refrigerant gauge

Freon & Beyond: What is the Type of Refrigerant Used in AC Systems?


Understanding the Type of Refrigerant Used in AC Systems Today

AC technician checking refrigerant levelsIf you’ve ever wondered how your central air conditioning system transforms hot, stuffy air into a cool breeze, you’re not alone. The secret lies in a substance known as refrigerant – the unsung hero of HVAC systems. It absorbs heat from your indoor air and cools it down. Yet, despite its pivotal role, many of us still need to learn how it works (and what kind we’ll find in our HVAC systems).

Residential AC systems primarily use two types of refrigerants: R-22 (Freon) and R-410A (Puron). While other types of refrigerants are utilized in the commercial HVAC industry, our focus today will be on the refrigerant varieties commonly found in home HVAC systems.

As your trusted guide to all things related to cooling in Tennessee, we’re here to shed light on the world of air conditioning refrigerants and the types used in HVAC equipment. It’s the Right Time to learn about refrigerants, the different types, and the future of Freon and other common refrigerants.

First, let’s start by understanding exactly how refrigerant fluids create the much-needed cooling that makes summer heat waves bearable!

How Do Air Conditioners Create Cool Air?

Cooling your entire home on a sweltering day may seem like magic, but it’s not – it’s actually refrigerant. But how does refrigerant turn hot air into cool air? Let’s break it down.

HVAC refrigerant Freon being used in air conditioningRefrigerant is circulated between your indoor air handler’s evaporator coil and your outdoor condenser. It changes from a gas to a liquid (and back), which is its secret to absorbing and releasing heat. As refrigerant fluid passes through the evaporator coils inside your house, heat is absorbed from the warm air passing over the coils. When this happens, the refrigerant changes from a cool liquid to a hot gas. Then, it travels outside, where the compressor and condenser change it from a hot gas back into a cool liquid. When that heat is released into the outdoors, the refrigerant is a cooled liquid that’s ready to start the process over again.

Luckily, your HVAC refrigeration cycle is a closed system. There is no loss during the process, which means that you’ll never have to refill or replace refrigerant fluid unless your system has a leak!

Types of Air Conditioner Refrigerant in Homes

You’ve likely heard of Freon and Puron, the two most commonly known types of refrigerant. However, there is a new refrigerant that HVAC systems are being manufactured with due to new industry regulation to reduce the environmental impact of AC systems: Puron Advance. It’s important know what we’ve been using, what’s being phased out, and why we’re making the transition to new refrigerants in the upcoming years. Take a look!

R-22: Freon, the Most Common Refrigerating Fluid

When Freon was created by Thomas Midgley Jr. and his team in 1928 during research to replace dangerous chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). this non-flammable fluid was R-22, which is now known by the brand name “Freon.” Hailed as a miracle compound, Freon has been in use for decades and decades – in fact, you may even have an AC system that still uses it today!

Freon is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), which has been shown to have a lower impact on the ozone than CFCs, but it still damages the ozone layer and has a high global warming potential (GWP). Following the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol of 1988, new EPA regulations limit or prohibit the use of CFCs and many HFCs like Freon. It has been phased out of production entirely as of 2020, though many older systems still use Freon. Today, R-22 is only used in air conditioning repairs – and you can’t retrofit a Freon HVAC system to use newer refrigerants either.

But don’t worry, we’re not going to be left out in the heat! Manufacturers of new systems have discontinued the use of R-22 in favorite of its more environmentally friendly cousin, Puron.

R-410A: Puron, the Friendlier Replacement

pink container of Puron (R-410A refrigerant)Introduced in 1991 by Allied Signal, R-410A (also called Puron) is a refrigerant that uses a blend of R-32 and R-125. Its unique composition makes it environmentally friendly, contributing to its lower GWP compared to other refrigerants. However, due to its high operation pressure, air conditioners require specific parts to effectively run Puron through the system. Beyond its environmental benefits, Puron is commonly used in modern AC units renowned for their superior energy efficiency, reliability, and cooling ability. In common use since 2010, R-410A represents a significant shift towards more sustainable and high-performing HVAC systems.

However, EPA regulations began phasing out R-410A in 2022 because it contains R-125, an HFC. Just as Puron became a more responsible replacement for Freon, R-454B and R-32 are moving into the limelight as new refrigerant alternatives.

R-454B & R-32: The Shift

EPA regulations dictated that R-410A would be replaced by lower-GWP refrigerants beginning January 2023. This means that new systems created in North America are no longer using R-410A – another big shift for homeowners and manufacturers. The alternatives to Puron include two low-flammability options: R-454B and R-32, which have significantly lower GWP and no ozone impact. They also permit higher capacity and better performance for systems.

The Future of Refrigerants

refrigerant gaugeWe are constantly searching for the solution to refrigeration that will provide cooling without an impact on our ozone, global warming potential, or safety. The EPA has approved many alternative to Puron in the latest shift to remain environmentally conscious, and it is likely that we will see even more transitions in the future to stay on track with the EPA’s long-term phaseout plan. Homeowners should stay aware of changes in the HVAC industry regarding refrigerant for several reasons. Not only do these changes affect the cost of air conditioning replacements, but they also impact the cost of repairs that require refrigerant refills for Freon, Puron, and other deprecated refrigeration fluids. Since compounds like Freon are no longer being produced, homeowners will have to rely on shrinking stocks when they have a leak.

It’s the Right Time to Save Money with a New System

If you have an older system that uses Freon or Puron, don’t spend more money on repairing your refrigerant leak. It’s the Right Time to consider an environmentally responsible air conditioning replacement for your home! Talk to our team of HVAC experts about the long-term impact of using Freon or Puron to power your cooling – and find out if an air conditioner replacement is the right choice for you.



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