This little faq is brought to you in part by the EPA. The whole reason for all of this change over - phase out is due to a little chemical that is present in R-22 [freon] that has been determined to be harmful to the Ozone layer... as it eats holes in the ozone layer in the sky. This chemical is otherwise known as Chlorine. The Montreal Protocol was what set these changes in motion and was agreed upon September 16, 1987.
The reason why you are just now finding out about it, is now the cut off dates are fast approaching and time for doing it the old way is no longer feasible due to cost.
NOTE: It is now 2016 --- Most of this faq was originally written in July 2009. Alot has changed since then so keep this in mind when reading this complete document. Currently this 2009 written document is just a glimpse into the complexity surrounding building comfort solutions. Each situation is different. Forming a plan of action now can make your transition away from R-22 Freon a smooth one. The following 2 pictures below illustrates the possible timeline of EPA mandated allocation or production schedule of R-22 Freon as we get closer to restricted R22 Freon production in 2020. As of January 1, 2015 regional efficiency standards have taken effect and now require 14 SEER minimum efficiency in the state of Texas for air conditioners and heat pumps.
The green bars in chart above reflect lowered R22 allocations by EPA final rule in October 2014.
THINKING ABOUT CONVERTING R22 FREON AC SYSTEM TO MO99? (R438a)
As of 2014 I have been getting a lot of questions regarding converting R22 Freon based units to MO99 or R438a. While this is a drop in replacement for R22 systems, it is NOT a drop in replacement for R22 Freon air conditioning systems due to reliability concerns. MO99's use was designed for low and medium temperature applications. Emerson who is the manufacturer of Copeland compressors will not warranty any compressor that uses MO99 as the refrigerant in an air conditioning application. Emerson has only approved this refrigerant for conversion of Supermarket racks that are low and medium temp applications only. Additionally Emerson recommends the use of POE oil.
The biggest problems in conversion is proper oil return which without it leads to compressor failure. These attributes will come on hot days when the system is taxed and required to perform under heavy loads. You still must repair any refrigerant leaks. Due to the inability to monitor oil return to the compressor on a residential and most commercial / industrial air conditioning systems makes MO99 a poor conversion choice. The system will fail when you need it the most. If your AC system is out of warranty, converting to MO99 will most likely speed the failure of the system. (If it sounds too good to be true.... well you know.)
Air conditioning systems are designed to last around 15 years. You can extend this life somewhat by maintaining the system. Maintenance of an air conditioning system should start no later than year 3 and should be done at least annually. OK... back to my original topic below......
The text below this point was written in 2009. For the best experience possible I suggest you schedule an appointment for service if you are within my service area.
This will likely be a bit lengthy, but it is my opinion that an informed consumer has the ability to decide what is right for them. It is not my choice to make which refrigerant based system to install in your home, only you can decide this. The biggest factor in any choice you make is typically cost. If you are replacing and going with a higher end system then you will likely be going with the newer refrigerant [R-410a-Puron]. If you are just going with an average 13-14 SEER system either refrigerant will attain those efficiency levels.
If you would rather learn this information face to face rather than read about it please book a call, I can assess your system in about an hour and I can present you with the information you need to make a good decision that will last you many years.
You may book a call by calling me @ 832.475.6895 serving the Houston area and some surrounding areas. You can also book a call via our email information teleportal gatherer. Just click the lovely button and fill in the info... maybe we've made it too easy?
Very soon this choice between R-22 or R-410a will be over as currently 12/31/09 is the last day for R-22 freon Condenser manufacturing. All that will be left after this date are over runs that haven't sold yet and are still sitting in Manufacturer's wharehouses. Once word gets out these last remaining units will sell out quickly. If you need one or know of someone who does it is important that you act quickly. Once the R-22 Freon condensers are gone, they are gone forever. Read on to learn more.
Q: If my evaporator coil says it is made for R-22 or R-410a can I use it with a R-410a condenser?
A: Yes and No. If the evaporator coil in question has never been used before with R-22 then yes it can be used with an R410a condenser. If you have used the coil to run an R22 system then your risks for failure increase.
The reason for this is because the R22 system runs with mineral oil and the R410a system runs with POE oil. Mixture of mineral oil in any amount within a R410a system creates an oily sludgy mixture that will eventually turn into acid and eat the thin layer of laquer on the windings of the compressor among other things. This likely won't happen over night but it could due to a lack of proper installation techniques.
