What’s the Difference Between R-22 and R-410A?

AC Heating Connect Service Tech uses an iPad 6 for important HVAC information

Comparing Refrigerants Side-by-Side

One of the hottest discussions (pardon the pun) within the air conditioning and heating industry is the difference between two refrigerants – R-22 and R-410A. As a homeowner considering a purchase, it’s important that you understand the difference so you can make the best decision for your system. We’ve outlined below the main differences and why they matter.

R-22

  • Often referred to by a brand name like Freon®
  • As of 2010, R-22 was discontinued for use in new air conditioning systems
  • R-22 is a hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) which contributes to ozone depletion

R-410A

  • Often referred to by a brand name like Puron®
  • Has been approved for use in new residential air conditioners
  • Is a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) which does not contribute to ozone depletion
  • Will become the new standard for U.S. residential air conditioning systems in 2015

Compare R-22 and R-410A refrigerants

Performance Differences

Newer air conditioning models are designed to be used with R-410A for reliable and more efficient operation. Because R-410A can absorb and release more heat than R-22, your air conditioning compressor can run cooler, reducing the risk of compressor burnout due to overheating.

R-410A also functions at a higher pressure than R-22, so new compressors are built to withstand greater stresses, reducing the chance for cracking. If you were to put R-410A refrigerant into a system designed for R-22, the pressure would be too much and the unit would break.

All air conditioners use an oil to keep the compressor lubricated during operation. R-22 air conditioners use mineral oil and R-410A systems use synthetic oil. The synthetic oil is generally more soluble with R-410A than mineral oil is with R-22. This means the R-410A system operates more efficiently reducing wear and tear on the compressor.

Dry Charging

While R-22 was outlawed in 2010 for use in new units, some companies are taking advantage of the law by producing what’s known as ‘dry charge’ units. These are new units that don’t have the refrigerant installed at the factory. Instead, a technician is required to come out to your home and install the R-22 refrigerant. While this practice is technically legal, this isn’t the best option for the following reasons:

  • There is a limited supply of R-22 and its price will increase as supplies diminish
  • R-410A offers greater efficiency, saving you in energy costs, and is much better for the environment
  • Dry charged units typically offer much shorter warranty periods

What have you heard about these two refrigerants? We can help give you unbiased answers!

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425 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between R-22 and R-410A?

    • Hi Genaro – you can’t us R410A in an R22 system. The components are entirely different and your system will not work very well if it works at all and it could damage it.

  1. Your information is so helpful. Wish I’d seen it before I let this company con me into “topping off” the R22 in my two a.c. units. The company was running a “prep your heating and a.c. systems before the winter” special. Sounded great and quite reasonable until he told me my 2 condensers each need “topping” off with 2lbs of R22 each unit. The cost was $100 a pound!! He did not mention anything about a leak, just that they needed topping off. Hey I’m not an air conditioning expert so I said okay. Oh he also said the top off would last another 5 years.
    After reading many articles about R22, I realize I’ve been had. Freon never needs topping off unless there is a leak. This was an opportunity to cheat an unsuspecting customer, female or not.
    I plan to contact the company and file a complaint. If they don’t give me a partial refund, I plan to complain to the state. California has several agencies that monitor the industry.

    I’d like to get your opinion.
    Elaine

    • You’re right, only car AC leaks under normal use and requires “topping off”. Plus, you don’t want to “top off” a working unit because you’ll increase the pressure and it might lead to sub-optimal performance. A properly-working R22 unit should last a couple decades if it’s set up properly, so 5 years only applies if yours is broken.

      • Automotive systems do NOT leak under normal use, if they did, they would immediately be banned from use. R-12 was used in automotive systems, it was banned and R134a replaced it, and now R134a is being phased out (not banned, but not allowed in new systems starting 2020) in favor of 1234YF.

        A properly functioning cooling system, of ANY kind, NEVER needs “topping off”.

        • I thought you needed a hermetic compressor to completely avoid leaks. Cars such as the Prius have electric AC which should avoid leaks but I heard that cars with engine-driven AC lose a little refrigerant over the course of many years.

