As you may have heard, R-22 refrigerant is being phased out of use in air conditioners in the United States, to be replaced with R-410A. In fact, since 2010, all new air conditioners installed in the U.S. must use R-410A, and starting in 2020, R-22 will be completely banned from use here. Which leads us to the question—why? Why are we getting rid of R-22, and what can we expect from using R-410A instead?
First, let’s talk about what R-22 is and why it’s being banned. R-22, commonly known by the brand name Freon, is a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), while R-410A is not. As National Geographic explains in their article “The Facts of Ozone Depletion,” CFCs are the chemicals most responsible for damaging the earth’s ozone layer over the past several decades. The ozone layer is a layer high up in the earth’s atmosphere that protects us from harmful ultraviolet B radiation from the sun. Not only does increasing ultraviolet B radiation hurt animals and plants, it also causes skin cancer and cataracts in humans. Since nations around the world have started taking steps to limit the release of CFCs, damage to the ozone layer has been slowly reversing. Replacing R-22 with R-410A will help to ensure that our ozone layer heals completely so that it can continue protecting us from that harmful radiation.
Now that you know why R-22 won’t be available for much longer, let’s talk about how the switch to R-410A will affect our air conditioning systems. There’s good news and bad news, but the good outweighs the bad. The bad news is that R-410A operates at a higher pressure than R-22, which means that systems built for R-22 can’t handle being filled with R-410A instead. Therefore, air conditioners built before 2010 will need to be replaced by 2020. However, the normal lifespan of an air conditioner is about 10-15 years anyway, so that’s not necessarily going to shorten the use of any AC unit by very much.
Here’s the good news. R-410A is better at absorbing and releasing heat than R-22, which means that air conditioners using the new refrigerant are more efficient, needing less energy to run and causing less wear and tear on the system. Also, the oil used with R-410A mixes better with the refrigerant, which will also lead to less wear and tear on the compressor. Overall, using R-410A should save money over time through lower energy and repair bills.
So, the switch from R-22 to R-410A may seem inconvenient, but in the long run it will have positive benefits for both your wallet and the environment. And that’s what we call a win-win.