R22 & R410a Refrigerants

Did you notice your air conditioner didn’t make your home super cold this summer or the unit keeps freezing up? Even though summer is over, this is actually a great time to have the system checked.

If the AC unit isn’t working properly, it could be low on freon, the refrigerant used to cool your home. Low on freon means there could be a leak in one of three places. Any solder joints need to be checked inside and out, the condenser coil and the evaporator coil.

A device can find the leak either outside or inside the unit in the evaporator coils. The leak can usually be fixed, but there’s a bigger problem. AC units that are more than 10 years old use a type of freon called R22, which is considered by the EPA to harm the ozone when it leaks. By the year 2020, R22 freon can no longer be produced under the Clean Air Act. If the system is past 10 to 15 years old, it’s probably not worth fixing at today’s prices for the R22 refrigerant alone.

It already costs homeowners more to fill the unit with freon. R22 used to cost $10 a pound. Now it can cost up to $100 or more per pound and it’s only expected to go higher. Some older heat pumps also use R22 freon. This means in just a few short years, if your older model heat pump or AC unit is low on freon, it may be financially smarter to replace the entire system.

In addition, the new type of freon, called R410A, cannot be used instead of R22. If you use R410a into an R22 system, it will eat up all the seals and burn up the compressor. There are currently few options to use as a replacement for R22 and these are R407c & NU22. Let us know if we can help you to fix that leak, refill your AC system or maybe use a refrigerant replacement for R22.

R410a Refrigerant

Air conditioners used R22 refrigerant for decades until Uncle Sam decided it was attacking the atmosphere or attracting aliens or something. So after January 1, 2020, companies will not be allowed to produce or import R22 to the US. The new refrigerant is called R410a. Any air conditioner manufactured after January 1, 2015, will be required to use R410a. Most air conditioners manufactured after 2010 use R410a, but not all of them.

So why should you know the difference between R22 vs R410? Because the average life of a central air conditioner compressor in our area is about 15 to 20 years. And most R22 air conditioners cannot be updated to use R410. And we live in a free marketplace society, despite the strong efforts of city, state and national governments, which means less (and limited) supply will result in higher prices. Plus, as R-22 becomes harder to find, it will become more expensive. And after 2020 it will likely be extremely expensive. And 2020 is not that far away.

Some R22 refrigerant can be reclaimed from older air conditioners that are being replaced with R410a systems. We as contractors, feel that R22 has already become so expensive it’s becoming less cost-effective to recharge an old system. We can’t state the actual cost of R22, because it fluctuates and no one can predict how high it will go after 2020. Any contractor is currently paying four to five times more for R-22 than just five years ago.

If you need to upgrade your air conditioner or check if we can replace your current refrigerant with R410a, please fill out the form at the top of this page and we will be on our way.

Refrigerant Replacements

For systems five tons or less, we recommend increasing the maintenance visits to at least two leak checks per year, repairing leaks immediately, and recovering, recycling or reclaiming refrigerants.

For equipment larger than 5 tons, we recommend the same strategy of increasing leak checks but also recommend exploring the potential of a refrigerant conversion to an alternative refrigerant. Alternative refrigerants such as R407c, NU22, and others are recommended for equipment 15 tons and less that do not have an effective means to drain oil.

Deciding to pay for a refrigerant conversion obviously will depend on the age of the system. You don’t want to sink money into a system that is approaching or past its useful life. ASHRAE gives packaged unitary equipment a median lifespan of 15 to 20 years, so your system really has to be in the 10- to 14-year mark if you want to explore a conversion. If your system is more than 15 years old, your best bet is to plan for a capital expense to replace the unit.

Call Quantum HVAC for air conditioning repair in Corona today.