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

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

  1. I live in a remote region of Brasil. Technicians are not well formed and every non-standard material is very difficult to get. I boufht recently a AC system designed for R410a (electrolux ecoturbo T09F). After a little while, the efficiency of the AC got very poor and almost stopped to refrigerate because of a leak of pressure. I called a local “so called technician” that probably recharged with the only gaz he had (that is R22, because R410a is very uncomon in this part of the country). He put a pressure of 700 kPa (as he would do with R22 system) instead of the right pressure of 1300 kPa and did not resolved the problem of leaking. As a result the system worked at very low capacity for a few days and gradually stopped completely to refrigerate. I called back the “technician” many times but he never reappeared. Before calling an other technician, I’d like to know :
    – what is the exact consequence of having misturated R22 and R410a for my AC system?
    – resolving the leak and vaccuing the all system will it be sufficient to get back to the initial sane situation? What about the mineral oil mixed with the R22 (if recicled) that was introduced? Is-it possible to get completely rid of the mineral oil by vaccuing the system? Remains of mineral oil in the R410a system can prejudicate the good running? If so, how to get rid of it? flushing with what? With what type of liquid?
    – and finally (very important in my situation and localization) : how can I verificate that the new gaz beeing introduced will be R410a this time? Unfortunately sometimes you cannot rely on what the technician say… Is there some way to distinguish R22 from R410? By the smell, the color, consistence, or whatever else?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Patrick,

      Unfortunately this is a common situation that seems to be occurring in our industry, even when both gases are available. The gases are very different as you have pointed out, R-410A compressor displacements are about 40% less than R-22 compressors per the same capacity. So, not only would it not provide the proper amount of cooling, the compressor itself (being refrigerant cooled) might not receive the proper amount of heat rejection and could lead to a possible overheat scenario.

      With the system being open to the atmosphere, I would believe there is a large amount of moisture now inside the system. Which means the POE (for R-410A) would start to hydrolyze back into an organic acid. The system leak needs to be repaired, system inline filter driers installed or replaced, and be able to maintain a vacuum. Then recharge with the proper refrigerant. Any mineral oil that remains in the R-410A system (from the R-22 charging mistake) needs to be below 5% when compared to the total system oil, the only way to check this is a refractometer. So it might be best to replace the system oil with new POE.

      The only way to check the refrigerant type when in a tank would be to connect a gauge to the tank, and use a Pressure Temperature chart for R-410A. For pure R-410A at sea level, as long as the tank has some liquid in it, the tank temperature should match the P/T chart pressure. Example: if my tank temperature is 27C (80F), then for R-410A the tank pressure should be: 1640 kpa (238 psig) per the chart.

      Hope this helps,
      Scott

      • it helps a lot to understand, Scott, many thanks for your very clear and detailed answer! Now I’m prepared to deal better with some other technicien! Cheers!

  2. I just had a brand new AC unit (inside and out) installed 13 months ago. The company did not say anything to me about changing the copper piping. I stupidly assumed that when installing a new unit, they would install everything new. When installing the new unit I switched over from r-22 to 410a.

    Now the copper piping has cracked and they want $2200 to replace the piping. I have read a lot about the pressure differences between the two coolants. Did my copper piping most likely break because they switched to the new coolant system without replacing the pipes?

    Also, is this something I should expect the company to be responsible for considering they installed a whole new unit and changed to the 410a without changing the piping or even recommending it to me? It seems like a reputable company would have replaced the piping with the initial $3k install or at least recommend it

  3. It is probalby best to have a qualified HVAC technician who is familiar with your existing brand of equipment look at. You might also be able to check with the company that manufactured your system to see if they can tell you if it will work with R-410A. You will need the model number and maybe the serial number from they system to have them help you. You might need the number from both the indoor and outdoor units.

  4. On copper line sizing, your contractor should be able to advise you if it will be possible to use the existing lines for your new system. Your old system is probably R-22 and the new one will probably be R-410A. If the old lines are used they will definitely need to be cleaned and flushed out to remove any residual R-22 oil which is not compatible with R-410A oil. Another risk you might have with using old lines is the potential for leaks due to fatigue that happens over time. R-410A systems operate at higher pressures than R-22 as well so you might be better off just using new copper lines if they can be installed.

    Another thing we noticed about your post was the move from a “2 ton” system to “3-4 ton” system and your reference to “SEER” as a “size”. First of all, the jump from 2 tons to 3 tons would be a significant increase in “size” or cooling capacity. Having an oversized system can cause just as many problems as an undersized system. An undersized system will not keep up on the hottest days and an oversized system will not run long enough to keep you comfortable and humidity free on moderately hot days (most of the time). Your contractor should be able to do some calculations that will tell you what size system is best for you and this calculation would take into consideration the space you are cooling, number of doors and windows, insulation thickness, etc., and is very important to getting your system capacity right.