Trying to flush mineral oil from an Evaporator coil to reuse it is not logical and in most cases will void most if not all manufacturer's warranty.
All manufacturer's recommend that you replace the evaporator coil when converting to R410a.
Q: What would happen if I mix R-410a Puron in a system designed for R-22 Freon? Or What would happen if I mix R-22 Freon with R-410a Puron?
A:This is a two part question so I will answer the questions in order. If you mix R-410a Puron in a system designed for R-22 Freon whether it has freon in it or not - it will not work and the longer you run it trying to make it work will end up wrecking the whole inner workings of the system because the oil in an R-22 Freon system simply can not work with R-410a on top of that the metering device for R-22 Freon is not compatible with R-410a Puron it would never work.
If you mix R-22 Freon in a system with R-410a Puron it's more or less the same thing except the oil situation is different. But any time you mix uncompatible substances what do you get? To put it another way... what happens when you mix oil and water? (IE: They don't mix.) Additionally the metering device for R-410a is not compatible with R-22 Freon. So it will never work either and will really mess up your system but good.
This is another reason why you should only use reputable licensed HVAC contractors that know what they are doing. One litte mistake can lead to a very difficult problem to fix.
A:False, most parts are interchangeable between systems and most manufacturers manufacture similar R-22 and R-410a systems. The only difference is typically the refrigerant and type of oil that runs through the system. R-22 Freon will be manufactured in less and less quantities up until 2020. (Equipment manufacturing for R-22 ends by law on 12/31/09 and likely sooner than this.) Currently 95% or more of homes and businesses use R-22 Freon in their systems today, when these systems are replaced the R-22 Freon in those systems is reclaimed, then cleaned and resold as new.
The only way you would ever need R-22 Freon is if your system develops a leak, at which point the leak should be repaired if possible or the equipment that is leaking should be replaced. In Houston an average air conditioning system lasts 10-12yrs or with good annual maintenance you might get 15-20. So if you replaced your condenser now you likely wouldn't need a new one until just after 2020 and the freon equation only comes into play if you develop a leak.
A:This is probably the most critical because such an installation can easily cost a good chunk of money depending on various installation factors. If your condenser is 7-8 yrs or older it will likely fail before your Evaporator coil does.
A: It won't affect you until you need another new condenser. Any (NEW) Evaporator coil can be retro-fitted to accomodate either refrigerant. The only thing that would change this equation is the mixing of mineral oil with R-410a Puron. Evaporator coils are not shipped with refrigerant or oil precharged as condensers are.
A: If you're in the market for a new air conditioner (complete system) it will make your decision process a bit more lengthy. If your condenser fails after 2009 it will make the process more costly because the coil will likely have to be replaced at the same time, but a system that old with a major failure would likely need to be upgraded regardless just due to age.
However, if you act now you have more choices than you would if you wait past December 31, 2009. Be sure to read the properties differences of the two refrigerants to make a fully informed decision of whether to wait or act now.
A: In terms of difference it is more in the make-up of the chemicals than anything else. There is virtually no difference in terms of cooling performance, you may notice some slight differences but either of them are designed to lower the temperature of the structure by 20 degrees from that of outside.
In terms of chemical make-up R-22 Freon is a compound where as R-410a Puron is a blend. This is only important in the event of a refrigerant leak. In the event of a refrigerant leak with R-22 Freon the chemical inside the system never changes irregardless of how much leaks out.
This is not the case with R-410a Puron. Because R410a is a blend, the chemicals that make up the refrigerant bleed off at different rates thus changing the composition of what is in the system. To fully and adequately repair a leak or recharge a system using R-410a Puron based system, the system should be fully reclaimed and recharged with new R-410a Puron refrigerant. Because of this it makes no sense to not repair the leak and as you can imagine the repair bill will be larger due to more labor and materials to fix such a problem.
Due to the extra labor charges associated with R-410a Puron leaks and the necessity to fix them immediately the cost will likely be similar or nearly identical to a leak with R-22 Freon even if the price of R-22 Freon sky rockets. Currently both refrigerants cost nearly the same amount, thus negating the cost argument.
What complicates this even further for R-410a Puron based systems is that the operating pressures are double that of R-22 Freon. So for an example say you have a balloon filled with water and the balloon has a hole in it. Now if you hold that balloon in your hand it will leak and eventually all the water will leak out but very slowly.
