Life Without R-22: Your Options for Residential Cooling

Posted on: 20 July 2017


Sooner or later, a new HVAC system will likely be on your home improvement shopping list. The recent industry-wide move away from traditional R-22 or Freon refrigerant is opening up a few possibilities, each offering their own unique pros and cons in terms of performance, efficiency and overall operation. If you're having a hard time choosing with system works best, then this brief guide should help you understand your current options.

Buying a New HVAC System with R-410A

Whereas R-22 is the grizzled veteran of the refrigerant world, R-410A is the fresh-faced upstart that holds a lot of promise. Better known as Puron, R-410A was specifically designed to have little to no impact on the environment around it. It's also designed to provide more effective cooling performance while also reducing overall energy consumption.

Buying a new HVAC unit that's pre-charged with R-410A is usually the best and most economical option in the long run. With the vast majority of new HVAC systems built with R-410A in mind, there's no worry about the new refrigerant suddenly disappearing. And as HVAC contractors gain more knowledge about repairing these new HVAC systems, the overall cost of repair will likely be lower than older R-22-based HVAC systems.

Keep in mind that HVAC systems using R-410A are not backwards compatible with R-22, nor will a HVAC system meant for R-22 work with R-410A. Both refrigerants use different lubricating oils, plus the operating pressure of R-410A is much higher than that of a similar R-22-based HVAC unit.

Buying a Dry-Shipped HVAC Unit

If you or your HVAC contractor is dead-set on sticking with R-22, a dry-shipped unit will likely be your best option. Dry-shipped HVAC units get around the current moratorium on new R-22-based HVAC units by shipping sans refrigerant. Instead of being pre-charged at the factory, it's up to your HVAC contractor to charge the unit with their own supply of R-22, along with the lubricating oil it needs to function properly.

Familiarity and low cost are the main upsides to buying a dry-shipped HVAC unit installed. Some people prefer the performance of R-22 to other refrigerants available, while others simply enjoy the more economical repair and upkeep costs associated with these older designs.

The only problem with buying a dry-shipped HVAC unit is the ongoing availability of R-22. As the manufacture of virgin R-22 comes to an end, supplies of the old refrigerant will only get tighter as time goes on. Sooner or later, filling your HVAC system with R-22 will likely be a very expensive endeavor, especially when there are likely to be cheaper alternatives available.  

Using Compatible Refrigerants for Your R-22-Based Unit

If you just can't stand to part with your current HVAC system but have concerns about future R-22 supplies, it may be worth switching your system to a new refrigerant that offers varying degrees of compatibility with R-22. These refrigerants include R-407C, which offers the closest compatibility to R-22 in terms of performance and usability. However, it requires the lubricating oil be completely changed for the best results.

Other refrigerants have plenty of advantages and drawbacks to consider when making the switch. For instance, R-438A and R-422D make for good drop-in replacements, but they can't be used with certain types of HVAC compressors. Others lack the good performance that unadulterated R-22 offers under various workloads.

Which Works Best?

Unsurprisingly, that typically depends on what you want out of your HVAC system. Buying a dry-shipped unit can help you stay the course if you prefer the cooling performance of R-22. R-410A-based systems may be a bit more expensive, but the refrigerant is more plentiful and will eventually be cheaper than R-22. Other alternatives to R-22 work in varying degrees, but it takes time and care to find the right refrigerant offering the best performance and efficiency.

For more information, contact a business such as Metro Air.