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AC Refrigerants and Freon

Apr 13, 2023
by Stramowski Heating and Cooling - Milwaukee Area HVAC

AC Freon Refrigerant Coolant ChargingYou may or may not have heard, but there’s a big change to refrigerant regulations coming to the air conditioning industry. Starting in 2020, the HVAC industry will no longer be able to install or repair leaks on any system using R-22 refrigerant (Freon).

So, what does this mean for you, the homeowner? Here’s how the switch from R-22 refrigerant will affect your home air conditioner and how Stramowski can help......

What is R22 Refrigerant?

Many people know R-22 refrigerant as the brand name Freon. Freon is a chemical compound known as an HCFC refrigerant. In short, it uses chemicals to create the cool air coming from your AC unit.

So why is it being phased out? R-22 refrigerant is made from a chlorine atom. You may have heard of Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which are harmful to the environment according to the Clean Air Act of 1990. R-22 refrigerant also doesn’t absorb as much heat as new refrigerants, which leads to overheating and unit burnout. Due to government regulations, HCFCs are no longer being used in the HVAC industry and will be banned in 2020.

Instead, an EPA approved, safe refrigerant called R-410A refrigerant (under the brand name Puron) has become the standard for AC units. Puron is a Hydrofluorocarbon (meaning it doesn’t contain chlorine), making it better for the environment. It also runs at a cooler temperature, protecting your AC unit from overheating under heavy use.

The good news is, this isn’t a sudden change. In fact, R-410A refrigerant has been around since the 1990s and Stramowski has been using it since it was first released. In 2010, Freon was discontinued for use in all new air conditioning units, but it was still used in repairing and servicing older units. Most newer air conditioning units are probably already using R-410A, but older systems may still use R-22 refrigerant.

Beginning in 2020, if your system uses R-22 refrigerant and faces a leak or needs repair, you’ll need to opt for a full air conditioning unit replacement. Unfortunately, older units aren’t compatible with R-410A and 2019 will mark the final year when you can access and add R-22 refrigerant (Freon) to any system legally.

The reality is Freon/R-22 refrigerant has been used in commercial and residential air conditioning for a long time. It was the standard refrigerant and commonplace. This change will affect the entire HVAC market as we continue to upgrade to R-410A refrigerant use across the board.

How to Know if You Own a Freon Air Conditioning Unit

For the last few years, as we approached this change, the HVAC industry has been preparing. It’s become more and more expensive to add Freon to your air conditioning system as Puron was phased in. This is the last year you can add R-22 refrigerant legally, at all.

Now, you’re probably wondering if your system uses Freon/R-22 refrigerant. How do you tell if your air conditioner uses Freon? Systems 15 years or older likely use R-22 refrigerant. Until 2010 (and even after), Freon was still being used on a fairly common basis.

Remember, if you own a system that uses R-22 refrigerant (Freon), you can’t use R-410A refrigerant (Puron). You need to change out the unit completely. If you need refrigerant added to your air conditioner, it indicates there’s a leak somewhere in the system. With the regulatory switch, it’s no longer worth repairing the leak, as it would be very expensive. Using the wrong refrigerant would break the system.

If your system isn’t leaking or broken, then you may not need to change your air conditioning unit immediately. But be aware that, if your system breaks or dies, you’ll face an emergency replacement of the full system. if you’re maintaining the unit with regular air conditioning service, your Stramowski representative will advise you on what’s needed.

Call Stramowski with the make and model number of your unit and we will tell you what system (Freon or Puron) you own. Although R-22 refrigerant units weren’t being manufactured after 2010, contractors were still installing them for at least five years; so, even a newer unit may use R-22 refrigerant. The best way to find out what type of refrigerant your air conditioner uses is to schedule maintenance and an AC tune-up.

If you haven’t had a tune up in a while, now is the time to call Stramowski to have your air conditioner serviced and assessed. Right now, you will find the lowest price for replacement AC units, as they will only increase after the regulation takes effect. If you do own a R-22 refrigerant unit and you decide to upgrade to a new system, you won’t get charged the full tune-up fee.

Although changes like this are stressful for homeowners, Stramowski is here to help. It’s important to be proactive so you can prepare for replacement if it’s needed. Give us a call to schedule your assessment today!


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