If you’re like most people, you rely on your air conditioner in the summer to keep you cool and comfortable. Whether in your car or home, many air conditioners made before 2003 use Freon as a refrigerant that cools hot air.
Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) that has been linked to ozone depletion, so it is rapidly being phased out. does this mean you should go out and buy a new hvac right away? Take a look at the history of freon and what’s happening with its use, so you understand how to determine the best course of action with your air conditioning units.
history of freon
CFCs were first synthesized in the 1890s, but they were highly dangerous and flammable. In the 1920s, General Motors formed another team to find a safer alternative that was more stable and non-toxic. Frigidaire, a division of GM, received a patent for a refrigeration appliance. In 1930, GM and Dupont joined forces and formed Kinetic Chemicals to produce Freon.
Freon is a colorless gas that is also known as R-22. dupont trademarked the name freon. CFCs have been used in refrigeration and aerosol cans for many years, but in 1974, a University of California researcher hypothesized that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer. It took years of research by the National Academy of Science, but eventually the United States banned the use of CFCs in aerosol cans. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol, which is an international environmental agreement, established the elimination of CFCs.
Freon not only damages the ozone layer, but its manufacture releases another product into the atmosphere. This gas, called HFC-23, is also harmful and contributes to global warming. Although freon is highly restricted and regulated in its use, older appliances still use and release this noxious gas.
uses of freon
Freon is not only used in air conditioning units, but has also been used in upright and chest freezers. In addition to that, there are a large number of commercial and industrial appliances that use Freon in both food transportation and cold storage warehouses. even dehumidifiers use r-22.
You can identify which refrigerant is being used in your air conditioning system by looking at the nameplate. this should provide a wealth of information about your unit, including safety certifications and electrical ratings. this information is probably located on the outdoor condensing unit, or you can contact the manufacturer to find out where this nameplate would be located.
how freon works
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There is a system of coils and compressors in your air conditioning unit. Alternating current compresses the R-22 gas, making it very hot. when this gas moves through the coils, it cools down to a liquid. In this way, the cooled R-22 absorbs the heat from the outside air and then expels the cold air. it’s a constant cycle of hot air in and cold air out that brings comfort to your home and car.
Every air conditioning unit needs a refrigerant to cool the air. when the refrigerant escapes, the air conditioner stops blowing cold air. Worse yet, these refrigerant leaks are bad for ozone. Most air conditioners manufactured after 2003 do not use freon as a refrigerant, as strict regulations have been set on the use of freon, making maintenance more expensive.
Not all problems associated with an air conditioner that blows only hot air are related to the refrigerant. you may need to change the filter or install a better thermostat. there is no reason for your coolant to run out on its own. if the freon or other refrigerant level is low, you probably have a leak. You should always call an HVAC technician to find and repair the leak before adding more refrigerant.
the montreal protocol
Under the Montreal Protocol, the United States has agreed to reduce its consumption of CFCs over a period of time. As of January 1, 2015, the United States should have been below 90 percent of its baseline usage. it is not until January 1, 2020 that usage must be 99.5 percent below its baseline usage.
Currently, Freon must be recovered and recycled from older systems. Freon may not be vented to the atmosphere during any process involving installation, servicing, or removal of equipment. in 2010, manufacturers stopped producing freon for use in new equipment. R-22 can be produced to service older equipment until 2020. After 2020, if you need Freon, it will have to come from recycled products.
freon at home
As stated, if your system was built after 2003, it probably uses a safer coolant. if it’s produced after 2010, it definitely uses a different coolant for cooling. With the phase-out, it may be more expensive to use Freon, which will encourage homeowners to replace older air conditioner models with more ozone-friendly products. that will not only reduce your repair costs, but should also provide more efficient cooling and heating, saving you money on your utility bills.
Although you won’t be required to stop using r-22, the long phase-out period is designed to give you enough time to make the switch as your household items age. If you own an item that uses R-22, make sure it is properly maintained to minimize impact on the environment until you are ready to replace it. not only “fill” a leaking system, but also repair the leak.
Be sure to dispose of your old items containing R-22 properly. many times the retailer will remove your old unit when installing the new item. Some junkyards and landfills may require proof that the coolant has been removed before accepting an item. always check to make sure you’re following safe guidelines. make sure your technician is trained in freon removal before letting someone else do it. do not cut refrigerant lines or remove a compressor yourself in order to have your item accepted by a disposal facility. it is important for the environment to take care of the freon in your product before it is released into the atmosphere.