Although there are different types of air conditioners, there are several common denominators that apply to all of them: they make living in Florida bearable, make your home more comfortable, and they all need refrigerant to function. While those first two elements are easy to understand, what’s the deal with refrigerant and what on earth is R22, exactly? What’s going on with it, and why are there any issues about its legality?
What is R22?
Air conditioners absorb the warm air inside your home, remove the humidity, cool it, and cycle it back out through your return vents. The component that cools it down is a gas called refrigerant. R22 is another name for Freon, a type of refrigerant that was most commonly used in air conditioners that were manufactured prior to 2010.
Why Is the Environmental Protection Agency Phasing Out R22?
While Freon works efficiently, it also depletes the ozone layer. Other noxious effects include an increase in UV rays (which translates to higher incidences of skin cancer) and a faster rate of global warming. Because of this, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) amended the Clean Air Act, requiring that all air conditioners manufactured on or after January 1, 2010, use an environmentally friendly refrigerant instead of R22.
How Do I Know If My Air Conditioner Uses R22 Refrigerant?
If you know for a fact that your AC unit is older than 2010, chances are that it uses R22. However, if you purchased your home after that date and aren’t sure, you can verify the type of refrigerant your air conditioner uses by checking on the AC’s nameplate. This is located on the condenser unit (the outside unit of your AC). The field will be clearly labeled refrigerant.
When Will R22 Become Illegal?
If your air conditioner requires R22, the only way the Freon can be purchased legally is if it’s done so by an EPA certified HVAC technician. However, the EPA has classified R22 as a Class II controlled substance, and it will be completely phased out by 2020.
What are the Other Available Refrigerant Options for Homeowners?
If your air conditioner currently requires R22 refrigerant, it means that it’s older than 10 years old. The standard lifespan of an AC is between 15 and 20 years. If yours is approaching that date, put it in your radar that at some point, you’ll have to replace it. The new air conditioner will not have R22 as its refrigerant.
On the other hand, if your AC is around a decade old and it works fine, you shouldn’t panic. If you’ve been providing it with regular maintenance, it will likely last several more years without any issues. Unlike coolant for cars, refrigerants in air conditioners don’t need to be topped off. The only time you would ever need to deal with an air conditioner’s refrigerant is if you experience a leak, in which case, you want to bring in an AC technician ASAP, since breathing refrigerant can lead to poisoning.
Signs of a Refrigerant Leak
Signs of a refrigerant leak include:
- A hissing sound
- The AC is not cooling
- Frost is forming on the condenser (exterior) unit
- It feels humid inside your home
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Symptoms of a Refrigerant Poisoning
Symptoms of refrigerant poisoning include:
- Scratchy throat
- Coughing fits
- Irritated eyes
Don’t think for one minute that you can get around the phase-out by purchasing a different type of refrigerant. If your air conditioner requires R22, and you use a different kind on it, it may not work well with your unit – even if the AC is still under warranty, the manufacturer would void it for using a different refrigerant. Some HVAC technicians may use R407C as an alternative, but you should never make this decision on your own. Contact an experienced professional any time you have to deal with your air conditioner’s refrigerant.
AC Repair Service in Broward, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie
At Sansone Air Conditioning Electrical & Plumbing, we’re here to help you stay cool and fix your AC issues. If you live in Broward, Palm Beach, or St. Lucie, we’ll make sure your AC is in optimal condition.
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