A lot is changed about air conditioners over the past few decades, but one aspect that's remained constant is the type of refrigerant they used. Traditionally, residential air conditioners relied mainly on R-22, also known as Freon, due to its exceptional cooling capabilities. However, the refrigerant also represented an environmental risk due to its negative impact on the ozone layer.
As a result, R-22 is being phased out in favor of environmentally friendlier alternatives such as R-410A. Read on to find out how this important change could affect you the next time you purchase an A/C system for your home.
What to Expect
From a consumer's perspective, you might not notice anything different between the air conditioners of the previous decade and the new units that are on sale today. Modern air conditioners that rely on R-410A and other HFC-based refrigerants can match and, in many cases, exceed the cooling performance of their R-22-using predecessors. In addition, the newer HFC-based refrigerants are for more efficient at absorbing and releasing heat, making the air conditioners that rely on these refrigerants more energy efficient than their older counterparts.
In short, you can expect to own an A/C system that'll use less energy while offering similar or better cooling performance. When it comes to service, you should have no problem having your HFC-based A/C system recharged. Supplies of R-410A are plentiful and with the vast majority of new units using the refrigerant, you won't have to worry about paying more for service due to scarce refrigerant supplies.
Despite the vast majority of air conditioning systems being made to use R-410A and other HFC-based refrigerants, there are still plenty of brand-new air conditioners that rely on R-22. Unlike the former, however, the latter are usually "dry-shipped" or delivered to the installation site without being pre-charged with refrigerant at the factory. Instead, it's up to the HVAC contractor to source supplies of R-22 during the installation process.
With supplies of virgin R-22 dwindling due to the phase-out campaign, having a dry-shipped air conditioner installed and properly charged could prove expensive. Once R-22 supplies are finally exhausted in the near future, you may find yourself choosing between finding a compatible alternative to R-22 or replacing your current A/C system with one that relies on more common refrigerants like R-410A.
As you search for the right A/C system for your home, it's important to consider how recent changes in refrigeration technology will affect your purchase at installation, as well as several years from now.