Part of the EPA’s job is to decrease harmful chemicals released into the environment. This means laws are always changing, new regulations often go into place.
In 1992, the EPA found hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) used in common refrigerators and air conditioners to be harmful, and therefore phased out over time. HCFCs are ozone depleting, trapping greenhouse gases and impacting our environment.
For decades, the main refrigerant chemicals used in air conditioners was R22, also known as HCFC22 or Freon. But a part of EPAs regulations stated that Freon be stopped completely by January 2020.
The good news is the guidelines for stopping Freon use has been in effect for years, so any new air conditioning system made since 2010 won’t use Freon as its refrigerant. Instead, it uses something called R410A, or Puron, a chemical that uses hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)that have been shown not to harm the ozone.
As a homeowner, you may or may not have been aware of this change. It isn’t something you have to rush out and change today.
Your HVAC professionals that service your equipment have been aware of this change for years, and therefore have been making the appropriate adjustments as they install new equipment. If you had an older air conditioning system replaced in the past few years, chances are they switched it out for an R410A unit.
Freon is really only hazardous when being disposed of, or if there is a leak in the system. If you do, by chance, still have a Freon-based HVAC unit and it still functions properly, it doesn’t need to be adjusted immediately. However, now that it is 2020, Freon will no longer be made. If you have a problem with a Freon-based unit and your HVAC professional doesn’t have access to Freon, you will have to replace your unit.
If you have a newer air conditioner, it is most likely using a more environmentally friendly refrigerant.
If you have an older air conditioner, it can still be serviced with recycled Freon - no more Freon is in production. You’ll have to talk with your HVAC specialist about retrofitting or replacing your system soon.