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Does the Type of Air Conditioning Refrigerant Make a Difference?

air-conditioning-manometer-pressure-refrigerantThe simple answer to the question: “Yes.”

But that simple answer requires a longer explanation. Refrigerant—what it is and what it does—is something few people outside of the HVAC and refrigerant industry understand. We’re going to look closer at refrigerant to explain why ensuring your AC has the right type is vital and you should leave working with it to professionals.

The Early Days of Refrigerant

Refrigerant is any chemical that can go through a process of condensation and evaporation, shifting from liquid to gas state and back again. This allows the refrigerant to move heat from one area (evaporating to absorb it) and to another (condensing to release it). This is called heat exchange, and it’s the basic way electro-mechanical air conditioners and refrigeration equipment works.

For a refrigerant to work efficiently, it must be able to shift easily between liquid and gas states when compressed. The first refrigerants used in air conditioners were chemicals like ammonia or anything that could be compressed into a gas. Many different refrigerants were tested in the early 20th century—unfortunately, most of them were toxic or flammable, which made air conditioning equipment extremely hazardous.

Everything changed with the creation of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) compounds, which are non-toxic and non-flammable. Blends of CFCs are stable and don’t react to anything accept UV radiation. These refrigerant blends are often referred to as “Freon,” which is actually a brand name, not a specific blend.

From R-22 to R-410A

For many decades, residential air conditioners ran on CFCs. The most common was a blend known as R-22. But because CFCs release ozone-depleting emissions, they are being phased out from use, with 2020 as the point where R-22 will no longer be legal to manufacture or use in the U.S. The refrigerant blends that have taken over are the environmentally safer hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) compounds. The HCFC used in standard residential air conditioners is R-410A.

Your AC Can Only Use One Type of Refrigerant

An air conditioning system is designed to handle a specific refrigerant blend and no other. If you have an air conditioning system manufactured after 2010, it uses R-410A. If any other type of refrigerant is put in the AC, it will cause catastrophic damage to the system. Likewise, if you have an older AC that uses R-22, it cannot be refilled with R-410A. Because R-22 supplies are limited and will soon not be available at all, we recommend upgrading your air conditioning equipment if it still uses R-22.

If an air conditioner starts to lose refrigerant to leaks, the only people qualified to replace the lost amount are certified HVAC technicians. They can properly handle the refrigerant and ensure the correct amount (and correct blend) is put back into the air conditioner so it will work right.

When you need air conditioning service in Raleigh, NC or elsewhere in the Triangle Area of North Carolina, we’re the contractor to call. We have many NATE-certified technicians on staff who are certified to handle refrigerant so that your AC receives the right repair work.

Get in touch with us when you need help with your AC. Comfort Master Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. provides the comfort you deserve!

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