is also not going to be cheap. Converting the system could easily set you back several thousand dollars.
What you have to Think About
R22 refrigerant is slowly disappearing. It hasn’t been actively produced for several years now. This means that if you find any R22, it will either have been produced before the phase-out or recovered from old, decommissioned air conditioners.
If you have an R22 air conditioner, it will probably be in your best interests to swap it out as soon as you can. This way, you can be sure that you are using a better product (but still not great) for the environment.
If you purchase an air conditioner nowadays, it is likely to use a refrigerant known as R410A. As you may well know, in the past, certain refrigerants were being phased out.
As a result, many people are wondering whether R410A is likely to go the same way. This is the question that we are looking to answer on this page.
Is R410A Refrigerant Being Phased Out?
R410A refrigerant is not currently being phased out. While there are plans to phase it out soon, many modern air conditioners are being built to use R410A as part of their cooling system. R410A will likely start to be phased out in 2024. It is estimated that the process will last until 2034.
What is R410A Refrigerant?
R410A, sometimes known as Puron, is a refrigerant used primarily in the production of air conditioning systems.
R410A is known as a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), a type of refrigerant that does not utilize chlorine in the mixture. This is better than previous refrigerant options (CFC and HCFC)
R410A, like most refrigerants, is designed to remove heat from the air. It accomplishes this through a cycle of being a liquid, evaporating into a gas, and then returning to a liquid state.
In your air conditioning system, the R410A will be run through a series of copper coils. These copper coils run past the air that is being brought into the system. As the R410A pulls heat from the air, it will turn into a liquid. Later on, it is cooled back down to become a gas.
Is R410A Refrigerant Dangerous?
Let’s start by talking about how dangerous it is to humans/animals. This information comes from the fact sheet of the R410A refrigerant, so this is the most accurate information available at the time of writing.
Now, a lot of people seem to believe that R410A is operated at high pressure. It is. It is operated at a higher pressure than other refrigerants. However, people also believe that this high pressure can lead to serious injury if somebody bears its brunt. This isn’t the case. It only operates at 400psi. At the most, it is going to cause you a little bit of pain. It isn’t going to slice fingers off, as some people seem to believe.
R410A is not dangerous if ingested either. While it probably wouldn’t be wise to drink R410A, it would likely cause a bit of irritation in the stomach. That being said, drinking R410A like this is unlikely. It would have evaporated long before it hits your mouth.
R410A may be dangerous to inhale, although it is dependent on how much is inhaled and what the oxygen is like in the room where it is inhaled. Inhaling can result in dizziness or headaches. In extremely rare cases, it can result in death.
Contact with any part of your skin could result in frostbite, or at the very least, severe irritation. Although, this only applies if you come into contact with the liquid form of R410A.
In terms of danger to the environment, it is said that 1kg of R410A is more dangerous than 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This means that leaking R410A is hugely dangerous to the environment. This is why regulatory agencies are concerned about even the smallest of leaks.
Granted, R410A is still less dangerous to the environment than previous refrigerants. It isn’t massively better, but in a widely used product, every little helps, right?
How Do I Determine What Type Refrigerant My AC Uses?
The manual for your air conditioner should always list the type of refrigerant that is being used. If you do not have the manual to hand, we suggest that you search for the make and model online.
In some cases, there will also be a small sticker on the air conditioner that will tell you what type of coolant it uses too.
Remember, you should never be guessing what type of refrigerant you should be putting into your air conditioner. You need to get it right.
Is R410A as good as R22?
It depends on what you define as ‘good.’
R410A is a much more energy-efficient product. This is because it is far better at being able to pull the heat out of the air. However, it needs to be operated at a far higher pressure than R22. So, if you have an R410A air conditioner, it will likely require more maintenance to ensure that the components are not suffering from too much wear and tear.
On the safety front, R410A is far superior to R22. While R410A can be dangerous, it does not impact the ozone layer in the same way R22 does. Although, do not take this statement to mean that R410A is good for the environment. It isn’t. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Can I Buy an R410A Refrigerant?
Yes. You can purchase an R410A refrigerant. However, you need to be licensed to handle and use it. So, while you can buy R410A easily, you must hand it over to an expert to refill your air conditioner for you. This has only been applied since January 2018.
The reason for this change is to help protect the environment. The hope is that having experts refill the air conditioner means that any leaks are spotted and patched up. This will help to prevent HFCs from seeping into the atmosphere.
What Refrigerant is Replacing 410A?
R-32 is the refrigerant that is likely to end up replacing R410A over the next few decades. In fact, in some areas of refrigeration, this has already begun.
While R-32 is still going to impact the environment, it is said that it only impacts the environment about a third as much as R410A, which certainlý does make it a suitable replacement.
Do not expect air conditioners, at least those on the more affordable side of things, to be using R32 any time soon, though. At the time of writing, it is very much reserved for the more expensive air conditioners. Expect that to change from about 2024 onward when R410A begins the period where it is phased out.
What is a Fair Price for an R410A Refrigerant?
The price for R410A refrigerants can vary quite a bit. It is all down to the availability of the product. You can expect the price of R410A to go up from 2024 onward.
At the moment, you can expect to pay between $4 and $10 per pound for it.
