Are You Still Using Freon Refrigerant?

Aug 24, 2020

Still Using Freon Refrigerant?

Refrigerant is what makes air conditioning possible. Because of its unique properties, it can carry heat away from an area and displace it with cooler temperatures, which is kind of how your AC works, in a tiny nutshell.

What’s wrong with Freon refrigerant?

If your AC unit was built and installed before January 1, 2010, it probably relies on Freon refrigerant, also known as R-22; it was the most commonly used refrigerant for decades. That is until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered when AC systems aren’t functioning properly and they leak refrigerant, it’s released into the air and harms the ozone layer.

The EPA implemented a ban on the production and import of R-22 in January. The phaseout process is still in progress. Beginning in 2021, only recycled, reclaimed, or previously produced R-22 can be used to service existing equipment.

What should you do if your AC uses R-22?

1. Upgrade

While it’s not an EPA requirement to install a new system that uses an ozone-friendly substitute refrigerant, the cost of R-22 is increasing. So, if your AC unit needs emergency repairs or has a refrigerant leak, it could be costly.

Newer systems use Puron or R-410A. It’s an EPA-approved refrigerant, cheaper than R-22, and could help lower your energy bill. R-410A converts temperature better, which means you condition more air at a lower cost.

Ultimately, you must decide if you want to continue investing in an older system or get one that’s up to date. In general, most AC systems last between 10 and 15 years, longer with annual maintenance. If your system is older than 10 years, then you’ll likely benefit from the efficiency improvements alone.

2. Retrofit

You can’t replace R-22 with R-410A without some modifications. A proper retrofit requires extensive experience. It involves capturing and completely removing any R-22 still in the system. Then, the lubricating oil must be changed, and gaskets and seals will likely need to be replaced. Finally, the system will need to be recharged with R401A and tested.

Before exploring this option, check your product manufacturer’s warranty to see if it would remain in effect.

3. Maintain

If you’re not ready to upgrade or retrofit your HVAC system that runs on R-22, you should schedule regular maintenance checks to ensure it’s working properly. Under normal operation, refrigerant is not released into the air, so it’s important to keep it running and do regular leak checks. Keep in mind that while there is no deadline for the use of R-22, its availability will decrease and cost will increase.

Who should you contact to service, retrofit, or replace your system?

If you’re unsure about the type of refrigerant used in your HVAC system or would like us to help you find the best solution for an older unit, contact our Service Department at (540) 982-1873 or gjhservice@gjhopkins.com.

Hopkins | Lacy has provided reliable, top-quality service since 1922 and is one of Virginia’s largest and most respected full-service mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) contractors. We can provide the complete MEP life cycle by offering specialty services such as design-build, BIM coordination, fabrication, controls, construction, and preventative maintenance. As a 100 percent employee-owned company, we maintain a staff of dedicated, experienced personnel who are committed to the highest standards of integrity, quality, and performance.

Functioning as a business unit of the Branch Group, we serve clients throughout Virginia. Learn more at www.gjhopkins.com.


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