Just like with every other technological advancement, there have been great strides made in the field of refrigeration and air conditioning over the years. One of those advancements involves phasing out a type of refrigerant that potentially harms the environment. This refrigerant is R-22, also known by its ‘street name’: Freon. It is a Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) type of refrigerant that for decades was commonly used in air conditioners, heat pumps, even commercial refrigerated walk-in coolers. However, most governments globally decided to phase it out and move to more earth friendly refrigerants that have been shown to be safer for the environment. One of these, which is now the most common refrigerant in residential air conditioning and heating systems is R410A, aka Puron.
The first big step in the phase out was in 2010 when manufacturers were required to stop producing Air Conditioners or Heat Pumps that use R22 and were filled with R22 at the factory. However, a temporary work-around was established. Those same systems could still be manufactured as long as they were NOT filled with R22 at the factory. Then, if they are used to repair an existing system, they could still be legally sold and installed, depending on local building and zoning regulations. Instead of R22 refrigerant, they were filled with a charge of nitrogen gas. Doing this protected the internal components of the units, and ensured they would be in perfect working condition at the time of install, where a technician would have to remove all the nitrogen and then fill the unit with R22. Nitrogen is an inert, or “dry”, gas so these units are typically called “dry charged units” in the HVAC industry.
Like we said, it is a temporary plan. The key to the plan is the word “repair”. Completely new systems that use R22 cannot legally be installed. The purpose of these dry charged units was to provide a simple and relatively inexpensive option for repairing a central air conditioner or heat pump system already using R22 where the outdoor unit had failed. Of course, as you can clearly see, this work-around also goes completely around the very goal of the new regulations which was to reduce the amount of R22 that can be exposed to the environment.
Is getting a R22 dry charge unit for you?
There is a limited window for this option, up until the year 2020. But during the brief time period remaining, should you consider getting a R22 dry charge unit to repair your dead system? We’ll be perfectly honest. Although it is certainly an option, it should be at the bottom of your list of choices. The final decision depends on a number of factors. Doing your research will help, so learn what types of central heating and cooling systems are currently available to you, which could address all your specific needs in terms of comfort, efficiency, lifestyle and finances.
Let’s compare the replacing of your outdoor unit with an R22 dry charge unit to putting a bunch of band-aids on a broken leg. Cheap? Yes. Long-term benefits? Not so many. These systems only have the bare minimum of legally allowable efficiency. Plus, future repairs will likely be very expensive as R22 becomes harder and harder to get. On the other hand, switching to a modern system with R410A refrigerant can be compared to surgery to set the bone in the broken leg to make sure it completely heals. More expensive? Yes. Long-term benefits? Plenty. Super high efficiency systems can save enough monthly costs on energy bills compared to your existing old R22 system that they can offset a significant part of the up-front investment. And since these systems are now an industry standard, you have the confidence that repairs costs will never skyrocket due to key components (like refrigerant) being phased out and banned worldwide.
If your system gives up the ghost this year, and you have a repair technician offering to fix it installing an R22 dry charge unit, we suggest you take a step back and think hard about it. If you want a free quote on the cost to install an entirely new system using R410A refrigerant, the friendly staff here at GAMA Air will be delighted to help. We provide service in and around Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino. Give us a call at our office at (310) 651-6936, or you can use our online form to schedule a visit for a free quote choosing a time convenient for you.
If you have more questions about the difference between these two refrigerants and the systems that use them, please visit our “Ask an Expert” page, fill out the form, and the resident expert here at GAMA Air will respond quickly with the answer.