Refrigerant: a compound typically found in either a fluid or gaseous state. It willingly absorbs heat from the environment and can provide refrigeration or air conditioning when combined with other components such as compressors and evaporators.
How It Works:
Without refrigerant, there would be no air conditioning, refrigeration or freezing technology. Which, if it was up to me, I’d say that is very important.
Air conditioners contain refrigerant inside copper coils. As refrigerant absorbs heat from indoor air, it transitions from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid. Air conditioning components send the refrigerant outside where a fan blows hot air over the coils and exhausts it to the exterior.
The refrigerant then cools down and turns back into a low-pressure gas. Another fan located inside the home blows air over the cool coils to distribute the resulting cold air throughout the building. Then the cycle repeats.
Is There Only 1 Kind?
Turns out that there are 3 different kinds of refrigerant such as:
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), including R12. This is known to contribute to the greenhouse gas effect. Production of new stocks ceased in 1994.
- Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R22.Slightly less damaging to the ozone than R12, but the EPA has still mandated a phase out as a result of the Clean Air Act of 2010. R22 will phase out completely by 2020.
- Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), including R410A and R134. With no chlorine in the mix, this is safer for the environment and is now being used in place of R22. Air conditioners that run on R410A are more efficient, offer better air quality, increase comfort and improve reliability.
How Do I Know When To Upgrade?
Go outside and take a look at the exterior component of your air conditioner. If it says R22 on the side, you’re cooling your home with an outdated, environmentally hazardous refrigerant. The EPA doesn’t require you to upgrade your equipment immediately, but if the system springs a refrigerant leak, depleting supplies of R22 could make the repair more expensive than it’s worth.
You can’t simply replace R22 with R410A because system parts aren’t compatible. This means the next time your aging air conditioner requires a repair – especially a refrigerant-related one – it’s probably time to upgrade to a unit that runs on R410A. While this requires an investment, the resulting increased efficiency, better air quality, increased comfort and improved reliability are well worth it!