New R410 A/C Refrigerant A Split Decision For Boston Air Conditioning?

If nothing beats air conditioning on a hot day, you’ll want to learn about some changes coming to a Boston air conditioning unit near you! For years, the standard refrigerant used in air conditioning was a formulation known as R11 or R12, and more commonly by its DuPont trade name, Freon.

As a chlorofluorcarbon, (CFC), Freon was phased out of most cooling applications beginning in 1994 because it severely damaged the Earth’s ozone layer. Freon was largely replaced with a compound known as R22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon compound (HCFC). R22 was an intermediate replacement for R12 and is now itself being replaced by R410A, combination of two refrigerant gases, difluoromethane and pentafluoroethane. (And you thought that skipping Chemistry was a good idea!)

Unfortunately, R22 generates a by-product called Hydrofluorocarbon-23 (HFC23), which is also known to deplete the ozone layer and is a recognized contributor to global warming. R410A doesn’t deplete the ozone layer the way R22 does, so that’s good, but R410A (also called R410 or Puron) still contributes to global warming through the by-production of greenhouse gases.

Ok. Let’s get out of the clouds and down to the ground. For homeowners, most residential cooling units use R22. R22 will still be produced to recharge existing units until 2020, when it is phased out of production completely. After 2020, R22 will be a “dead man walking,” in that it can still be recycled, but new R22 won’t be produced for old units. The life expectancy of recycled R22 is no more than about five years, so 2025 is considered a “drop dead” date for R22.

R410A is not a replacement for R22 since R410A requires a much higher operating pressure to achieve cold temperatures. Older AC units designed to use R22 will have to be replaced once the last of the R22 refrigerant is gone. As of January 1, 2010, R410A is used exclusively in the manufacture of new A/C units in North America, and the debate is heating up as to its effectiveness.

A common concern about R410A is that the refrigerant isn’t very effective as a coolant when the outside temperatures exceed 90°F. That’s not entirely true. R410A loses capacity and efficiency faster than R22 does once the outside temperature reaches 90°F, but the coolant works very well, even in outside temperatures at or above 120°F.

So what does this mean for the Boston homeowner? The average summertime high temperature in Boston is 82°F. That’s not to say that Boston never exceeds 90°F in July or August. In fact, the highest temperature on record (1911) for the City of Boston was 104°F but on average, the number of days above 90°F are limited. Many installers report that their overall experiences with R410A units are very positive and the units perform well under most conditions.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating offers air-conditioning service for both older and newer residential A/C units. If you’re having difficulty with your A/C unit, or would like to have it assessed, recharged, cleaned or inspected, Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help! We stock both R22 and R410A refrigerants and can help you no matter what kind of A/C unit you’re using.

Contact us today at (617) 288-2911 for more information or to schedule an inspection. We also perform emergency service and repair work on air conditioning systems. We’re on-call 24 hours a day, and that’s one reason Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating was named the Best of Boston 2010!