The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of phasing out hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which includes Freon, a refrigerant once common in air conditioners and freezers. Scientific evidence determined that HCFCs are significant ozone-depleting substances. The phase-out was implemented as a result and manufacturers stopped using HCFCs in 2010. However, many appliances made and installed before that may still be using Freon.
Homeowners are now asking: Do I need to upgrade my AC if it’s using Freon? To answer that question, we talked with Stay Comfy’s resident HVAC expert, Keith Hill. Here’s what we learned.
What’s Your AC’s Working Condition?
The answer to that question can determine if you should consider upgrading or not. According to Keith, “If your existing AC system is working fine and is leak free, then leave it be. There is no requirement to upgrade and the process to upgrade costs money and will likely reduce capacity slightly and reduce efficiency.”
But if your system has sprung some leaks, and especially if it has done so several times, you may want to consider replacing the Freon entirely.
Types of Freon Substitutes
There are basically two categories of Freon replacements. “Many alternate refrigerants (alternatives to Freon) require changing the oil in the system, which is a big job and not practical on a residential unit. They may also require changing some of the components that affect refrigerant flow,” according to Keith.
The second category of replacements, however, are less complicated. Keith mentions “there are new Freon substitutes such as R422D which are made to be drop-in refrigerants.” A drop-in refrigerant does not require removal of the oil or changing out any system components. It just requires removal of the Freon and addition of the new refrigerant. This might be a good option for you if, as Keith points out, “you have a chronic leaker that you are trying to keep alive for a few more years.”
Your Warranty Could Be Affected
If you’re considering a Freon upgrade, you’ll want to be sure to check with your unit’s manufacturer. Changing out your refrigerant could impact your manufacturer’s warranty. Better to check ahead of time than be sorry later.
It Takes a Pro
Keep in mind that any AC Freon upgrade requires professional servicing. Keith explains, “not only is it complicated to confirm the correct charge and requires specialized equipment, but it’s required by federal law that the technician have an EPA refrigeration certification.”
If you think changing out your Freon is an option for you, check out our convenient dealer locator for qualified HVAC professionals in your area.