Now imagine yourself putting a death grip on that same balloon, because you are increasing pressure the leak is now intensified and will leak out that much faster. It is virutally the same comparison except the pressure is internal to the system. You can't stop the pressure because it relates to atmospheric pressure. Under our atmosphere the chemical turns to gas form. The only way to stop it is fix the leak.
Now imagine that within that water there were chemicals present to do something as in an air conditioning system. Some of those chemicals float on the water and some of the chemicals hover in the water and some of the chemicals sink. All those chemicals serve a purpose and if you lose too much of any one of them the chemical changes. So if the leak is in the top of the balloon the chemicals that float would leak out first, in the middle the ones that hover and lastly the ones that sink for the bottom.
Once the chemical makeup changes it will not work exactly right... unless you start over from scratch. Which entails cost of reclaiming old and replacing the whole system charge along with repairing the leak. The guys in the job security department worked hard and long on this equation. lol.
A: I've been in this field for over 16 years now and I am amazed at some of the things sales men come up with to sell something. The copper used 30 years ago is the same copper we use today. We use the same brazing compounds with the new as the old there is virtually no difference. Sizing is typically more critical with R-22 Freon than it is with R-410a Puron. However if the smaller of the 2 lines [High Pressure Liquid Line] is not adequate enough in diameter then that would need to be replaced without question for efficiency and proper cooling capacity.
When it is feasible to do so the lineset should be replaced, but this is due to the non-compatability of oils that run through the two different systems. Otherwise the system should be flushed as best as possible to minimize any damage.
Lineset sizing can be more of an issue with R410a (in some cases-- not all) installations because the linesets for an R22 system has been properly sized which in reality will mean they are oversized for R410a. If the lineset is not properly sized for R410a this could result in improper oil return to the compressor which will lead to compressor failure and can also effect system capacity in a negative manner. For example: A 3 Ton R410a system was installed and the lineset is undersized due to this the 3 Ton runs more like a 2.0 Ton or 2.5 Ton, but you are paying the utility company for a 3 Ton unit.
In hot weather at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit the unit will not keep up and will run all day long to attempt to cool the structure this is known as "lack of capacity" or "unit doing all it can do." The opposite of undersizing is oversizing and in those instances failures can increase while capacity of the system is fine.
A: No, R-22 Freon uses mineral oil that circulates through the system to lubricate it, while R-410a Puron equipment uses polyolester oil or commonly called POE oil. Mixing mineral oil with R-410a Puron refrigerant makes acid and will eat the inner working of your air conditioning system. Additionally the metering device for the system would have to be changed as well. It likely wouldn't work the first time you tried to use it. There is no drop in replacement for R-22 Freon as of the writing of this information and with all the money and research spent on R-410a Puron and all manufacturers now have R-410a Puron models in their product lines there is no reason to believe there will ever be a drop in replacement for R-22 Freon.
If a drop in for R22 does arrive you will be then tied to that refrigerant. You can't just change back to R22 or any other for that matter at the drop of a hat. You can't mix different refrigerants together it will never work. If you switch to a non-standardized refrigerant finding qualified technicians to troubleshoot it in the event of trouble would be very challenging and likely very costly down the road.
Q: Which of these two refrigerants is more energy efficient?
A:The answer comes down to the equipment you decide on. By law nothing can be below 13 SEER irregardless of whether it uses R-22 Freon or R-410a Puron. R-22 based systems can achieve upwards of 18 SEER depending on size of equipment among other factors and R-410a can achieve up wards of 21 SEER also depending on size of equipment among other factors. To achieve such high SEER ratings the whole system must be replaced and cost of such systems can be significant. This cost can be offset by lowering your Electric Bill by upto as much as 50% in some cases.
The underlying factors of what system is best for you and your family come down to what comfort level you desire to achieve. There are a host of benefits that come with an upper end system, the biggest negative is the cost of such systems. If the arrival of your electric bill requires notification of an armed guard for payment then it is definately worth looking into. Why keep paying the utility company more than you have to? Over the life of the equipment you could save enough to pay for the new system. Comfort doesn't have to be expensive.
As a side note I have designed and installed such systems that have saved people $100's per month in utility savings. I could do the same for you. You could "go green", save the planet and save money at the same time.
Q: My evaporator is more than 15 years old and my condenser is 10 years old how does this affect me?
