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R-410A versus R-22 Refrigerants - R-22 is a refrigerant that has been widely used in air conditioners and heat pumps for many years. It has been deemed hazardous to the environment and it will begin phase-out by law in the year 2010. The replacement refrigerant for R-22, R-410A, is being produced to meet the rising demand for new air conditioner and heat pump systems.
R-410A versus R-22 Refrigerants
Why do consumers need to understand the impact this law is having on the HVAC market? Because it will determine what HVAC consumers pay for future repairs made to their equipment. Everything boils down to the new law, refrigerant and HVAC equipment manufacturers retrofitting factories for the new HVAC equipment, and supply and demand. The changeover has already begun and there is some apprehension about this changeover. First of all, with any new technology, there is always some doubt. Does the new technology offer stability and reliability on par with the old time-tested system?
How many resources need to go into the changeover? These questions are valid and need to be addressed so there is a successful changeover from the R-22 refrigerant to the R-410A refrigerant. Technicians and have to be trained, consumers need to understand the new technology to have confidence in it, but more importantly, HVAC contractors need to have the confidence in these systems to recommend the technology to their customers. If the HVAC contractors do not have confidence in the new technology, they will not recommend it, and the new changeover, even though it is required by law or the changeover will be less than welcome.
R-410A versus R-22 Refrigerants - New Technology
This has happened with R-410A. New technology has bugs, and it takes time for these bugs to be addressed by engineers. R-410A, when operating at normal operating pressures and temperatures, has higher pressures, therefore the old R-22 refrigerant systems needed to be buffed up some to handle the higher pressures. Compressor manufacturers did this, but only after some problems occurred. Another issue that affects the confidence of the HVAC contractors is the oils used for R-410A are different than the oils used for R-22.
If the two are haphazardly mixed, then there will be a sure failure of the system. The oil in R-410A refrigeration systems also absorbs moisture more easily than the old R-22 systems. This makes it critical that the technicians perform proper evacuation when installing new HVAC systems. A less than proper evacuation will leave moisture in the HVAC refrigeration system, and this will ultimately lead to premature failure. These initial engineering problems, coupled with the new oil and its sensitivity to moisture along with the new technology apprehensiveness have led to a lack of confidence in the new R-410A systems available.
R-410A versus R-22 Refrigerants | Confidence in New Technology/Systems
The root of this lack of confidence lies with HVAC contractors and not the equipment and refrigerant manufacturers or distributors of HVAC equipment and refrigerants. The refrigerant manufacturers and the HVAC equipment manufacturers are beginning to change over production lines to accommodate the new R-410A systems. These manufacturers are also addressing issues that make HVAC contractors nervous or lack confidence in the new R-410A systems.
The manufacturers are doing this through education to help the contractors gain confidence in the new systems. They have re-engineered the new R-410A systems and worked all the initial bugs out of the system. Slowly but surely confidence is gaining ground and the new R-410A HVAC systems are being installed.
R-410A versus R-22 Refrigerants - Conclusion - New Update
There really is no other choice as the law will begin the phase-out period in 2010 and the prices of R-22 will be much higher than R-410A. This will cause repair costs for the end consumer to rise. The choice is always with the end consumer and what they want. The HVAC contractor can influence the end consumer’s decision but if the HVAC contractor lacks confidence then no influence will be offered for the new R-410A systems.
Update: This article was written ten years ago when R-410A was fairly new to the market. At this time, R-410A is the dominant refrigerant used in residential HVAC systems and light commercial systems. A lot has changed, but there are still R-22 systems out there but are slowly being changed out. The price of R-22, as I predicted, has skyrocketed. Additionally, one of the biggest problems now is refrigerant leaks because of the higher pressures and the quality of the copper and aluminum coils being produced. Life goes on, and they are now talking about a new type of refrigerant so that the madness will continue.
R-410A versus R-22 Refrigerants
Technical Resource: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology