A lot of homeowners in Charlotte, North Carolina are still holding onto their R22 air conditioners. Although R22 is currently being phased out, many people believe that it’s the best choice for home cooling. After all, this is the only air conditioner refrigerant that most consumers have ever known. If you have a residential AC system that uses R22, the time for maintaining it has come to an end. R401A has replaced R22 as the industry standard, and it’s superior in every way.
R401A Is Better for the Natural Environment
For many decades, R22 was the only refrigerant used in residential cooling systems. Also known by its branded name, Freon, R22 is an ozone-depleting hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). This means that it depletes the thin, protective layer of the earth’s atmosphere that keeps people, animals, and plants shielded from the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Although the Freon in a single air conditioner isn’t enough to cause extensive ozone damage, nearly every household in the nation used Freon for many years. This AC refrigerant was introduced in 1931 and was only recently banned for both domestic production and importation in 2020.
Comparatively, R401a or Puron is a non-ozone-depleting substance that’s classified as a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC). Although Puron and other HFCs like it do produce negligible amounts of greenhouse gases, HFCs are recognized as being far better for the environment than HCFCs. This is especially true when it comes to their widespread and ongoing use.
Puron Is Also Better for Air Conditioner Compressors
In addition to being a much more environmentally friendly refrigerant than R22, Puron is also a lot easier on AC compressors. To start, R401A air conditioners don’t use the mineral oil lubricants that R22 air conditioners rely on. Instead, they have a superior-quality synthetic oil that keeps their compressors running smoothly.
R401A also absorbs and releases heat more effectively than Freon. When R401A is used in air conditioning systems, their compressors have a much lower likelihood of experiencing burnout.
Why Retrofitting Your Current Air Conditioner Isn’t a Feasible Solution
You might think that the quickest and easiest solution would be to start using Puron in your current cooling equipment. In an ideal world, this would work. However, not only are Freon and Puron vastly different in terms of their chemical composition, but Puron also operates at a far higher level of pressure. This extra pressure would rupture the components in a Freon air conditioner. As such, you’ll have to either replace your R22 AC or have it retrofitted to use Puron.
Unfortunately, these retrofitting projects aren’t guaranteed to succeed. In fact, retrofitted air conditioners are unlikely to perform as expected, and they’re equally unlikely to offer performance that justifies the high costs of these projects. To modify an R22 air conditioner to withstand the pressure of R401A, it’s necessary to upgrade almost all of its internal components. Moreover, given the related risks, projects like these void coverage from both product warranties and home warranties alike.
What’s Happening With R22?
Even though there are still a number of households throughout the nation that still rely on R22 air conditioners, Freon and the AC models that use it are definitely on their way out. In 2010, the United States Environmental Protection Agency made it illegal for manufacturers to continue producing air conditioners that use R22. In 2020, it also became illegal to buy Freon supplies overseas or to produce this refrigerant within the United States. Since this time, there has been a limited supply of R22 remaining in the country. As per the law of supply and demand, each time a consumer pays for refrigerant recharge services that use Freon, the remaining stores of this refrigerant go down, and the price per recharge goes up.
There’s also the fact that new R22 air conditioners haven’t been produced in more than 10 years. For the past decade, training in the HVAC industry for air conditioner technicians has largely been focused on Puron-reliant models. As such, just as it’s becoming increasingly challenging to find affordable Freon, it’s also becoming difficult to find knowledgeable technicians who know their way around R22 air conditioners. Due to this fact, the sooner that homeowners make the transition from Freon to Puron, the easier their lives will be.
For more than 75 years, Putnam Mechanical has been a trusted provider of heating and cooling services throughout Charlotte, North Carolina and the surrounding area. We also offer whole-house wiring, ceiling fan and lighting installation, and preventative maintenance plans. When you’re ready to upgrade your home’s air conditioner, give us a call.