“My air conditioner isn’t working. Can you send a technician over to give it a shot of freeze-own?"
Friday, August 3, 2012 • 8:56pm
This is a pretty common call to our office in the hot weather months of the air conditioning season here in Central New Jersey. It usually comes from someone who hasn’t had any maintenance done on their system and they think they need some of the “good stuff” pumped into their system to bring it back to life.
Truth is, the refrigerant in your system (known by some by the brand name “Freon” and its often-cited, but fictitious, synonym “Freeze-own”) isn’t something that’s consumed and needs regular replenishment. The refrigerant in your system circulates in a closed loop between the evaporator coil inside your home and the condensing unit outdoors.
Only if your system has a leak should your system need to be re-charged with this gas. For the past 14 years we’ve almost exclusively installed systems that use a refrigerant known at R410a, also known by the brand name “Puron." R410a was designed to replace the refrigerant used for decades – R22.
R22 has a high ozone-depletion potential and is being phased out by an international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol. While R410a has virtually no ozone-depletion potential, it has a high global-warming potential, so the industry is looking to develop a suitable replacement that will neither contribute to global warming nor harm the ozone. Stay tuned for developments.
In the meantime, as part of the government’s phase-out of R22, they have established both production and import caps, or limits. Earlier this year the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signaled that they will not announce the production caps for 2012 until later this year. This is like saying, “We don’t know how much gasoline we’ll be allowed to produce this year,” and had the not-so-surprising effect of causing the wholesale price of R22 to skyrocket.
This has made the location and repair of any leaks in your system a very important repair, as the cost of just the refrigerant alone in a 5-ton residential cooling system could cost as much as $250-$300. Not too long ago the same quantity of refrigerant cost $100-$120.
So, it pays to have your system inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Identify problems before they require costly repairs – especially if you think your system needs “a shot of freeze-own."
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