Do the new air conditioners and heat pumps use freon?
It’s a question that we at Aire-Com of KY hear 2-5 times every week in the summertime. Yes, the new Air conditioners and Heat Pumps still use freon. The difference from the old to the new is that it’s a different chemical blend. It’s kind of like a soft drink, there’s coke and there’s mountain dew. Both are soft drinks. They both have a lot in common and serve the same purpose. However, I’m telling you, there’s a difference between the two and you can definitely tell one from the other. That’s the way of our freon. The old freon was called R-22 freon and the new freon is called R-410A. They both are used for the same purpose and they both come from the same factory, but they definitely do not mix. Kind of makes you think of diesel fuel and gas. If you ever put diesel fuel in your car and it has a gas engine, then you would definitely wish you hadn’t.
The old freon “R-22” is a HCFC (Hydrochlorofluorcarbon) and they help deplete our protective ozone layer. They are being phased out of production and will not be produced after the year 2020. However, during that time they have reductions in availability of the R-22 freon. The EPA is the governing agency for freon. They use 1999 as the base year for production. They said that the year 1999 was a 100% production year. In 2005 the freon manufacturers could only manufacture 65% of the amount that was produced in 1999. In the year 2010, the manufacturers were only allowed to manufacture 35% of what was manufactured in the year 1999. In the year 2015, they can only manufacture 10% of what was manufactured in 1999. And in the year 2020, they are only allowed to manufacture 1/2 of 1% of what was manufactured in the year 1999. They also increase the federal taxes on it every year to help increase the cost and to force consumers to purchase new equipment. Here’s a link to an EPA publication that was published a few years ago explaining the phase-out of R-22 freon. It tells the story in more detail.
The new freon is R-410A. It’s also called “Puron” by the Carrier Manufacturers. Carrier loves to come up with their own names for things and then trademark them. But, that is a story for another day. It’s an HFC refrigerant blend. It does not deplete the Ozone layer like the R-22 refrigerant does. It operates at almost twice the pressures of R-22. But, in my opinion, I think that it out-performs R-22 tremendously. The old R-22 heat pumps were always putting out luke-warm air in the winter time and you had to switch to an alternative heat when the temperature reached 30-35 degrees Fahrenheit outside. The R-410A delivers very warm heat and it will continue to heat down to 5-6 degrees Fahrenheit outside before you switch to an alternative heat source. The old Air Conditioning and Heat Pump systems would use about 5 – 12 lbs of R-22 freon. The new, Ultra Hi-efficiency R-410A units will use from 10 – 20 lbs of freon. That’s because they are larger and one way to increase efficiency is to increase the coil sizes of the equipment.
So, yes all of our Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps still use freon. Residential units use R-22 and R-410-A. Commercial units can use over a dozen different refrigerants. And Air Conditioners and Heat Pumps do not really use freon like a car uses gas. The freon is always present in the same amount throughout the life cycle of the system unless it has a leak. The freon only changes its properties. It goes from a high pressure, hot gas to a high pressure warm liquid to a very cold, low pressure liquid to a very cool low pressure gas and then it starts the cycle all over again. Its interesting when you start to really study it, but all we really want to know is” Is my AC cooling properly”