R-22 vs. R-410a: What is It?
R-22 vs. R-410a: What It Is?
The type of gas used in your air conditioning or heat pump system is either R-22 (Freon) or R-410a (Puron®). R-22 has long been known to be damaging to the environment when released into the atmosphere. As a result, in January 2010 the government mandated that the HVAC industry switch from R-22 to R-410a for use in new condensers and heat pumps. R-22 itself will (probably always) be available for repairs in one form or another, though the cost will continue to skyrocket (it is 20 times more expensive now than it was before these regulation changes). As far as any speculation that the government will mandate a change from R-410a to some other gas, this is purely speculative and should not be a concern to any homeowner. Whatever equipment you put in now will need to be replaced long before such a change happens – it took 15 years to switch to R-410a.
R-22 vs. R-410a: What It Means?
The industry can no longer manufacture condensers or heat pumps which use R-22. The condenser or heat pump is only part of your air conditioning system, there is an evaporator coil inside on top of the blower compartment and there are two copper lines that connect the two pieces of equipment in a loop, the refrigeration line-set. Almost all new evaporator coils can be used with either an R-22 system or an R-410a system. They cannot, however, have been used with both types of gas: once you have released gas into the evaporator coil it becomes dedicated to that type of gas and cannot later be used with a different type of gas. (The reason is that the construction of the evaporator coil prohibits successfully cleaning the gas residue out of the coil.) The refrigeration line-set, however, can either be flushed clean with a special gas or replaced.
R-22 vs. R-410a: How To Decide?
You have two choices when faced with a major repair to an R-22 system: repair or replace. You can repair your R-22 system by replacing the compressor or one of the coils (in the $900-2000 range), or, you can use this opportunity to switch over to the new refrigerant, R-410a, by replacing the outdoor unit (condenser or heat pump) and the evaporator coil inside (in the $2500-3500 range). Cost is almost always the deciding factor when making these kinds of decisions, but you should understand the consequences of the decision you make.
If your problem is a leaking evaporator coil (the coil above the blower inside, a common problem and the location of most leaks), and you choose to replace the coil, you should understand that you are committing the new coil to only use R-22 refrigerant. If you later have to replace the condenser or heat pump (the outside unit) then you will have to replace the evaporator coil again because you will only be able to get an R-410a outdoor unit.