Aside from knowing the cost of their energy bill, relatively few people think about what flows through the coils of their air conditioning unit’s compressor and cooling department.
But soon, air conditioning units may become top of mind for many Americans. That’s because hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC-22) or R-22, the cooling agent traditionally used in many air conditioners, is going away.
R-22 is a principal component of the trademark-named refrigerant “Freon,” but it would be inaccurate to say that Freon is going away. That’s because Freon is not one single product. It is a brand of many products manufactured by the Chemours Co.
Now that that’s cleared up, let’s talk about why R-22 is going away and how it affects you.
R-22 Phase-Out: What You Need to Know
A U.S. government ban on R-22 is set to take effect on January 1, 2020.
The ban is part of a gradual phase-out initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rid the United States of all ozone-depleting substances. In essence, R-22 is harmful to the environment.
Whether you will need to eventually buy a new unit, retrofit your old unit or replace some component parts to comply with the EPA ban largely depends on a few things.
But first, you may want to know whether your air conditioner (or your refrigerator) uses R-22 or not.
How to Know What Kind of Refrigerant Your Unit Uses
On an air conditioner, you should be able to find what type of refrigerant it uses at the following places:
- Owner’s manual
- Manufacturers website (know your model number)
- Call your local hardware store and tell them your unit info and they should be able to tell you
On your refrigerator, you can look for a refrigerant label in the following places:
- Manufacturer’s data plate
- On a sticker atop or near the condenser
- Outside the unit, sometimes on or near the condenser
Another Way to Find Out…
If you know the year your system was manufactured, that could help you find out what type of refrigerant your unit uses. Typically, if it was manufactured before 2010, your unit likely uses R-22.
If you bought your AC unit or refrigerator after 2010 — which is when the EPA told manufacturers to stop making R-22-friendly units — it likely runs on R-410A, the agency says.
Let’s talk about R-410A and other R-22 replacements…
Best R-22 Replacements
- R-410A has become the dominant choice for many AC manufacturers. It has many brand names, such as Puron or Suva 410A, depending on the company.
- R-454B, or Opteon, is also an emerging alternative.
- For refrigerators, R-404A and R-507 are among the options, according to this EPA list.
Now let’s answer the big question: Will consumers be required to stop using their air conditioners and refrigerators due to the ban on R-22?
The EPA answers the question quite clearly: “No. You will not have to stop using HCFC-22 [on January 1, 2020], and you will not have to replace existing equipment just to switch to a new refrigerant.”
In summary, despite the R-22 ban, the government wants you to know that your units won’t become obsolete anytime soon.
When your unit needs fixing, the EPA says, “After 2020, the servicing of systems with R-22 will rely on recycled or stockpiled quantities.”