    You also mentioned “SEER”, which is a measure of efficiency. If you install a 16 SEER or higher system with capacity modulation you should get both energy savings and improved comfort from what you are experiencing today with your current system. There are a number of articles posted on this site that explain some of the benefits from 16+ SEER and you can search for some of these and other terms mentioned above if you want more information.

    Hope this helps.

  5. This is such a helpful forum! What I would like to address is the copper piping proper size. Our 2 ton Lenox system has lasted 18 years. The seer size was originally probably 12; and now around 10, to be realistic. I am considering a 3-4 ton system with a seer rating of 15-17. The existing copper is 3/4. Is this an issue?

    • Just to follow up on your pipe sizing question when changing unit capacity sizing. Assuming your current pipe sizing for the 2-ton unit is with a 3/8 OD liquid line and a 7/8 OD suction, to properly size your line set for a 4 ton unit, your Liquid line should be 1/2 inch OD with a 1-1/8 inch OD suction line.

      OD=Outside Diameter dimension

      Scott

  6. It might be good to also get one or two other opinions from qualified contractors before you make your final decision. They might all say the same thing but at least you will know a little more about the options and risks.

  7. Hi Mark. We can’t comment on the exact problem you are having as that would depend on the onsite diagnosis by a qualified contractor. However, if you think you have mismatched indoor and outdoor components then that could lead to problems like the ones you are experiencing. Here are our answers to your questions.
    1. There are four main subcomponents to your AC system – the outdoor unit (with the compressor), the indoor fan coil, the expansion device on the indoor coil and the refrigerant line sets that connect the indoor with the outdoor. All four of these subcomponents should be matched and qualified to whatever refrigerant you are using. If any one of them is not right, then you could have poor performance or you could severely damage your system. Some of these components could be dual qualified for both R-410A and R-22, but they might need to be flushed and retrofitted or adjusted to accommodate a refrigerant change. In any case, you really need them all to be matched in both size (capacity) and all with the same, qualified refrigerant.

    2. Since your air handler is older you might want to go ahead and replace it, but if is running ok and you just want to get your indoor coil and expansion device matched to your new outdoor unit, you could do that and save some money. Just make sure they are all qualified for the same refrigerant – probably R-410A, to match your outdoor unit.

    3. Running a mismatched system can cause the coil to freeze due to improper metering device sizing, but other problems could be happening too and some of these can damage your system. It would be better not to run it until you can get it inspected and set up with all matched components, particularly the metering device.

    I hope this helps.

    • Frank –

      Thank you for the insight and advice. I had someone in today to quote me options and he shared that they would not install only an air handler/furnace (the indoor fan coil is the original R-22 installation) since the unmatched compressor and lines could have inherent problems that could affect the air handler. They quoted on a full replacement system.

      I asked if they could not validate in some way the York R410A compressor was okay (only 1 yr. old) but they said not for sure and declined to quote only a new handler. My next step is to call a York HVAC distributor to see if they differ from the advice.

  8. I had my HVAC system inspected and serviced (a promised gazillion point inspection) in the early spring. The licensed HVAC tech gave the system a thumbs up but warned a true test of performance wasn’t done since the ambient temp. outdoors was cool.

    I was having performance issues (just not cooling the house) and asked an HVAC contractor who was working at my next door neighbors if he would inspect it. He informed and showed me that my furnace/air handler was frozen (lines and body). He shared that my 2013 R410a York compressor and 2005 R-22 designed furnace/air handler could not work together appropriately stating the pressures from the R410a are too high for the R-22 air handler.

    The 2.5Ton compressor was installed when the property was bank owned so shortcuts and less cost are the predominant themes…not quality.

    Is it true you can’t match a R410a compressor with a R-22 furnace/air handler? Should I replace my air handler? Could I be harming my 2005 compressor now but running it? I am running at a high temp (78 deg.) which is where I can run it without freezing the system.

    Thanks for any advice.

  9. Thank you so much for your advice. The coil was confirmed to be new and there is a TXV to work with R-410A available, but I would be concerned about the extra pressure and the reduced fin area. I think I have found a solution. I can cut into the ductwork to raise the effective height of the evaporator to allow a modern R-410A coil. I am getting a condensing unit to match for a 16 SEER rating. I considered changing out the furnace but it is already a “high-90’s” efficient furnace (exhaust from combustion is barely warm to my hand). Also, we are in Oregon where our heating season is pretty mild so our furnace has very little wear and probably lots of years left (hopefully!).

    Thanks again!

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