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What It Means If Your AC Still Uses R-22 Refrigerant

Pop quiz: what type of refrigerant does your air conditioner use?

Don’t worry too much if you don’t know the answer! Most people are in the same boat. After all, air conditioners are a closed system, with the refrigerant totally out of sight and out of mind.

Still, it pays to know what’s going on inside your A/C, especially since one popular type of refrigerant is about to be phased out!

We’ve put together a quick primer on what you should know the upcoming phase-out of R-22 Freon or refrigerant. Read on to learn about:

  • What is R-22 refrigerant/Freon-22
  • Why R-22 refrigerant is being phased out in 2020
  • How to tell what kind of refrigerant your air conditioner uses
  • What you should do if your air conditioner uses R-22
  • Replacing R-22 with a better alternative

What Exactly is R-22 Refrigerant of Freon-22?

Refrigerant is a substance that absorbs, transports and releases heat as it moves from a gas to a liquid/vapour state. It circulates through a system of tubes to extract heat from the air inside your home and then release it outside, creating the cooling effect that gets us through the summer.

For decades, the standard substance used as refrigerant in residential air conditioners was R-22. Officially called chlorodifluoromethane, R-22 has been sold under numerous names that include:

  • HCFC-22
  • R-22
  • Genetron 22
  • Freon 22
  • Arcton 4
  • Arcton 22
  • UN 1018
  • Difluorochloromethane
  • Fluorocarbon-22
  • Refrigerant 22

Starting January 1, 2020, it will no longer be legal to import or produce R-22 in Canada or the United States. The only remaining source of R-22 will be that which is recycled, reclaimed or recovered from existing units.

In other words, R-22 refrigerant is being phased out of use.

Why is R-22 Refrigerant Being Phased Out in 2020?

It’s not by chance that R-22 is about to be in short supply.

You might’ve heard warnings about the dangers of releasing Freon into the atmosphere. That’s because R-22 interacts with the sun’s UV rays and produces chlorine, which is known to contribute to depletion of our ozone layer.

Back in 1987, Canada and the United States both signed an agreement called the Montreal Protocol. This included a commitment to phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R-22.

The plan to phase out R-22 has been well underway for years, but 2020 marks the first year that no new supplies will be brought into Canada or the U.S.

How Do I Know If My Air Conditioner Uses R-22?

You can probably tell which type of refrigerant your air conditioner uses based on its installation date.

The two main types of refrigerant used in air conditioners today are R-22 and R-410A. Most central air conditioners manufactured and installed before 2010 use R-22 refrigerant, as was the standard at the time. Units installed after 2010 are more likely to use R-410A.

You can tell when your A/C was installed based on the owner’s manual. Here in Ontario, it’s standard practice for the installer to write down the date of installation in that manual.

Should I Be Worried If My Air Conditioner Uses R-22?

No need to panic! Your air conditioner isn’t dangerous, and it certainly isn’t illegal.

However, there’s a good chance it will become more expensive to repair.

Starting in 2020, R-22 refrigerant is going to be in increasingly short supply. So, if your A/C develops a leak and needs a refrigerant “refill”, it will be far costlier to you than it ever was in the past.

In fact, the cost of R-22 has already gone up in anticipation of this change!

Can I Convert My Air Conditioner from R-22 to R-410A?

You can have your R-22 air conditioner converted to use R-410A, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

It’s not only a matter of removing the old refrigerant and adding the new. Your air conditioner will require a whole new line set and a new evaporator coil. You will also need to have the old components disposed of in a safe, professional manner.

Considering most R-22 air conditioners are at least 9 years old, it’s unlikely that these retrofits are worth your money. A newer model air conditioner that’s built to use R-410A from the ground up will last longer and consume far less energy month-to-month. From a cost perspective, installing a new air conditioner is the far better choice in the long run.

Still have questions about the R-22 refrigerant phase-out? Feel free to call us or contact us online. We’re here to help you 24/7.

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