In most cases, if your air conditioner springs a refrigerant leak, or otherwise loses refrigerant, you can call in an AC repair service. They can come "recharge" the air conditioner and also seal the leak so that the unit does not lose refrigerant again. However, recharging an air conditioner is not always possible anymore. In 2020, a refrigerant called R-22 was phased out completely, which means you can no longer recharge an air conditioner that runs this refrigerant. Here's a closer look at this issue and what it might mean for you.
What Is R-22?
The more common name for R-22 is freon. A lot of people use the term "freon" to refer to any refrigerant, but this is not the proper use of the term. Freon is specifically R-22. The new refrigerant that is being used in most air conditioners now is called R-401C, or Puron. Like all refrigerants, R-22 cools as it expands, thereby absorbing heat from the air that blows past it.
Why Was R-22 Phased Out?
R-22 was phased out because it was found it be bad for the ozone. It contributed negatively to climate change. By phasing it out and replacing it with more eco-friendly coolants, the HVAC industry is doing its part to help preserve the planet.
How Do You Know If You Have R-22 In Your Air Conditioner?
If your air conditioner was made prior to 2010, it almost certainly uses R-22 as a refrigerant. There were a few air conditioners made to run R-22 until 2015, but this is not as common. If you have a refrigerant leak, it's easy to tell whether you have this refrigerant. Put some white paper down under the leak, and then look at the color of the liquid that runs out. If it is light green, it is R-22.
What are your options for a leaking R-22 air conditioner?
You can't have the air conditioner recharged, so you will need to have your installer replace it with a newer model that runs R-401A. If this is not in your budget immediately, your HVAC contractor may be able to plug the leak in your current AC unit so you can squeeze a few more months out of it, albeit at a limited capacity. When you have the room in your budget, you can upgrade to a new AC unit.
If you have an older AC unit, make sure you examine which refrigerant you have before proceeding. If it's R-22, your best bet is to replace the unit as it really can't be repaired.