Due to a number of global and national environmental initiatives and rulings during the past decade, R-22 is being phased out as a refrigerant for cooling and air conditioning systems. The chemical of choice for many years, R-22 is among the class of HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) that have been determined to be harmful to the environment and a contributing cause of the erosion of the earth’s ozone layer. Subsequently, production of new equipment using R-22 refrigerants has been stopped and other options are being used effectively. By 2020, R-22 production will be stopped completely and older systems must be converted to a more eco-friendly type of refrigerant or replaced.
Evaluate Your System
Careful evaluation of the age and condition of your system will help determine whether replacement or conversion is the right option for you. If your system is over 10 years old already and costing too much to operate, perhaps an entirely new system with higher efficiency could be the better choice for the long run. Sometimes replacing the indoor and outdoor units and maintaining the existing infrastructure is a viable option.
In many instances, though, conversion of the refrigerants in the existing system might be the right economic decision. Choose only a proven and reputable licensed company to make the conversion, since this is not a simple process. The existing refrigerant must be carefully removed, equipment modifications made, and certain specific procedures must be followed before the new, safer refrigerant is introduced. This process is not a do-it-yourself operation and must be handled by a licensed HVAC specialist.
What Are the Alternatives to Your Existing R-22 Refrigerant Systems?
There are several refrigerants now designated as environmentally safe.
For air conditioning systems, R-410A is generally considered to be the most common option when replacing existing equipment with new equipment. Should your system develop a leak, this chemical will not harm the environment as the older product does. Only a licensed HVAC expert can perform the changeover.
Converting Existing R-22 Split Systems to R-410A
Since R-22 and R-410A are decidedly different products, they cannot be interchanged without modifications nor can these chemicals be mixed. These chemicals use very different lubricating oils, polyethylene-based for R-410A and oil-based for R-22. Mixing these within your system will cause the system to malfunction and quit. This will create even bigger headaches.
The first step by the HVAC-certified expert will be to inspect the entire system for leaks or damage. This ensures that no gas escapes during the evacuation or recharging process. Specific new R-410A mechanical parts will be added and all line connections must be resealed for safety at this point.
Equipment additions will include a replacement of the existing condensing unit and evaporator coil with the appropriate R-410A components. If replacements in the tubing are needed, this will be the time to do it.
All moisture must be removed during the process since the presence of any water will break down the R-410A lubricating oils. At this point, a vacuum pump is attached and a hard vacuum is achieved. The pump is left operating for several hours to evacuate everything within the system, leaving a totally dry inner environment.
Once the evacuation is completed, the technician introduces the R-410A refrigerant into the system. The system will be tested extensively by the technician before completing the job.
After testing the new system, your air conditioner is now recharged with a safer refrigerant and your system should be good for several more years of efficient cooling.
How Is Old R-22 Disposed?
Releasing old refrigerant into the atmosphere is an illegal act. The product must be contained and returned to an EPA-certified refrigerant reclaimer. This ensures the responsible handling and disposal of the chemical.