Your heating and cooling equipment should provide you with many years of service. However, as parts wear and lines degrade, you can experience some malfunctions and a decline in performance. One of the most important issues can be your refrigerant levels, and an undercharge can significantly affect the performance of your air conditioner or heat pump. Additionally, this could reflect a leak. With the EPA Freon phase out, it’s important for you to understand the options when your equipment is serviced.
The Role of Refrigerant in Home Comfort
Heat pumps and AC units use refrigerating products to create heat exchange. Freon and other products are pressurized to create heat, and they are expanded to produce cold air. This process takes place in indoor and outdoor coils, and as the material’s temperature changes, there is an exchange with the air in the indoor or outdoor location. While an AC unit keeps the production of cold conditions inside, a heat pump involves the option of reversing the process so that heat can be generated indoors.
Freon was the primary material used in a variety of household and commercial appliances and systems for many years. However, R-22 has been found to contribute to ozone depletion. Leaks from refrigerators, vehicle heating and cooling systems, and household comfort control equipment all lead to the release of this greenhouse gas into the environment, contributing to conditions like global warming.
How the Freon Phase Out Affects Your Comfort System
Based on the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement related to environmental concerns, the United States is working on a timeline to meet basic obligations in phasing R-22 out of use. Consumption of the material is to be reduced by 99.5 percent by the beginning of 2020, and only reclaimed or recycled R-22 will be permitted for servicing existing equipment after that point. Current consumption is at least 75 percent below the limit established in the 1992 amendment to the Montreal Protocol.
As Freon availability decreases, it will be increasingly difficult to find supplies for servicing existing equipment. Prices will also be impacted due to unreliable supplies. However, there has been plenty of innovation in the industry, and there are replacement options for those with Freon-based systems who are dealing with the need for refrigerant recharges in their equipment.
DuPont and R-22 Replacements
There are a number of recognized replacement materials that don’t affect the ozone layer. DuPont has produced one such product and made it possible for existing equipment to be retrofitted to incorporate use of the new material. The product is known as R-437A, and it provides a number of advantages for consumers who decide to proceed with an AC or heat pump retrofit:
- Provides an alternative to completely replacing a system that has little refrigerating material left
- Provides environmentally concerned individuals with a way to make their home comfort more eco-friendly
- Temperatures achieved are close to those reached with R-22
- Can be placed in the same lines that held R-22 after the Freon has been evacuated
While more recent air conditioner and heat pump designs incorporate options like Puron, replacement products for Freon from manufacturers like DuPont provide a bit of flexibility for the business or household with a limited budget and older equipment. Current design and manufacture of new systems tends to incorporate Puron, but use of replacement products can buy a bit of time before an expensive system upgrade is required.
Knowing if Your Refrigeration Product Needs to Be Replaced
It’s important to pay attention to the performance of your AC system so that you don’t run into problems with permanent damage or serious leakage of cooling products. Some problems with HVAC equipment are subtle, and mild increases in power bills may not be noticed. However, periodic testing of temperatures as your air comes out of vents will give you an idea of what to expect over time. If your measurements change dramatically, service for your system may be needed.
An easier approach to staying aware of cooling material levels is to schedule spring service of your AC system. An annual AC tune-up or semi-annual heat pump service will allow an HVAC professional to assess conditions of refrigeration levels and lines, ensuring that the levels are adjusted appropriately and that leaks are diagnosed and repaired. If you are at risk of a system failure or are lacking significant levels of refrigeration product, a retrofit may be an ideal solution for restoring the cooling power of your system without jeopardizing the ozone layer.
Griffith Energy Services, Inc. can assist you with essential diagnostics and service of your system. We can provide you with options if you are in need of a retrofit for R-22 replacements or if you are considering a complete system upgrade. Your home comfort is our priority, and we perform a comprehensive range of HVAC services to improve or maintain optimum indoor conditions for your home or business. Call us to learn more.
Written by Kevin Spain