You probably don’t spend much time thinking about the coolant in your central air conditioning system. But the older your A/C unit, the more likely it is that it uses R22 refrigerant—aka Freon or HCFC22.
For decades Freon was the industry standard for A/C refrigerant, but it is now being phased out worldwide because it’s an ozone-depleting substance. In fact, on January 1, 2020, it will be illegal to manufacture or import any R22 into the United States, which has implications for anyone with an air conditioner that utilizes R22/Freon.
How Do You Know if Your HVAC System Uses R22?
If your system was installed sometime during this decade it’s likely it utilizes the coolant R410a (Puron) that has replaced R22—which manufacturers began to phase in approximately 15 years ago. But if it’s a pre-2010 unit there’s a good chance it’s R22.
If you’re not sure, check your system manual or condenser (outside unit); the type of refrigerant will be highlighted on a sticker or identified in the fine print on the nameplate or call a professional for help.
What Are Your Options for a Freon System?
If you have a unit that utilizes R22 and it develops a leak between now and 2020 you can still recharge the system using R22, assuming it’s available and you can afford it. (R22 is now decidedly scarce, and as a result, increasingly expensive. Also you need an EPA-certified technician to obtain R22 on your behalf).
The only other realistic option is to replace your air conditioner, as you can’t simply substitute R410a coolant. (In some cases it might be possible to retrofit your unit to accommodate R410a, though it probably makes no sense to spend money retrofitting a unit that is already at least nine or ten years old.)
New Central A/C Systems Are More Efficient Than Ever
While replacing your central A/C may seem a daunting prospect from a financial perspective, you may recoup a large portion of your investment in energy savings.
According to energy.gov, “today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid-1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only ten years old, you may save 20% to 40% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.”
Of course, a new unit that uses R410a as coolant will also be better for the environment, as R410a has an ozone depletion rating of zero. Better yet, ASHRAE has given R410a a rating of A1 for safety, yet another consideration.
As for the most energy-efficient new models, consider looking for ENERGY STAR® and Energy Guide labels as “qualified central units are about 15% more efficient than standard models,” notes energy.gov. Also, “consider purchasing a system with a higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) than the minimum for greater savings.”
Want more information about the factors that influence the cost of a new residential central air conditioning system? See our recent post titled How Much Does New Central Air Conditioning Cost?
Jewell Mechanical: Your Residential A/C Installation Experts
As for the timing of your purchase, fall is a great time to install a new residential air conditioning system, as you can make buying decisions at your leisure (as opposed to having to replace a unit in an emergency or in the middle of a heat wave).
Jewell Mechanical technicians are trained on the latest HVAC equipment, including systems from Rheem, American Standard, Mitsubishi and all other major brands. We’ll get your new system installed and operational quickly and efficiently, minimizing inconvenience for you and your family.
If you have questions about R22, R410a or installing a new central air conditioning system in your home, don’t hesitate to give Jewell Mechanical a call at (615) 469-5965. We provide HVAC services for the Metro Davidson County area and the majority of Middle Tennessee.