The substance that makes your heat pump and air conditioner work so well is its refrigerant. It is a gas that when compressed enables the transfer of hotter or cooler temperatures. In recent years, the most common type of refrigerant has been a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) known as R-22. In 1987, an environmental agreement between developed nations known as the Montreal Protocol was established. It called for the phase-out of HCFC’s and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) which are known to damage the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. As a result, the manufacturing of R-22 systems was stopped on Dec. 31, 2009.
If you have a system that uses R-22, it can still be serviced and recharged with R-22 until 2020. The most popular alternative to R-22 is a refrigerant known as R-410A. It is currently sold under a variety of brand names such as GENETRON®, SUVA 410A®, Forane 410A®, and Puron®.
Because of the R-22 phase-out and the introduction of newer R-410A systems, the availability of R-22 is decreasing and the price is increasing. In fact, depending on the age and condition of your system, it could actually be more economical, over the life of the system, to replace it with an R410-A unit. The reason for the R-22 to R-410A shift was largely an environmental one. However, R410-A systems are more energy efficient than older models, resulting in monthly energy cost savings of 10%-40%.
- January 1, 2010: The Montreal Protocol does not allow manufacturers to produce new HVAC systems containing R-22.
- January 1, 2015: The U.S. must reduce its consumption of R-22 by 90%.
- January 1, 2020: Chemical companies will no longer be allowed to manufacture R-22 to service existing systems.
If you have to purchase a new system you need to get one that uses a refrigerant other than R-22. Tell us if you’ve learned something else about why refrigerants matter!