We are learning more and more every day about protecting our environment and the things that can cause damage to it. Take the chemical Freon® for example. It was used and continues to be used as a refrigerant for most HVAC systems in the United States, but is being phased out because of the damage it can do to the environment. At one point, however, it was thought to be the safest option. That's why we're here to give you the facts about the new cooling regulations and replacing Freon AC units in your home.
What Is The Backstory On Freon?
The interesting part is that Freon AC units – also known as AC units that use HCFC refrigerants (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) – were created to take the place of air conditioners that used CFC refrigerants (chlorofluorocarbons), because they were thought to be the safer choice. HCFCs were the nontoxic, noncorrosive, nonflammable option – good for homes – but turned out to be just as bad for the ozone layer. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, CFC production stopped in the United States in 1995 and was replaced by Freon (or HCFCs) as a refrigerant. Now HCFCs are being gradually phased out, with most production and importing stopped by 2020 and all production and importing stopped by 2030.
What Does That Mean For A Homeowner With A Freon AC Unit?
Despite the timeline given by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a government agency that regulates the use of Freon, homeowners don’t have to worry about running out and replacing all their currently working HVAC systems.
The main type of HCFC refrigerant used in air conditioners is HCFC-22 and despite it being phased out in 2010 (and production being completely stopped in 2020), it will be available for many years later, according to the Department of Energy website. That’s because it can be recovered and recycled from old systems that are taken out of service.
The EPA says homeowners won’t be required to stop using a unit that uses HCFC-22 or get it modified to use a new, ozone-safe refrigerant. They expect by the time the lengthy phase-out period ends, most people will have already replaced their old Freon AC units – just as you would need to replace any air conditioner or HVAC equipment every decade or so. And since newer units are being made use only ozone-friendly refrigerants/hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), that will dominate the market by the time the phase-out period ends.
If I Don’t Want An AC Unit That Uses HCFCs/Freon, What Do I Do?
If you don’t want to wait for your HVAC unit to die out, you can always get it replaced with an energy-efficient model that uses an environmentally sound refrigerant. Carrier has engineered an entire line of heating and cooling products that uses Puron, a chlorine-free refrigerant. And remember, switching to a high-efficiency air conditioner and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning by 20 to 50 percent, according to the Department of Energy.
Freon® is a registered trademark of The Chemours Company FC, LLC.