R-22 Freon – What you should know!

Most air conditioning systems manufactured before 2010 were very likely made with R-22 Refrigerant.  R-22 refrigerant is a chemical that keeps the air coming from your air conditioner cool and that’s why in Texas we buy them!  The R22 refrigerant is also identified as Freon and the EPA noted it as HCFC-22.  This refrigerant was a favorite with the HVACR industries since it was considered the safest and cost efficient. 

R22 refrigerant was introduced in the 1950’s and became the leader of residential heating and cooling until “The Montreal Protocol”.  The Montreal Protocol was developed in 1987 and the program is responsible not only for Refrigerant (Freon) regulation and laws, but for ridding the environment of any substances that harm the ozone layer.   When the U.S. EPA in cooperation with other agencies and groups around the world, initiated a phase out of many ozone-depleting agents as part of an international agreement.  The regulations list many HCFC’s and CFC’s, these are different types of refrigerants that deplete the ozone layer.  R22 refrigerant was considered one of the worst offenders.

If you have an older system, the best way to find whether your refrigerant is R22, look on your data tag that is on your outside unit.  The refrigerant is located beside HCF or HCFC and usually before the pounds and ounces.     

I realize as a homeowner, buying a new unit is costly.  When you purchase a new unit, most of us expect the unit to last at least 11 to 13 years.  If your system is older and already showing signs of its age, and you are having costly repairs, it would be time to consider replacing it.  When your unit starts having numerous issues, you will find the price to be costly and prohibitive to keep.  The price for a pound of R22 refrigerant has skyrocketed.  Some of the replacement parts are hard to acquire for an older unit with R22 refrigerant, it becomes costly to keep the unit in proper working order.   Your unit could last longer than expected if you have continuously maintained the unit.  Proper maintenance of your unit is as important for your Air Conditioning unit as it is for a vehicle.  Proper maintenance helps prevent refrigerant leaks and, if a leak happens, technicians will catch it early. 

There are several other options out there that are considered a R22 refrigerant drop in or replacement.  Owners should proceed with extreme caution!  Most units are designed with the refrigerant they are designed to use.  There is not an exact replacement alternative for R22, as of now it does not exist.  Changing refrigerant is not as easy as changing the oil in a car, it requires an engineered approach that evaluates the hardware, lubrication, refrigerant and controls to optimize performance.  Replacements could cause system efficiency losses and your unit not to perform as it should.

It is always wise before making any decisions about refrigerant conversions to talk to a qualified person to inform you of the pro’s and cons.    

Trish Callahan