A: In all cases it is best to replace the complete system when upgrading, however due to the cost of replacement not everyone can afford to do this and this is the reason behind this little FAQ to inform you of the pending changes.
With a system this old it complicates the decision process as the coil could be a cap tube coil which will not work with any condenser available today even R-22 Freon. These cap tube coils are inefficient and will not work with mandatory 13 SEER equipment upgrade. Additionally a system that old has likely been neglected maintenance wise and so replacing one part of the system will not really help you unless the system is broken and not working at all.
Every case is different and the best decision is to book a call now while you have a host of options still available. I will present all your options to you so that you can make the decision that works best for you.
Q: Can I add something to the system to stop a Freon or Puron leak?
A:You could but it would likely tear up the system or make it quit all together. The reason for this is there is usually at least one refrigerant filter on the system that removes moisture and other impurities from cycling through the system. If you add some sort of stop leak it will find the filter first and likely remain there plugging up the line which will cause abnormal working properties and likely will not cool and worse yet keep on leaking just as before.
In working with air conditioning refrigerant systems the inner workings must be free from contaminants to work properly. You never want to put something in a refrigerant system that doesn't belong there, it will likely cause it to stop working all together and worse yet could wreck the inner workings of the system.
You wouldn't put water in your gas tank to "get more mileage" would you? I don't say that to be mean, but so you understand the severity of the consequences of doing such a thing.
Q: Should I add flourescent dye to my system to find out where a Freon or Puron leak is?
A:No, this is my honest oppinion and coincides with what I just said above about adding things to a system that don't belong there in the first place. Not to mention it is messy and gets all over everything.
There are better ways to discover where the leaks are without adding anything to the system. If you are in the Katy, Cypress or Richmond, Texas area book a call for me to come out and if I can't find the freon leak or puron leak in your central air conditioning system I will only charge you for the freon or puron needed to perform the leak search which will be credited back to you if you decide to make a repair to the system.
Ok, here's another chance to press my button. What can I say? I just love my buttons.
Q: I have a freon leak in my central air conditioning system. I heard somewhere I could repair the leak by adding leak stop to it, or applying JB weld to where the leak is. Will either of these methods work?
A:No, there is no leak stop available for the central HVAC market. The leak stop you are referring to is for use in automotive air conditioning equipment and even if it were used in an automotive system I have serious doubts it would do any good. For one the hoses are made of rubber in an automotive a/c and if you get a leak in one of those your wasting your time and money trying to fix it with a fluid leak stop.
Putting this leak stop in a central HVAC air conditioning system would likely tear up the inner workings of the system not to mention the compressor. The compressor on an automotive a/c is driven by a belt and pulley system with a clutch and is a completely different application than that of a home air conditioning system. So much different that it runs at different operating pressures and uses an entirely different refrigerant. (R-134a) back in the early 90's cars used R-12 which is now more or less obsolete due to the chlorine content of it as it was the first to go because it was deemed worse than R-22 freon.
A home air conditioning compressor is run by electrical windings that are internal to the compressor. These windings are only protected by a thin laquer type film. If that film on the windings breaks down the electrical current running through the windings will short through the freon running through the compressor to the metal casing of the compressor to ground. [Short to ground] If that happens the breaker will trip everytime you try to run it. The freon in side will start to burn everytime you try to run it and the compressor is dead at that point.
The laquer film on the windings can be broken down in several ways. The first way is repeatedly running the unit low on freon / puron or whatever refrigerant it was designed to run. Because the refrigerant in the system is also used to cool the compressor running it with a lack of refrigerant causes the compressor to run hot. This heat is carried through to the windings and after so long of this the laquer on the windings starts to break down and burn away.
The second way is not keeping the starting components in satisfactorly working order. This will cause exorbinant resistance in the flow of electricity thus causing the windings to run hot. Everyone has seen what happens to a light bulb that burns out when you flick a light switch. It's no different with your compressor, except that you can significantly lessen the chance by proactive maintenance procedures. If wires around the starting components are burnt it is telling you something. Just replacing the wires is begging for the a/c grim reaper to pay a visit to your poor neglected air conditioning compressor.
