types of AC refrigerants

Refrigerants – What’s in your AC Unit, and Why Does It Matter?

Joe Goldstein Cooling and Air Conditioning

Despite what you may think, there probably isn’t any Freon in your AC system.

In recent years, AC refrigerant research has come a long way. Not too long ago, AC units contained chemicals that were harmful to both humans and the environment. Going back even further, AC units really did consist of a large ice cube and a fan. We’ve come quite a distance from a time when everyone went to the movies in the summer just to cool down.

You hardly ever have to think about the refrigerant, but it is one of the most important parts of your AC system. Two important notes on refrigerants:

1. These chemicals are referred to by their chemical composition, and so you’ll see them listed as R-something.
2. Many of these refrigerants are hydrochlorofluorocarbons or hydrofluorocarbons, which means they contain hydrogen, flourine, carbon, and sometimes chlorine.

Types of Refrigerants

R-22

This refrigerant is often referred to by its brand name, Freon. It is one of the original refrigerants that appeared in home air conditioning systems. However, as of 2010, Freon was discontinued and in 2015, any and all R-22 refrigerants must be discontinued. The reason is that the chemical contains chlorine gas, which is dangerous for humans but even more dangerous for the atmosphere. It is widely considered to be one of the key causes of the depletion of the ozone layer.

R-410A

Often called by its trade name Puron, R-410A does not contain chlorine and is much better for the environment. The chemical was designed by Carrier, one of the HVAC hardware companies, in 1991. It was originally used in commercial systems, but has been popular with home HVAC systems for the last several years. Puron operates at a slightly higher pressure than do other gases so it is important to consider requirements when considering a system.

R-407C

Your HVAC professional may recommend R-407C (often referred to as Genetron) because it is the most similar to Freon. If you are upgrading from a Freon-based system, you may go with Genetron because it will not require a wholesale change of hardware.

Do I need to upgrade?

If you have a Freon-based system, then yes, it is best to upgrade. Depending on your municipality, you may not be able to sell your home with a Freon AC system.

Can I do this myself?

No. While refrigerant is commercially available, using it appropriately takes extreme caution. Refrigerants that come in contact with bare skin can have a frostbite effect. If the refrigerant becomes too warm, the canister can burst. Most importantly, there are many different products and AC systems that are available – it is best to have your local HVAC professional help you select the right system and refrigerant that’s right for you.