Refrigerants, also called coolants, are the chemical compounds that work with your air conditioning system to provide your home with cool air. R-22 is the most common type of refrigerant found in air conditioners that were manufactured before 2010.
There are different types of refrigerants, and the use of these compounds is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. That's because their usage has an impact on the environment, and our understanding of that impact continues to develop and evolve over time.
R-22 is a hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) and a type of refrigerant gas that has been used in air conditioning systems for many years.
The EPA's Clean Air Act of 2010 mandated the phase-out of R-22 production, because researchers discovered that it depleted the ozone. The government mandated a 90% reduction in R-22 production by 2015, and a 99.5% reduction by 2020.
Manufacturers always include the date of manufacture in the air conditioning unit's serial number, though they can be displayed differently.
Use this cheat sheet from BuildingCenter.org to determine when your air conditioner was manufactured.
Since HCFCs like R-22 were found to be environmentally damaging, it was determined that there needed to be another option. Alternative refrigerants are classified as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and they don't contain any ozone-depleting chlorine. Aside from being better for the environment, they're more affordable than R-22, work efficiently and increase the serviceability of your A/C unit.
If your air conditioner uses R-22 and develops a leak or needs another repair, your HVAC technician may recommend that your existing A/C unit be retrofitted to accept an alternative refrigerant.
To learn more about the benefits of alternative refrigerants, click here.
If your air conditioner uses R-22 refrigerant, you can't just top off with an alternative refrigerant. Your system would need to be retrofitted in order to allow the use of alternative refrigerants.
When talking about adding more refrigerant to an air conditioning unit, technicians refer to the process as "topping off" or "recharging".
Essentially, the chemical refrigerant inside of the unit is being refilled. When you hear the term "charging" it's also a reference to adding refrigerant into the air conditioning system.
No, you cannot top off your air conditioner's refrigerant on your own. Federal law regulates the use and installation of refrigerants and special licensure and/or certifications are required for the professionals who work with these chemicals.
If you think you might have a problem with your air conditioner and you have a Home Warranty Service Agreement from 2-10 HBW, you can place a service request and 2-10 HBW will dispatch a service contractor to your home. If you do not have a Home Warranty Service Agreement, you can call an HVAC technician to assess your system's functionality.
When your air conditioner needs to be topped off or recharged with more refrigerant, one of the first signs is warm or room temperature air.
However, there could be any number of reasons for a malfunctioning air conditioner. If you have a Home Warranty Service Agreement from 2-10 HBW, you can place a request for service and 2-10 HBW will dispatch a service contractor to your home. If you do not have a Home Warranty Service Agreement, you should call an HVAC technician to assess your system's functionality.
This is a problem you're unlikely to encounter, since the manufacture and installation of new equipment using R-22 is now illegal.
Remember that you can still continue to service and maintain your existing air conditioner, even if it uses R-22. You just can't install a new air conditioner that uses R-22.
Air conditioners can develop leaks over the course of normal use, which is one of the primary reasons your refrigerant would need to be topped off.
If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2013, it likely uses R-22 refrigerant. Due to EPA regulations this gas is good as gold — it's expensive and hard to find.
Yes. There are products in the market that can do an immediate and effective job of repairing and sealing refrigerant leaks even if the technician cannot find the leak's location.
Check your air conditioner unit and look for a nameplate that contains the type of refrigerant being used, plus other information like electrical rating and safety certifications. Central air conditioners usually display this information on the outdoor unit.
If you can't find this information on the A/C unit, look for the manufacturer and model number. You can use this information to determine what type of refrigerant is being used.
The costs of retrofitting an existing air conditioner to use alternative refrigerants will vary depending on the type of retrofitting that's needed.
Topping off an A/C system with a known leak is illegal, but once the leak has been diagnosed and addressed by an HVAC technician, it can be a viable practice. Topping off with R-22 may be more economical in the short term. But, in the long run, R-22 is becoming more difficult to find, and that's if you can find a technician who will even work with R-22 (many will simply refer you to someone else). Further, the technician can guesstimate how many pounds you'll need, but you won't know the final count until the refrigerant is being replaced.
The retrofitting process will look different based on the type of alternative refrigerant being used. Some retrofits are easy and straightforward, with minimal or no equipment replacements needed.
Other retrofits are more complex and require additional components. For more information on how an air conditioner gets retrofitted, review How An Air Older Air Conditioner Gets Retrofitted For Alternative Refrigerants.
No, alternative refrigerants do not deplete the ozone layer, which is why the EPA is phasing out R-22 and mandating the use of these new compounds.
If having a new, modern, and more efficient system is important to you, you might consider replacing your air conditioner.