To start with, Freon is a brand name for refrigerant, the same way Band-Aid is a brand name for an adhesive bandage. So when you charge your air conditioning system, you are actually adding refrigerant. There are many types of refrigerant, depending on the application will depend which one you are using, automobiles use a refrigerant called 134A, medium temp such as refrigerators may use R-404 and of course our home air conditioners use either a R410A or R-22
Systems using the R-22 refrigerant are no longer manufactured, it has been known for years that the chemical compound in the R-22 does deplete the ozone. Since 2012, units have not been manufactured with the R-22 refrigerant and for the most part have been replaced with units that utilize the refrigerant R-410A. People who own a unit with R-22 can still legally use these units and can even have them repaired, parts and refrigerant are available, but are quickly becoming scarce. The US government limits the production of the R-22 because of the hazards to the environment, but there are still many systems out there that utilize the R-22 so there is a serious demand for it. Therefore, there is a greater demand for the R-22 then there is a supply so the cost has been rising exponentially.
As a consumer, you do have some choices. If your system has been diagnosed as low on refrigerant, you can pay to have more added in providing that it is not leaking excessively. If it is leaking excessively, you may want to perform a leak search to see if the leak can be repaired and would therefore not need additional refrigerant in the future.
Many times the system is of the age that the consumer may feel it has reached its useful life and may not want to spend any more dollars on a unit that may not last the year. Especially with the high cost of refrigerant, it may be better to just purchase a new unit that utilizes the R-410A refrigerant which is relatively inexpensive. When going from R-22 to R-410A system, not only must you change your outdoor condensing unit, you will also have to change your indoor evaporator coil and the interconnecting copper pipe called refrigeration pipe.
The final option you may have is replacing your refrigerant with a retrofit refrigerant such as M099. These retrofit refrigerants are designed to replace the R-22 in your current system without the need to change refrigeration pipe or lubricant. They are fairly new to the market, but have shown some promising results. The main thing to remember is that you are attempting to retrofit a piece of equipment that has most likely been in service for years, so the results on your unit may not be the same results as that of your neighbor. You really have to weigh the cost of retrofitting the refrigerant against how many more years of service you think your unit may provide. I am not aware of anyone that will guarantee that a refrigerant retrofit will work so you may be stuck with the cost of the retrofit as well as the cost of a new A/C system if it does not work and the compressor slugs.
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Residents of Oswego, Illinois have valued and trusted the information provided by the professionals at RJ Kuhn. We have always felt that an informed customer is our best customer so we will always do our best to ensure that when you have to make an important decision about your Plumbing, Heating or Cooling that your decision is based on facts