The HVAC industry is in the throes of a sea change, and it impacts your wallet and your comfort.

This year put the final nail in the coffin of R22, the refrigerant that the industry has been phasing out over the past decade to comply with a federal mandate. That mandate intends to curb gas house emissions and the depletion of the ozone layer by forcing the HVAC industry to switch to a more environmentally friendly coolant.

What does this mean for you? If your older-model AC unit requires a recharge of refrigerant due to a leak, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. That’s because R22 — better known as Freon — is no longer legal to manufacture or import as of 2020. The coolant will become pricier as supplies dwindle.

If, however, you’ve bought a new HVAC system within the past 10 years, you have nothing to worry about. Manufacturers stopped making systems with R22 in 2010. Today, central air systems operate with R410a.

Why is R410a Better?

R410a is a hydro-fluorocarbon, which means it won’t contribute to the depletion of our ozone layer. R22, in contrast, is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon, which means it will.

Beyond being the more Earth-friendly option, R410a also performs better than its now-illegal counterpart. R410a absorbs and releases more heat, so that your air conditioning compressor runs cooler and more efficiently.

Can I Put R410a in My Older AC System?

Sorry, no. Despite their names sounding like Star Wars droids, R410a and R22 are totally incompatible.

R410a operates at a higher pressure, requiring more robust components. Today’s AC systems are built to accommodate the demands of R410a. Putting this coolant into a system designed for R22 would be like putting rocket fuel in a Honda — not recommended.

What if I Still Need R22?

Your existing AC unit shouldn’t require a refill of coolant unless it springs a leak. If that happens, brace yourself for an expensive repair bill. R22, while still legal for repairs, is becoming increasingly rare.

Our advice: start budgeting for a new system now. Today’s central air units are significantly more efficient and will save you money down the line on cooling costs. Meanwhile, keep your system operating at peak performance with routine maintenance.

For all of your cooling needs this summer, depend on Black Hills, Inc. Home Services. To schedule your appointment, call (360) 558-3242.