New laws are about to affect the use of a refrigerant called R22: If you have an air conditioner or similar appliance that uses R22, you may need to make some changes and arrange for new installations to comply with United States regulations. Here's a quick FAQ for everything you need to know!
What is R22?
R22, also called Freon, is a type of refrigerant. Refrigerants are very special gases that can easily absorb heat and condense, so they are used to carry heat in and out of buildings and are one of the most important parts of the average air conditioner system. These refrigerants typically require very careful formulas, and new refrigerants are always being developed to help increase efficiency and safety. However, AC units are typically created to only work with a limited class of refrigerants, so some AC systems need Freon to work – and that’s where the problems come, because R22 is about to become illegal.
Why is R22 Being Outlawed?
Refrigerant tends to leak out in small quantities over time, or escape when an old appliance is thrown away. R22, in this case, rises in the atmosphere until it reaches the ozone layer. The molecules of R22 then bind with and destroy ozone – in fact, it's one of the worst chemicals for the ozone layer ever created. Back in the 1990s, when the "hole" in the ozone layer was growing and the problem was proven to be serious, countries around the world gathered and created what became known as the Montreal Protocol. Among other things, this protocol phased out ozone-destroying chemicals, including many types of refrigerants, with special emphasis placed on R22.
When Does This Law Go Into Effect?
The R22 ban was set as a very slow phase-out over many years. Starting in around 2009, the amount of R22 consumption allowed slowly decreased over time. The final deadline is January 1st, 2020, at which point no R22 will be created, shipped or used.
This means that if you have an AC unit that requires R22, you won't be able to use it any longer. It won't be supported by any contractors. In other words, you'll need to replace it, and sooner is much better than later.
How Can I Tell If My System Uses R22?
There's no immediate method to tell if your unit uses R22. However, if your air conditioner was installed before 2010, there's a good chance that it's using Freon. You can look up the specific model number of your AC unit (which should be clearly visible on the unit itself). Or, you can call a local specialist and ask them to take a look!
Will I Need to Replace My Entire Air Conditioner?
In some cases, you may be able to successfully replace the refrigerant and keep using your AC unit. However, it's important that you ask a professional about this! Switching refrigerant isn't advisable for all units, and in many cases a full AC unit replacement can be a cost-effective choice. You can also ask about any local deals or credits you can get from switching.
Do you have more questions about Freon, or do you want to learn more about your older air conditioner and whether or not it's at risk? Contact Action Heating and Air, Inc. today to request service or ask us a question! We'll be happy to help!