Freon, R410A, and the Future of Eco-Friendly Air Conditioning

It’s just about impossible to imagine surviving a Maryland summer without air conditioning. But using that A/C has a big impact on our planet – something we here at Carroll Home Services are particularly sensitive to as we approach Earth Day later this month.

Besides the impact of running our A/C 24/7, there’s also the problem of refrigerant. Up until recent years, Freon (also called R-22) has been the refrigerant of choice for most home air conditioners; it has also been doing a number on our ozone layer, which is why it is scheduled for a full-on phase-out by 2020.

The story behind the rise and fall of Freon (and the subsequent rise of R-410A, its eco-friendlier replacement) is an interesting one; we’ll summarize it here. After that, we’ll take a look at how the elimination of Freon might affect your decision about repairing or replacing your home air conditioner in the coming months and years.

A history of Freon and A/C refrigerants

  • Pre-1928 – Refrigerators use toxic gasses – ammonia (NH3), methyl chloride (CH3Cl), and sulfur dioxide (SO2) – as refrigerants. Frigidaire, General Motors and DuPont begin to search for a less dangerous method of refrigeration.
  • 1928 – Thomas Midgley, Jr. and Charles Franklin Kettering invent a “miracle compound” called Freon, comprised of several chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
  • 1930 – GM and DuPont form the Kinetic Chemical Company to produce Freon.
  • 1932 – the Carrier Engineering Corporation uses Freon in the world’s first self-contained home air conditioning unit. The trade name Freon® is a registered trademark belonging to E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company (DuPont).
  • 1930s-1970s – CFCs, including Freon, are in widespread use in the air conditioning and refrigeration industries. CFC production reaches nearly one million tons per year.
  • Early-mid 1970s – F. Sherwood Rowland and Mario J. Molina begin to lecture and publish about the destructive impact of CFCs on the Earth’s ozone layer.
  • 1976 – the National Academies of Science issues a report affirming the destructive effects of CFCs on stratospheric ozone.
  • 1979 – NASA begins measuring Earth’s stratospheric ozone layer by satellite.
  • 1987 – The Montreal Protocol – a global agreement to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) – is signed.
  • 1990 – U.S. EPA regulations issued under amendments to the Clean Air Act phase out the production and import of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) consistent with schedules established in the Montreal Protocol.
  • 1991 – Allied Signal (now Honeywell) patents R410A – an alternative to Freon. In recent years, R-410A has replaced R-22 as the preferred refrigerant for use in residential and commercial air conditioners in Japan, Europe and the United States.
  • 1992 – The Kyoto Protocol establishes new standards and strict controls for greenhouse gas emissions, including brands of Freon that contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) rather than CFCs.
  • 2010 – The U.S. bans production, import, and use of R-22, except for continuing servicing needs of existing equipment.
  • 2020 – The scheduled ban on remaining production and import of R-22; after 2020, all servicing of systems charged with R-22 will rely on recycled or stockpiled quantities.

How will the Freon phase-out affect me?

Although you do not have to buy a new R-410A system right away, make sure you properly maintain your current A/C. Preventative maintenance will decrease the likelihood of a refrigerant leak; it will also improve efficiency and lower your bills.

However, if you have an R-22-based air conditioning system that is more than 10 years old, you consider replacing your A/C now rather than later. Why?

  • Eco-friendly R-410A systems have a much smaller carbon footprint.
  • New energy-efficient cooling systems save on energy costs.
  • Most new systems come with substantial warranties.
  • Manufacturer’s specials and other efficiency incentives can save you money on a new air conditioning installation.

Contact a Carroll cooling system specialist today to learn about your A/C installation options, or to get a FREE, no obligation estimate on a new, high-efficiency air conditioner for your Maryland home!

For everything you need in home heating, trust the pros at Carroll Home Services – keeping Maryland homes warm for more than a century! Contact us to get started today!