Servicing Existing r22 Units and Installing New r410a Units

Air conditioning units manufactured before 2010 use r22 refrigerant to keep your house cool in the summer, but it won’t be long before the refrigerant will not be available. This is due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate that this refrigerant be replaced with a new formulation that will not damage the ozone layer in the atmosphere.

When service companies check out your older units they will look for leaks, repairing them when found and replace any refrigerant that may have been lost in order to keep your system operating efficiently. However, as the phase out of r22 refrigerant continues, the available supply of the gas will become more expensive, making it economically impractical to keep it fully charged. By the year 2020 manufacturers will no longer be allowed to produce r22 refrigerant and supplies will be limited to the gas that was captured from existing units and recycled for further use.

The EPA made this mandate after the U.S. signed the Montreal Protocol that provided for the discontinued use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) used in the manufacturing of r22. The newly approved gas, r410a uses a blend of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) that, while still considered harmful to the environment as a greenhouse gas, does not contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer.

The new r410a refrigerant has a higher operating pressure than r22 and will not work in existing equipment. It is more expensive to manufacture as well, but with the supply of r22 rapidly dwindling, it will end up being comparatively less expensive as the phase out of r22 continues. Currently, r22 costs about three times as much as it did when the phase out began in 1998, and is expected to continue to increase until its manufacture is completely banned in 2020. It will eventually be unavailable for use at any price.

Homeowners need to examine their current air conditioning units, which includes heat pumps that were manufactured prior to 2010, to determine if they will last long enough to make repairing them economical. Realize that every time a heating and air conditioning technician connects testing equipment to the unit it allows some gas to escape that will need to be replaced. If there are other problems with an older unit, such as a compressor or evaporator, parts may also be difficult to get as manufacturers move onto new units.

The new refrigerant will not work in older units and the old refrigerant will not work in new models. Homeowners will need to work closely with their heating and cooling company to evaluate the expected longevity of their current system to determine if they need to go ahead and replace it. It may be an expensive proposition for some, but sitting in a hot house next summer may end up being an uncomfortable alternative.

In deciding whether or not to replace the current air conditioning system the age of the unit, its relative condition and how long the owner plans to remain in the house should be considered. If the owner plans to sell, a new air conditioner that uses r410a refrigerant could be a selling point.

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Comments 2 comments

Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

This is great information and well written. Luckily I have no use for it currently but, will share it incase someone does.

Better Yourself profile image

Better Yourself 4 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Angela!

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