Your air conditioning system consists of more than just mechanical parts; it consists of refrigerant. Refrigerant, in fact, is the lifeblood of your air conditioning system. As it moves between your air conditioner’s indoor and outdoor equipment, it will cool your home.
How Refrigerant Works
Refrigerant works by absorbing heat from the air inside your home so that it can be released outside. It flows back and forth between your air conditioner’s evaporator coil and condenser coil in a sealed system to transfer heat out of your home.
At the evaporator coil, refrigerant will absorb heat while simultaneously transitioning from a liquid state to a gas state. The hot gas refrigerant will then flow to the condenser coil where the heat is released. As the temperature of the refrigerant drops, it transitions back to a liquid state before reentering your home and repeating the cycle.
Common signs of low or no refrigerant include the following:
Frozen refrigerant lines or coils
Air doesn’t feel cold
Air conditioning system constantly running
Higher-than-normal energy bills
Unusual “hissing” noise
The Different Types of Refrigerant
While all refrigerant works by absorbing heat, there are a few different types of refrigerant. In the past, most residential and commercial air conditioning systems used R-22. A type of hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), R-22 was the universal standard for air conditioning refrigerant for many decades. Upon discovering that it contributed to ozone depletion, though, lawmakers worked to phase it out with the Clean Air Act of 2010.
Since Jan. 1, 2020, the production and importation of R-22 in the United States is illegal. All new air conditioning systems must now use an alternative type of refrigerant. R410A is the successor to R-22. Unlike R-22, it doesn’t contribute to ozone depletion. Furthermore, R410A is more effective at absorbing heat, allowing for greater cooling performance.
If your air conditioning system currently uses R-22, you don’t have to necessarily upgrade to R410A. The Clean Air Act of 2010 only bans the production and importation of R-22. It doesn’t contain any provisions forcing homeowners with an old air conditioning system to upgrade to a new system.
You can continue using R-22 in your air conditioning system. Heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) companies still sell R-22, and they still service air conditioning systems using this old type of refrigerant. Since it’s been phased out, however, supplies of R-22 are limited, so you can expect to pay more for it rather than R410A.