          • They are more susceptible to leaks yes, but a healthy compressor on a car should last 8+ years leak free. If you keep the engine bay clean, and the compressor clean and avoid letting motor oil/grease get onto the compressor, then the next most likely place to leak is the condenser since that’s almost always partially exposed to anything flying at your car.

            The biggest issue with automotive AC systems is the overall design (components being exposed to rocks flying up on the roadways), and lack of care from owners and mechanics.

            The last issue is when a compressor is mounted in a location it can get wet when driving, salt gets thrown up onto it in winters, the aluminum starts to corrode and eventually the compressor and AC lines start to leak where they seal together because the o-ring can’t handle the pitted aluminum that has developed over years of neglect.

            So yes, it’s normal for them to start leaking and needing topped off after quiet some time, however, they should never, ever, leak, unless something has worn beyond it’s design.

            I would hate to see the electrical load for an electric compressor in a car, would be rather stressful on an alternator I would assume, and most those are only ~100A, just enough for charging the battery, keeping it at float, and running the other systems in a car.

      • your car AC should NOT leak under normal use, if it does you have a problem that needs to be addressed, just like a home AC it is a sealed closed loop system

    • No, you cannot change R22 to R410a. It just doesn’t work. R410a operates at much higher pressures and needs a tougher compressor designed for it. It’s also not as good as R22 so you’d use more electricity when it’s > 100 degF outside. They still have real R22 but I wouldn’t recommend charging such an expensive refrigerant into a broken AC unit. They also have cheap R22 replacements but they vary in effectiveness and energy efficiency. Most don’t work as well as the real thing.

  2. Yes the pressures are double of the r22 for the 410a, that,s why the industry has been swamped with units failing, compressors and coils. the 410a runs at almost double the pressure, most units are designed for 105 degrees so i was running calls for 3 days of new units not cooling, some were tripping out on high head pressure because a unit runs a head pressure of 425 to 450 when the ambient air temp is 107 so a unit in 120 ambient air temp is pushed to its design limits, hose down the coils with water and walls around it was the only option, for most of the country 410a works great in the southwest it is not as good.

    the units are bigger the coils are bigger because the refrigerant is less efficient.

    Is the r410 a better not by a long shot. google all of the manufacturers with problems and you will see the truth.

    • Hi Brian, Good post. Also, one reason systems are bigger these days is that the government raised the minimum efficiency levels for residential units by 30% in 2006 (10 SEER to 13 SEER) right about the time the industry was moving to R410A with the final phase-out of R22 in 2010. In order to achieve the higher SEER levels the OEM’s had to add a lot of coil and go to more efficient components as well. R410A is different but there were other things going on as well during that change. Thanks for visiting our site.

    • THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS INFO! I know I should have checked this info 5 or 6 yrs ago when we had our new heating and air system installed by PSE&G , our south jersey co. I can’t complain about their service , when called they responded usually within 24 hours and we’ve never been charged for refills of the chemical , about at least 10 times!! we’ve been told that the unit s parts have been replaced – at one time or another ALL OF THE PARTS!!! We do pay monthly for repair service in addition to our bill. We have been lucky this year , the air has worked since june but now we’re having a september heat wave, high humidity for a week now and no air!!! The most convincing reason (and we’ve had so many different ones!) is that the new coolant puts tiny pinholes in the copper tubing and thats why it leaks out! Hence ,hot air!!! thanks again for this info , I wish my husband would have looked this up earlier when i asked him to and took an active interest in why all the trouble!! I want to hurt him physically every time he says things like”things aren’t made to last” I still think that things should be made to last!!! and a new system -heat and air that cost 10,000. paid over a years time should last longer than 5 yrs!!!!

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  4. https://www.ashrae.org/

    is the place everyone should be going to get their data.

    enough with all these presumptions and here-say !

    if you want to play engineer … get the data and do so.

