Environmental Impact of Leaking R22 Refrigerant

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By 2020, the United States will have phased out Freon, a refrigerant for air conditioners labeled as R22, in accordance with the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol is a global agreement by many countries to phase out ozone depleting substances and create alternatives. How does this phase out help Minneapolis and other Minnesota residents? If you want to check out a brief summary of the problem and know how to prepare for the change, check out our blog about what you need to know about the phaseout.


Montreal Protocol

As mentioned earlier, the Montreal Protocol was a global agreement that took place in Montreal, Canada in 1978. Its goal was to eliminate ozone depleting substances after the discovery and verified evidence of ozone depletion. In the United States, the protocol is kept by the Environmental Protection Agency, who are working to find and eliminate all of those substances. There were several revisions, known as acts, that went through after discovering more substances that depleted ozone. One in 1990, known as the Clean Air Act, included the phaseout of class two of ozone depleting substances and the ban of class one. The discovery of Freon’s depleting properties placed it in the phaseout process and will be completely phased out by 2020.

The science

Freon contains hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) which used to be in the most popular coolants for homes, businesses, and cars. When released into the air, the chlorine atom interacts with the ozone molecules, breaking up the atoms and destroying the ozone layer in the atmosphere. The substitute made for Freon, R410a or Puron, contains hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), which is a similar compound without the chlorine atoms. Since 2010, air conditioners produced used Puron instead. If your air conditioner was made before 2010, talk to your HVAC professionals at Twin City Heating and Air to find out if it uses Freon and discuss your options.


Leaking refrigerant

While leaks from Freon can harm to the environment as well, any kind of leaking refrigerant is not good for the health of your air conditioner or your family. It limits the ability of the air conditioner to cool, as the amount of refrigerant reduces faster than it is used. While leaks are rare, the fumes from the refrigerant can cause serious harm to a person’s respiratory system and act like a poison. Symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, and light-headedness. These symptoms and the sudden change in the air from your air conditioner are easy to notice and will alert you that something is wrong. The air conditioner will not cool the air as much as it should, the humidity is higher, the coils on your inside unit freeze, and a foul smell will come from your HVAC units if there is a leak. You can find the leak by listening for a hissing noise. If you find a leak, move your family and pets outside, open your windows to air out your home, and call your HVAC technician.

If you have any concerns about your air conditioner or have more questions about the switch to Puron, call Twin City Heating and Air. We are happy to answer any questions you have and ready to help your air conditioner be in its best condition.