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?

    • Bill – Sometimes there is a label on the outdoor unit that indicates the refrigerant charge. When R-410A was first introduced these labels were only on the new R-410A units and were pink in color (the color of the R-410A gas containers). If you can’t find the label on the outdoor unit, the documentation you received with your system should indicate which refrigerant it uses. If you don’t have that paperwork handy, just do an internet search on the brand and model number for your system and you can probably find the original specs on line. At ten years old there is good chance it is an R-22 system but there were some R-410A systems sold at that time as well. Your HVAC contractor should have some other ways to look up the refrigerant in your system if you still have trouble determining it.

  1. I am replacing a 1987 Carrier 3 1/2 ton R22 split unit with a Goodman 4 ton R410a split unit. My Carrier has a 3/8″ and 3/4″ copper line set. My Contractor says the existing line set will work fine with the new unit (with flushing). However, I noticed in Goodman’s website that they specify a 3/8 liquid line like I have now for the 4 ton, but the suction line is spec’d at 1 1/8″ which is quite a lot larger than the existing 3/4″ line proposed for re-use. Do you think the 3/4″ line will be ok? Do 410a systems typically use a larger suction line and do they really need it?

    • Hi Allen. That line set appears to be almost 30 years old and while the copper tubes do not typically “wear” out, they are subject to fatigue and might eventually begin to leak. You might also show the OEM recommendation to your contractor since they usually specify those line sizes to match the system performance required. Deviating from OEM specifications might affect the performance or long term reliability of your new system. However, in some cases where it is difficult to run new lines, we have seen people successfully use the old lines after proper flushing. You should probably discuss these trade-offs with your contractor and then decide. It is important that you and your contractor are on the same page with whatever you decide to do.

  2. Is there anyway one can know what kind of refrigerant an air-conditioning unit will use by merely looking at the model and specifications online?

    • Alex,

      Since the US refrigerant regulation changed in 2010, almost all US residential AC and heat pump systems have been designed with the new R-410A refrigerant. If you read through the on line, internet based OEM literature and specifications it will probably state this somewhere but you might have to look closely because we pretty much assume that all new systems are now R-410A unless stated differently. One exception to this is the systems called “R-22 Dry Charge” systems and this “R22 Dry Charge” feature is usually called out in the literature and promotional material. These systems are old, 13 SEER systems that were designed for the old, R-22 refrigerant but they are shipped from the OEM without any refrigerant – i.e. they are “dry” charged, or have “no” charge. These systems can be compliant with regulations if they are used as partial system replacements (outdoor unit only) and are used with refrigerant that is either reclaimed or came from old stocks.

      Unfortunately, OEM model number configurations are usually unique to each OEM and there is no easy way to the determine which refrigerant is used based just on model numbers. Some people who are familiar with certain OEM product lines and their model number nomenclature can determine certain attributes from these OEM model numbers but it gets complicated when you move from one OEM to anohter because they are all not configured in the same way.

      I hope this answers your questions.

  3. Two big picture questions without concern for product names. If my thermostat constantly indicates 1.5F lower than actual space temperature, what effect would this have on heat pump operation. It can be said that identical tonnage systems for R22 and R410A should produce identical performance results. Is it possible for one R22 3 ton to produce at 3.4 tons and one R410A 3 ton to produce at 2.6 tons, such that on change out a drop of one-half ton performance occurs? Or are the design controls so strict that neither would deviate by more than 0.1 tons in either direction, such that the effect is negligible?

    • When comparing system cooling capacity it is good to consider the actual capacity (in BTUH) rather than the nominal capacity (in tons). This information can usually be found on the nameplate on the unit or on the specs for the unit which might be available on the OEM’s site. The nominal “tons” of capacity which are assigned to various actual BTUH capacities can be subject to rounding assumptions and these might differ from OEM to OEM and from unit to unit. However, the rated capacity in BTUH should be accurate to the ARI rating point where the unit was designed, tested and approved.

  4. Help! We’ve just determined that our outside condenser unit is a 2 1/2 ton Goodman R22 unit.
    The inside condenser unit is a Goodman 3 1/2 ton 410A unit. I have no idea what type of refrigerant has been used, but, the contractor who came out to inspect because of leaking, said the two units aren’t compatible tonage-wise or refrigerant wise and that whoever installed them put in the wrong items.. plus the breaker for the heat pump is too high at 60 AMPS… I’d appreciate your opinion. And PS no permit was pulled for any of the installs..

    • Hi Laurie,

      I am going to assume the leak is on the outdoor unit. One replacement option would be for you to replace the R-22 Outdoor unit with a appropriate sized R-410A Heat Pump unit (3.5 ton?). This would then allow for both your indoor and outdoor units to be match for R-410A refrigerant (they need to be matched in order to work properly). Going from 2.5 tons to 3.5 tons is a pretty big increase so you might want to have your contractor check to make sure your system is sized properly for your home. Also, a 3.5 ton unit would have a slightly higher RLA requirement over the existing 2.5 R-22, but not knowing the proper sizing needed, I would suspect that 60amp is too large. We discuss some of the issues with converting from R-22 to R-410A in the attached article http://www.ac-heatingconnect.com/r22-outdoor-unit-replacement-decision/

      As always, I would suggest contacting a qualified contractor and getting two or three quotes before committing to a work order.
      Hope this helps,
      Scott

  5. FYI The hole in the ozone layer? or is it the Oh Zone layer? According to
    Boyle’s law, PV=k where P is the pressure of the gas, V is the volume of the gas, and k is a constant.
    If the were a hole in the Ozone layer, why is it only over North America?
    Politics maybe??
    Gas in the layer would move toward the hole to fill it & stabilize the pressure P.
    Like taking a bucket out of the room! Is there a hole in the room where the bucket was?? LOLLLLL
    Gases at altitude move at high velocities. Trust me it wont take long to fill the
    hole.
    Read up on Bernoulli’s equations or a little bit of thermodynamics and you will
    soon see that a hole in the ozone cannot exsist. also
    the so-called Antarctic ozone hole, occur annually.
    remember Al Gore and the 3ft sea level rise by the yr 2000? DUH
    sea level has been rising at a steady 1/4″ pr yr for 10,000 yrs. As a matter of
    fact it has been slowing and leveling off the last century. check with NOAA
    And the artic circle as been growing snow and ice for the last 7 yrs, I
    guess it’s thanks to global warming.

  6. It is hard to tell what happened from your description and it is not clear what the status was of the unit that was replaced. A difficult situation. You might also try contacting the manufacturer of the unit you installed or talk to some other contractors who have dealt with similar situations.

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