Many of us don’t understand what a refrigerant does. So we think of it as a coolant, judging by its name. But a refrigerant is a substance that transitions easily from a gas to a liquid in order to remove heat and then provide cool or cold air. Without refrigerants, air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers would not work.
Air conditioners contain refrigerant inside copper coils. As the refrigerant absorbs heat from indoor air, it transitions from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid. Air conditioning components send the refrigerant outside, where a fan blows hot air over the coils and exhausts the hot air (not the refrigerant). The refrigerant then cools down and turns back into a low-pressure gas. Another fan located inside the home blows air over the cool coils to distribute the resulting cold air throughout the home or building. This cycle repeats to provide a comfortable indoor temperature.
You may be thinking, “Why should I care about refrigerants?” Refrigerants are considered “greenhouse gases” that contribute to global warming. Originally, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were used as refrigerants. After it was discovered that CFCs created a hole in the ozone layer, they were replaced with hydrofluorocarbons, (HFCs). You have probably heard of Freon, or R-22. This HFC was used extensively in the past, but in 2010, R-22 was discontinued for use in air conditioning units because of its greenhouse effect.
New air conditioning units now use R-410A, a refrigerant that does not contribute to greenhouse gases. This newer refrigerant is also more efficient and reliable. It can absorb and release more heat faster than the old R-22. This makes newer air conditioning units run better because there is less wear and tear on the unit and less chance of cracking or compressor burnout due to overheating. The newer refrigerant will also lower your energy bills.
If you have an older air conditioning unit that uses R-22 or Freon, you can still use the unit. The problem is that there is a limited supply of R-22 available, and the cost of it is increasing as the supply decreases. At some point soon you may not be able to replace the Freon in your unit, or it may prove to be too expensive. At that point you should consider replacing your air conditioning unit with a newer model that uses R-410A. Over the long run you will save money in energy bills, the unit will last even longer than old units that used Freon, and you will be helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A save for everyone!
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