    If not, just buy an integrated system and stop screwing around with here-say and local technicians … most of whom are guessing …

    Be well

  5. I have a rental house that has a heat pump/air handling unit. Four years ago I had to replace that AHU, because that electric coils were shot. (Unit was 17 years old.) Now after several hail storms here in the Midwest the past two years, the fins are bent so bad that my contractor says that straightening the fans out will not help the efficiency of the unit. I told him to go ahead and replace the condensing unit, which he gave me a quote to do.
    When the unit arrived, to my property, the service tech realized that the unit ran R410A instead of R22A. {My Salesman discovered after I signed the contract, that condensers with R22a are no longer available.} After several discussions with my contractor, he decided to replace my evap coil at no charge to me. Going from a heat pump to a standard condenser unit, if you replace the evap coil, shouls work alright, shouldn’t it?
    Thanks,
    Rich

    • First of all, R22a is propane. It’s ridiculously cold and efficient but not legal in the US except for window AC and retail fridges/freezers. It’s possible to install it in your AC, and there are YouTube videos to demonstrate from before it was illegal, but contractors will be very angry if they come to work on it and contaminate their gear, thinking it’s Freon. Besides, you don’t want to use it because you haven’t personally seen that there are NO LEAKS in your system. Propane is only safe if there are NO LEAKS, so I can’t recommend it in your case.

      What you’re likely referring to is R22. You can still buy condensers for R22, just check the used AC lot in Florida. I’m not as familiar with heat pumps as I am with plain AC, but unless there’s a big difference I see nothing wrong with replacing both the indoor and outdoor sides at the same time.

      If you’re able to save some money checking the used AC lot, my next advice would be to splurge for some real R22, not any of the replacements. Of course, this is after your contractor fixes any possible leaks. R22 is expensive.

    • I am assuming you mean R22 and not R22a as hcb suggests. Also the indoor coil and outdoor unit need to match to work properly. I’m not sure what you are going to do for heat if u don’t replace the heat pump outdoor unit but I guess u have that covered. In any case they need to match for capacity and control valves etc so you should ask about this to be sure.

  6. Pingback: Rising Cost of R-22 Refrigerant - What It Means for Your AC Repairs | Stellar Services

  7. Our 17 year old central air unit that uses R22 is being replaced with one that uses 410A. One installer said the copper line that was used for R 22 is not the right size for R410 and that we would need to replace it with a different size. A different installer said the copper line that we have would be fine. They would cut out the exposed line, flush out the old and weld new pieces on to replace what was cut out. Who’s right?

    • As long as they clean and flush the old lines and inspect all the braze joints for leaks before recharging it you might be ok with your old lines. Sometimes there are problems with leaks at the joints and bends with the old lines so it is a risk versus cost call. If you want to reduce the risk of leaks and problems down the road it might be worth running new lines for your new system. It is important that you and your contractor are on the same page with this because I doubt if the manufacturer’s warranty will cover problems with the line sets. I hope this helps.

        • I have another question. According to the AHRI website, the model my installer wants to use is discontinued. Is that a problem? Will he be able to get parts for it in the future?

          • Like most appliances, over time the availability for replacement parts goes down and the price goes up. Given the large installed base, my guess is that for a few years or maybe many more more you can still get parts and refrigerant but prices will make you want to move on to a new system.

  8. I have a 410a system. Can I add r22a to top it up. Mechanics want over $300 for a top off and I can’t legally buy 410a on shelf.

    • Mixing refrigerants does not work for long and may not work at all. Systems are designed for certain refrigerants and mixing them leads to low cooling performance and possible component failures. Suggest you keep shopping for a contractor who can check for leaks because sealed AC systems (they are all sealed BTW) do not need to be “topped off”. There also might be other problems going on and more charge could make it worse not better if it is not just a leak. This happens a lot unfortunately. Have someone run a full diagnostic so you know for sure.

    • [If you’re in the US] Unless your state prohibits it, you’re supposed to be able to buy R410a without a license, since it’s an HFC. In other countries, there’s no telling what they say about R410a but I would understand if it were illegal.

      And no, NEVER use R22a (propane) in a system unless you’re SURE it has no leaks. If you do use it, it must be used alone, not mixed.

      • You are right technically, anyone legally should be able to purchase 410. But, at least in Florida, the wholesale suppliers only sell to HVAC licensed techs only. (Most of the time) I can only wish you luck.

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