JB weld? No forget it... it will never work. For one JB weld is again intended for automotive use. I used this before back in the mid eighties to fix a muffler gasket that kept blowing apart on my car. The reason why it worked was because it was supported by an iron clamp. You can't just goo it up on an air conditioning copper lines and expect it to do anything. The freon running thru the lines can easily hit over 200 psi that's 200 pounds per square inch! (psi). Additionally if you get any of this JB weld stuff inside the air conditioning system, you might as well by a whole new HVAC system.
The only way to repair a leak is to braze the hole (leak) shut with an alloy compound of silver. If you can do so without tearing something up. [IE: burning the house down, melting coil fins, or brazing dis-similar metals together.] In laymans terms brazing is more or less welding. It is done with a oxy/acet rig at high temps. There are no shortcuts sorry.
Q: What is the EPA mandated phaseout schedule for R-22 freon?
A:Phaseout Schedule for HCFCs Including R-22:
Under the terms of the Montreal Protocol, the U.S. agreed to meet certain obligations by specific dates that will affect the residential heat pump and air-conditioning industry:
January 1, 2004:
- The Montreal Protocol required the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 35% below the U.S. baseline cap. As of January 1, 2003, EPA banned production and import of HCFC-141b, the most ozone-destructive HCFC. This action allowed the United States to meet its obligations under the Montreal Protocol. EPA was able to issue 100% of company baseline allowances for production and import of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b.
- January 1, 2010:
- The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 75% below the U.S. baseline. Allowance holders may only produce or import HCFC-22 to service existing equipment. Virgin R-22 may not be used in new equipment. As a result, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system manufacturers may not produce new air conditioners and heat pumps containing R-22.
- January 1, 2015:
- The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 90% below the U.S. baseline.
- January 1, 2020:
- The Montreal Protocol requires the U.S. to reduce its consumption of HCFCs by 99.5% below the U.S. baseline. Refrigerant that has been recovered and recycled or reclaimed will be allowed beyond 2020 to service existing systems, but chemical manufacturers will no longer be able to produce R-22 to service existing air conditioners and heat pumps.
Q: Do you work on R-410a Puron systems?
A:Yes, I am universally certified by the EPA to work with any refrigerant.
Q: People tell me R22 systems work better than the newer R410a systems is this true?
A:Yes and No, If a R410a system is installed properly it will work just as good or better than an R22 system. However, R410a is a more picky refrigerant and if proper procedures during install are not followed problems will follow suit.
It will become more important for you to pick a company that does it right as opposed to a fly-by-the-seat of their pants A/C company. The low - low price is all the rage these days, but in the end if the system is installed wrong with lackluster installation methods it will be more likely to wind up costing you more than had you chose the company who does things right. Beware of the low-low price, just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's always a bargain.
This isn't meant to mean I am priced the highest. Each job is different due to the fact that all home builders are different. The more short-cuts your home builder took could mean additional expense to get the new A/C to work properly. You get what you pay for in HVAC installations and sometimes alot less. When installing an R410a system it pays to do it right.
The reason for this is R410a is a very hydroscopic refrigerant that very easily absorbs moisture. Moisture is the enemy of any refrigeration system whether it be your home air conditioner, your refrigerator, freezer or any other appliance that controls temperature. The cleaner the environment inside the refrigerant system, [IE Evaporator Coil, Copper Line Set, Driers, Condenser etc.] the less likely the chance of a system malfunction due to installation procedures.
The choices you make rely on you and the contractors you choose to do business with. Not all are truthful or as knowledgeable as they should be. R410a Puron is not all that new, it has been around for over 10 years now, you certainly don't want a science project at your house with something like "we think it will work."
In the end the system will work only as good as the installation. If the installation is problematic, don't expect much out of the system. In your lifetime you shouldn't need to replace an A/C unit for all but 4 times if that many. According to statistics an average A/C unit lasts about 10-12 years and typically longer than that if the installation is done very well. If you have a system younger than 10-12 years that is constantly giving you trouble you should look to make a change.
If you have read this far congratulations! You are now that much further to fully understanding the choices before you regarding your comfort needs. Thank you for visiting my website and informing yourself of the changes coming forward in the HVAC industry. I hope I have given you enough information for you to make an informed decision regarding your comfort needs. If I can help you further please book a call for me to come to your home and I will assess your system in about an hour and find an appropriate line of action to get you ready for the coming changes in the Air Conditioning Industry.
If you have a question that wasn't addressed jot it down and ask me in person at the time of your consultation.
Thank you, I appreciate your business!