When Will R22 be Replaced as a Refrigerant?
What is Different about R410A?
Does R410A Hurt the Environment?
The Answer Guide
Air conditioners and heat pumps use a refrigerant called R-22. This is a Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), with potential to damage the ozone layer. In 2010, air conditioners using R-22 will no longer be produced. Production of R-22 to service existing equipment will still be permitted until 2020.
R-22 is being replaced in the air conditioning industry with R-410A. In this Answer Guide, we offer a information about R410A homeowners need to know when facing major repairs or replacements.
A Few Facts
Beginning in 2010, no residential air conditioning systems will be built with R-22. The leading replacement is R-410A.
R-410A operates at pressures 50% greater than R-22, affecting product design and field installation practices. Welds on old refrigerant lines may not hold up to the increased pressures.
R-22 uses mineral oil as a lubricant. R-410A uses a synthetic lubricant. These oils cannot mix. You cannot use R-22 components with R-410A components. In some cases it may be possible to clean the old refrigerant lines, though good (and safe) practice dictates replacing them.
The lubricants in R-410A absorb moisture at a faster and greater rate than mineral oil, making installation more difficult and maintenance more critical.
The lubricants in R-410A carry copper oxides and other contaminants through the system that mineral oil left in place. These have the potential to clog thermostatic expansion valves, furthering the need for annual maintenance.
Why do we need to change refrigerants?
R-22 is in a class of chemicals called Hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs. HCFCs are comprised of hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine, and carbon molecules. It is believed that the chemicals break down over time and the chlorine atoms end up in the stratosphere, where they interact with ozone, depleting the ozone layer.
Stratospheric ozone protects us from harmful ultraviolet rays. A reduction in the ozone layer will lead to more skin cancer, more cataracts, and reduced crop yields. For this reason, the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental agreement was established in 1987 to specify the elimination of HCFCs and the more harmful Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
How is R-410A different?
R-410A is a Hydrofluorocarbon, ( HFC), made up of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon atoms. It lacks the chlorine, believed to be harmful to the environment. R-410A has zero ozone depletion potential.
How does this affect me?
Over time the price of R-22 will increase and the price of R-410A will fall. If your old air conditioner uses R-22, you will pay more if you need to add refrigerant because of a leak.
Because of high moisture absorption rates with R-410A lubricants, low cost filter driers should be installed in the refrigeration circuit of R-410A systems. Annual maintenance, which should be performed on all systems is critical for R-410A systems.
Because of the R-22 phase out and because R-410A will be the standard in 2010, homeowners should consider replacing air conditioners with systems using R-410A today. When faced with a major repair or component replacement, homeowners should likewise consider replacing the entire system with a new R-410A system. At minimum, today’s R-410A systems are 30% more efficient than the systems built before 2006. If your air conditioner is more than 10 years old, the savings can range from 50% to 70%.