Refrigerant Replacement – How It Impacts Your Residential Air Conditioner

Refrigerant is a chemical compound used in your residential air conditioning system that absorbs the heat around it and returns it as cooled air as it moves through compressors and evaporators. 

While air conditioners have been around for decades, how they work has changed slightly over the years. Air conditioners require refrigerant, but the refrigerant as originally designed has changed. 

Looking back in time, the HVAC industry has used a variety of refrigerants to make air conditioning possible. A generation ago, R12 was commonly used to cool houses until manufacturers figured out a better, more efficient way of processing. R-12 changed to R-22, until scientists discovered the ozone depletion potential associated with using R-22 regularly. 

They went back to the drawing board, and came up with a replacement – R-410a – which had less ozone depletion potential. Ozone depletion potential – ODP – is measured by the metric ton. While R-12 was listed as 1 ODP, R-410a moved to 0.5. A move in the right direction, but with still room for improvement, they kept researching. 

Refrigerant Replacement - How It Impacts Your Residential Air Conditioner

It’s not just ODP that scientists are looking at anymore. It’s also about global warming potential. Global warming potential is measured as an effect of one unit of Co2 required to warm the earth. R-12 was listed as 2400, while R-22 moved to 1700. 

The problem with R-410a is while it improved ODP, it increased global warming potential, with a rating of 2088. While it helped with one metric, there was still room for improvement. Which leads to the next refrigerant replacement moving into play, R-454b. 

R-454b offers pressure similar to R-410a, and requires a bit less of a charge. It will be rated at ODP 0, and lower the global warming potential to 465. 

The EPA has already approved this new refrigerant as replacement in light commercial and residential equipment starting January 1, 2023. After that date, manufacturers will no longer make equipment that takes one of the previous refrigerants, and will only create equipment with this new, more efficient refrigerant. 

Existing refrigerant chemicals will be available for replacement in existing models for several years beyond the effective date. Yet you should talk with a technician every time your older unit requires repair to determine if it’s more beneficial for you to repair your existing model, or upgrade to one more efficient. 

What other questions do you have about refrigerant replacement and how it impacts your current air conditioner? 

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