What Type of Certification do I need to Buy R410a Refrigerant?
You do not need any certification to buy an R410A refrigerant. Well, at least not legally. Some suppliers have been known to ask for a certification purely for purchase.
A certificate is only required to handle and use it. This means one of the following:
- EPA Section 608 Type II
- Universal Certification
Both of these are obtained via the EPA. You will have to study the safe handling of R410A refrigerants. You will then need to complete an examination of around 50 questions before you are handed the certificate.
Can R32 Replace R410A?
No. The chemical composition is different. A system designed for one type of refrigerant will rarely work with another one. If you tried to put R32 into a system designed for R410A, then the air conditioner will not work. The air conditioner could likely end up breaking.
Do You Need To Replace Your Home AC Refrigerant?
As freon (also known as R-22) has been phased out during 2020, many homeowners are now asking themselves: Do you need to replace your home AC refrigerant? A specific answer depends on the age of the unit currently in your home.
Again, the answer depends on the age of the air conditioner itself. Yes, if it’s significantly old, and no, if it was purchased relatively recently (say, the last 5-7 years)
The good news is that the answers to these questions are pretty straightforward. If you have purchased a newer home AC unit, you probably don’t need to be concerned. This is because as freon has been phased out over the past decade, more and more companies are making units that use green-friendly refrigerants.
You can check with an HVAC expert or check the owner’s manual for more information if you aren’t sure.
Now, let’s discuss what you need to do going forward if your unit is old enough to rely on freon to work correctly. Do you need to toss this one, replacing it with a more environmentally-friendly option?
In the long term, yes, you should replace or make alterations to your existing AC unit. However, the full answer to this question is not as simple as that.
New EPA Refrigerant Regulations 2020
In a nutshell, here are the EPA refrigerant regulations for 2020 and beyond:
- Freon, also known as R-22 and HCFC-22, has been shown through repeated studies over the past few decades to be highly damaging to the ozone layer.
- The United States Environmental Protection Agency and other groups and agencies throughout the world established a commitment to phasing the material out.
- The EPA’s commitment to the issue took its most dramatic shift in 2010 when manufacturers were no longer allowed to build HVAC units that utilized freon.
- Rather than use freon, AC units built from 2010 to the present utilize a Puron material also going by R410A.
- Studies have made it clear that puron does not harm the ozone layer. Not only has it been shown to be more efficient, but it has also been shown to be much more environmentally sound when compared to freon. Puron also benefits from being considerably cheaper than freon.
- Puron has been the residential AC system standard since 2015.
- The mandate to stop all freon production by 2020 was met.
So, what does this mean for you?
Will New Freon Regulations Affect Your Older AC Unit?
If you’ve purchased an AC unit in the past 5 or so years, the odds are incredibly high that it utilizes Puron. Again, if you aren’t sure, make it a point to check with your owner’s manual. Barring that, ask your HVAC technician the next time you have the unit checked out.
For those who own older AC units, these regulations will impact you on a variety of levels.
For one thing, eventually, you will not be able to get the freon your unit needs to continue functioning correctly. Even then, we’re still talking about something that is not only destructive to the environment but is also going to eventually be more expensive than it would cost you to purchase a puron-based AC unit.
Furthermore, the lifespan of the average air conditioner is approximately 15 years. At this point, depending upon when you purchased your freon AC unit, it may be a good idea to replace the unit for this reason alone.
However, replacing the unit is not legally required on your part. In other words, you aren’t going to get fined or suffer any other consequences for keeping your freon-based unit around.
Even so, as costs continue to make freon virtually impossible to obtain, you should strongly consider addressing this issue in some form or fashion.
To that end, we would suggest retrofitting your AC.
Retrofitting Your AC System to Meet Freon Regulations
While not always possible, some homeowners have opted to retrofit their existing freon-based AC instead of buying a new one. If this option works for you, then, by all means, utilize it as a means of adapting to the new EPA regulations for freon and air conditioners.
All you need to do is figure out if the coils associated with your united can use Puron as its refrigerant.
This is going to be work that is best left to the professionals. At the very least, they can determine whether or not your AC unit can be retrofitted in this fashion, to begin with.
If so, you will want to keep in mind that this work can be quite costly. You may want to weigh the pros and cons of retrofitting an air conditioner against the pros and cons of just buying a new unit altogether.
If successful, your unit will become environmentally friendly and more efficient over the long term. However, retrofitted air conditioners tend to need more in the way of maintenance than a newer unit built to handle Puron in the first place.
Will I Need To Replace My Air Conditioner?
At this point, it should be easy to figure out whether or not you should replace your AC unit, have the unit retrofitted, or not worry about the issue at all. Make sure you know what type of refrigerant your air conditioner is using, and then decide from there.
To reiterate an earlier point, replacing your AC is a good idea if
- Your unit is over a decade old. This means it is getting close to the end of its lifespan. If it is a freon-based unit, retrofitting may still be possible but not particularly cost-effective.
- You want to take advantage of an air conditioner that is more affordable over the long haul, isn’t hazardous to the environment, and runs more efficiently overall. It is time for a replacement.
Is it time to replace the air conditioner? If your answer is yes, make sure an experienced professional is there to assist!