Home Owner’s Guide on – “Why the Refrigerant in your Air Conditioner is Important?”

Heber Valley MechanicalAir Conditioner Maintenance

Heat-pump-and-ac-unitAir conditioners are a boon in summer where our homes or work places maintain the desired temperature helping us stay out of the heat. This is possible because of the refrigerant installed in a window air conditioner or central air conditioning system. For many years, the most common refrigerant R-22 has been used as a liquid agent to help cool and dehumidify the air inside the room or building.

Recently, developed countries have phased out the usage of R-22 as it causes irreversible harm to the environment. Despite the R-22 compound being categorized as ‘ozone depletion potential’ and extreme ‘global warming potential’, this refrigerant is in high demand in developing nations because of its versatile intermediate for commercial use.

Generally, refrigerant poisoning happens to air conditioning, chiller maintenance technicians who are in constant contact with it and concentrated exposure to the compound may lead to breathing difficulty, loss of vision, swelling of throat, pain in the throat, abdominal pain, burning sensation in the esophagus and may lead to brain and lung damage. The person affected needs immediate medical care and attention as it is fatal to human life. Hence, it is unsafe for home owners to try handling or charging the refrigerant of their air conditioner without trained assistance.

Technicians and employees must be trained to handle the processes and safety equipment while working in an environment with chemical substances. These chemicals are safe provided they adhere to the recommended safety measures given in the (Material) Safety Data Sheet (M) SDS. Leakages from air conditioners are not harmful as the emission is low and with a low boiling point of the compound, it evaporates almost immediately. Though the government made efforts to bring in changes from 2010, it was only in 2015 regulations were made to all manufacturers of air conditioners. Already existing units of cooling and heating systems can be recharged with R-22 for reuse.

In the future, production of this compound will be banned completely. In 2020, new regulations for recycling will be initiated. The good news is that R-22 or Freon will be 99.5% phased out and by 2030 there will be a 100% ban on the chemical.

Why R-410 replaces R-22?

With the growing environmental concerns, the R-22 refrigerant has been replaced by R-410A and R-404A refrigerants for our cooling systems. The main reason to opt for R-410A is that it is chlorine free and is ozone-friendly too. Updated with leading technology to reduce humidity and ensures a longer life with an extended availability of refrigerant in the market. The future for R-410 is brilliant because of its versatility with minimal impact on the environment.

The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA is part of the government of United States, helps in creating laws and developing solutions to protect the environment. The EPA joined hands with Montreal Protocol to bring about a tangible change in the elimination of ozone depleting substances like the R-22.

The law says it is illegal to charge any air conditioner manufactured after January 1, 2010, with R-22 refrigerant. Units manufactured before that date can be charged with R-22 if it is serviceable. HVAC bought before January 2010 needs to follow strict guidelines while charging the refrigerant of the units. Refrigerant charging must be carried out by certified and experienced technicians.

While all these changes are happening at a macro level, the consumers or the end users must be aware of their role and how it is going to enhance their living conditions. Technicians usually come home to service and conduct the routine maintenance work for the air conditioners. Here is a checklist for homeowners who would like to know more about their air conditioners and the need to be aware of the refrigerant level, etc.

  • Check if your air conditioner takes a longer time to cool the air in the room. This will indicate that your air conditioner is low on refrigerant.
  • Another indication of a low refrigerant situation is when your supply vent blows hot air.
  • Low refrigerant over works your air conditioner in order to cool the air, resulting in a noticeable increase in the energy bills.
  • Ice buildup in the outdoor air conditioner unit spinning fan also shows low on refrigerant. If left uncared, the liquid refrigerant will make way into the compressor damaging it completely.
  • Low on refrigerant may indicate a refrigerant leak. It makes a hissing or bubbling noise when it escapes.

Few points to enhance the home owner’s knowledge on how checking on the level of refrigerant is performed.

  • In the U.S.A., you need an EPA Refrigerant usage certification to purchase and repair air conditioning units with ozone depleting refrigerants.
  • Once there is a low-on-refrigerant issue, the homeowner must call the air conditioner technician for repairs or replacements.
  • Prior to checking your air conditioner charging, a routine maintenance of cleaning the air filter, evaporate coil, blower wheel, and condenser coil must be done.
  • Never check the air conditioner charging process when the temperature is below 55F.
  • The tools used are a set of gauges attached to the unit to measure the operating pressures. One must use gauge sets specifically designed for the refrigerant used in the air conditioner.
  • The gauge has a scale marked with values of pressure and temperature on it. The temperature at that point of pressure is said to be the saturation temperature.
  • A thermocouple based meter or an infrared thermometer is used to measure the temperatures in the pipes.
  • Shut off the unit when you begin to check the charge of the system.
  • The low-pressure hose in blue, slightly bigger than the other pipe is attached to the suction line. The high-pressure pipe usually in red is linked to the liquid line.
  • Now, turn on and run the unit for at least 15 minutes to get it to an ideal state of operation. Next step is to measure the temperature outdoors and the return air temp in the air handler, suction line temp, and the liquid line temp.
  • Check out for the label on the inside of the electrical compartment cover. The instructions specifically for your unit will be mentioned here.

How to check your air conditioning unit to identify the kind of coolant or refrigerant used?

If your air conditioner is bought recently, it’s most likely that you have one with an R-410A or similar make of refrigerant. Usually, air conditioners come with a nameplate on the unit with a clear mention of the type of refrigerant it contains. A central air conditioning system, the nameplate with details is found on the outdoor unit. You can also find the type of refrigerant mentioned in the owner’s manual. The manufacturer’s service station or distributor will have correct information on the refrigerant used by your air conditioner.

Equipped with all the above information on refrigerants, home owners should now have an idea as to when a technician is needed to be actually called in to have a look at the air conditioners. Excellent HVAC routine maintenance and services are available online for customers who can contact and provide them with all the details about their air conditioner systems. Once the details are furnished, expert technicians come prepared with tools and accessories to get the system running. Click on www.hebervalleymechanical.com for comprehensive and prompt attention to your window ACs or centrally air conditioned systems. Our skilled and EPA certified technicians from Heber Valley Mechanical are happy to perform routine maintenance and emergency repairs for all types of air conditioners. We have the best customer service team who specialize in emergency services 24×7, throughout the year. Call us today and enjoy our services and expertise.