R22 Freon: A Guide to Your Alternatives


For decades, R22 freon was the coolant of choice in refrigeration units and air conditioners. Then, scientists identified Freon and other chlorofluorocarbons/hydrochlorofluorocarbons as ozone-depleting substances. This prompted the Montreal Protocol, which set out a large-scale international agreement for phasing out CFCs.

In the US, an R22 production or importation ban goes into effect in January 2020. For homeowners with older air conditioning units, that means a severe hike in coolant replacement prices as R22 supplies dwindle. So, what alternatives do you have for Freon?

Keep reading, and we’ll walk you through your options.

Unit Replacement

One option for your home is a straight A/C unit replacement. Unit replacement offers you several benefits. New units don’t use Freon, for one, instead favoring less destructive coolant options.

New units can typically tie-in with your existing ductwork, which minimizes disruption to your life. Modern A/C units also offer better efficiency. This efficiency improvement stems both from technology improvements and the simple fact that newer machines offer better performance.

New units can also offer efficiency improvement by more easily connecting with smart and programmable thermostats. All of which leads to long-term cost savings on cooling. 

R-410A Retrofit

R-410A is the current replacement coolant of choice for most A/C unit manufacturers. HVAC service companies will sometimes offer what they call a drop-in replacement. Drop in suggests a simple process, but it isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Older A/C units design specifications work around the expected performance of R22. Making these units work with R-410-A requires the service tech to replace several key components in the unit. 

While this will eliminate the Freon from your system and help the ozone layer, it’s not an ideal solution. Major overhauls like that generally nullify any manufacturer warranty you may still have in place on the unit.

Between parts and labor, you end up paying as much or more than you would have for a new unit. You also don’t get the efficiency improvements a new unit provides.

The Future: DR-55

While it still isn’t seeing widespread use, a new coolant alternative called DR-55 shows promise. A modified commercial A/C unit achieved slightly higher efficiency with DR-55 than R-410A. The real achievement is DR-55 reduces the global warming potential by 67%.

While still not available for widespread residential use, it’s a likely replacement for R-10-A if it continues performing at that level in future testing.

Parting Thoughts on Alternatives to R22 Freon

For the homeowner facing inevitable rising costs for coolant replacement, it makes sense for you to seek out alternatives to R22 Freon. At present, your face limited options.

You can replace your current unit with a new unit that uses R-410-A or get a retrofit that allows your old unit to use R-410-A. You’ll need the advice of an HVAC expert to determine which option offers you the best short-term savings and long-term value.

J&M Smith Heating & Air Conditioning provides heating and cooling services in Southwest Missouri. For more information about our services or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.

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