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AC Refrigerant: Some Basic Facts That Will Help You

refrigerant-from-AC

We’ve talked in the past about the dangers of refrigerant leaks in an air conditioning system. When an air conditioner loses refrigerant, it not only places the cooling of a home in jeopardy, it puts the entire AC in danger of a full breakdown. 

Refrigerant isn’t an energy source but a heat transfer medium: the air conditioner doesn’t consume refrigerant as it runs, so the same amount of refrigerant (known as the AC’s charge) will remain the same through the system’s lifespan, unless there are leaks. So if you hear a so-called HVAC “technician” tell you that your AC needs to have its refrigerant “topped off,” go find another technician! You only need more refrigerant if the AC has leaks.

Those are a few of the most important facts about refrigerants to know. But we want to add some specific information about refrigerant types. This may help you know if you need new air conditioning in San Marcos, TX.

R-22 (a.k.a. Freon) and the R-22 Phase-Out

There are many different types of refrigerants (referred to as blends) used in residential, commercial, and industrial refrigeration equipment. For many decades, the refrigerant blend used in residential and commercial air conditioning was R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that is also called by its brand name, Freon. This is a source of confusion, because “freon” is often used to refer to any refrigerant, even though the capital-F Freon is only for a specific range of hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

When ozone-depleting substances became a concern in the 1990s, R-22 was identified as a major source. In 2004, the US started a gradual phase-out of R-22. All production of air conditioners using R-22 was discontinued in 2010, then all production of R-22 in 2015. The phase-out ended in 2020, and now the remaining stockpiles of R-22 cannot be used to repair ACs with that are leaking refrigerant.

R-410A—The New Refrigerant Champ

The refrigerant blend that replaced R-22 is known as R-410A or the brand name Puron. It does not create ozone-depleting emissions and is non-flammable, less toxic than R-22, and can consume and release more heat for better cooling capacity. It has a different pressure than R-22, so older ACs cannot be converted to use it. 

If your AC was built before 2010, it uses R-410A. But the majority of air conditioning models built after 2000 use R-410A, so chances are good that you have an AC with this up-to-date refrigerant. 

What If You Have an R-22 Air Conditioner?

If you have an older air conditioning system, check on the nameplate on the condenser to see what refrigerant blend it uses. If it’s R-22 (sometimes writens as “HCFC-22” or just “22”), we strongly recommend you call us right away and arrange for a replacement. The big trouble with having an R-22 air conditioner is that it cannot be repaired if it suffers from a refrigerant leak, which is one of the most common malfunctions in older cooling systems. It’s also less energy efficient, and the system is probably already over 15 years old, which is past the point where it should’ve been replaced no matter what. 

We’re here to help you find out the best path forward when it comes to your air conditioning!

At Thayer Air Conditioning, your comfort is our #1 priority! Call us today for more information about refrigerants and to see if you need a new AC.

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