Erin Doman on August 17, 2015 10 Comments If you’re like most people, you rely on your air conditioner in the summer to keep you cool and comfortable. Whether it’s in your car or home, many air conditioners manufactured before 2003 use Freon as the refrigerant that cools the warm air. Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) that has been linked to ozone depletion, so it is quickly being phased out of use. Does this mean you should go out and buy a new HVAC right away? Take a look at the history of Freon and what is happening to its use, so that you understand how to determine the best course of action with your air conditioning units. History of Freon CFCs were first synthesized in the 1890s, but they were very dangerous and flammable. In the 1920s, another team was formed by General Motors to find a safer alternative that was more stable and nontoxic. Frigidaire, a division of GM, received the patent for a refrigerating apparatus. In 1930, GM and DuPont came together and formed Kinetic Chemicals to produce Freon. Freon is a colorless gas that is also known as R-22. Dupont trademarked the name Freon. CFCs have been used in refrigeration and aerosol cans for many years, but in 1974, a researcher at the University of California hypothesized that CFCs were destroying the ozone layer. It took years of research by the National Academy of Science, but eventually the United States banned the use of CFCs in aerosol cans. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol, which is an international environment agreement, established the phase out of CFCs. Not only does Freon itself harm the ozone layer, but the manufacturing of Freon releases another product into the atmosphere. This gas, called HFC-23, is also harmful and contributes to global warming. Although Freon is highly restricted and regulated in its use, older appliances still use and release this harmful gas. Uses of Freon Freon is not only used in air conditioning units, but it has also been used in upright and chest freezers. On top of those, there are a large number of commercial and industrial appliances that use Freon in both food transportation and cold storage warehouses. Even dehumidifiers use R-22. You can identify which coolant is being used in your AC system by looking at the nameplate. This should provide a great deal of information about your unit, including safety certifications and electrical ratings. This information is probably located on the outdoor condenser unit, or else you can contact the manufacturer to find out where this plate would be located. How Freon Works There is a system of coils and compressors in your AC unit. The AC compresses the R-22 gas, making it very hot. When this gas moves through the coils, it cools down to a liquid form. In this form, the cooled R-22 absorbs the heat from the outside air, then pushes the cold air out. It is a constant cycle of hot air in and cold air out that provides comfort in your home and car. Every AC unit needs a refrigerant to cool the air. When the coolant leaks, the AC stops blowing cold air. Even worse, these coolant leaks are harmful to the ozone. Most air conditioner’s manufactured after 2003 do not use Freon as the refrigerant, as strict regulations have been placed on the use of Freon which makes it more expensive to maintain. Not every problem related to an air conditioner that only blows hot air is related to the refrigerant. You may need to change the filter or install a better thermostat. There is no reason your refrigerant should deplete on its own. If the Freon or other cooling agent is low, you probably have a leak. You should always call an HVAC technician to find and fix the leak before adding more coolant. The Montreal Protocol According to the Montreal Protocol, the United States has agreed to reduce its consumption of CFCs over a period of time. As of January 1, 2015, the US should have been below 90 percent of its baseline use. It’s not until January 1, 2020, that the usage needs to be at 99.5 percent below its baseline use. Currently, Freon must be recovered and recycled from older systems. Freon cannot be vented into the atmosphere during any process involving installation, service, or retirement of the equipment. In 2010, Freon stopped being produced by manufacturers for use in new equipment. R-22 can be produced for service of older equipment until 2020. After 2020, if you need Freon, it will have to come from recycled products. Freon at Home As noted, if your system was manufactured after 2003, it probably uses a safer refrigerant. If produced after 2010, it definitely uses a different refrigerant for cooling. With the phase out, it may get more expensive to use Freon, which will encourage homeowners to replace older AC models with more ozone-friendly products. Not only will that decrease your repair costs, it should also provide more efficient cooling and heating, which will save you money on your utility bills. Although you won’t be required to stop using R-22, the long phase out period is designed to provide plenty of time for you to make the switch as the items in your home get older. If you do own an item that uses R-22, make sure that it is properly maintained to minimize the impact on the environment until you are ready to replace it. Don’t just “top off” a leaky system, but repair the leak. Freon Disposal Make sure you dispose of your old items that contain R-22 appropriately. Many times, the retailer will remove your older unit when installing the new item. Some scrap yards and landfills may require proof that the refrigerant was removed before they will accept an item. Always check to make sure that you are following safe guidelines. Check to make sure your technician is trained in the removal of Freon before allowing someone to do it. Don’t cut refrigerant lines or remove a compressor yourself to have your item accepted by a disposal facility. It’s important to the environment to take care of the Freon in your product before it is released into the atmosphere.