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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

R410a Refrigerant

Environmentally sound, chlorine-free R410a Refrigerant is the refrigerant of the future. Developed to replace Freon R-22 refrigerant, R410a Refrigerant is not only environmentally friendly, but is more efficient. Most air-conditioners and heat pumps sold around the world use a refrigerant called R-22. Emissions of R-22 are considered by some experts to be a significant factor in depleting the ozone layer that protects animals and people from harmful rays from the sun. Families now have the choice to ask for an air-conditioner or heat pump that uses a more efficient and environmentally friendlier refrigerant called 410A or R-410A when buying a new system for their home.

Myths About R-410A

There have been a number of myths and misconceptions about R-410A refrigerant and air conditioners that use it that we have heard over the years. Some of these are completely untrue, and some are simply exaggerated.

1. The higher pressures of R-410A are unsafe

Actually, air-conditioners that use R-410A are specially designed for the higher pressures of R-410A. These systems have typically been rigorously tested by their manufacturers, as well as by independent safety testing laboratories such as Underwriters Laboratories. Many dealers of air-conditioning equipment are not educated on the benefits of this new refrigerant, and some use the "high pressure" argument to convince consumers not to buy a product which the dealer isn't properly trained to install or service anyway. With over a million R-410A based air conditioners operating worldwide, and nearly a decade of field testing and product history, there is no evidence to suggest that R-22 systems are any safer than systems that contain R-410A.

2. The higher pressures of R-410A cause air conditioners to break down more often

Evidence shows this is not only untrue, but that R-410A air conditioners can be remarkably more reliable than air-conditioners that use R-22. First, air-conditioners that use R-410A are designed to be heavier-duty, with a thicker compressor shell. Usually this results in smaller, sturdier pieces of equipment that vibrate less, putting less strain on the piping connections that are the source of most leaks. Second, most air-conditioner manufacturers require their technicians to be fully trained on R-410A before they can sell or service that manufacturer's R-410A equipment. As a result, the dealers and technicians that offer and install R-410A are often better trained and have the right tools to give you a more reliable installation. One major air conditioner manufacturer who has been selling air conditioners for over 50 years tells us that their R-410A air conditioners and heat pumps are the most reliable systems they've ever introduced!

3. R-22 will be cheap and available through 2020

This is wishful thinking on the part of many service technicians. R-22 is being phased out globally, and the manufacturing plants that make R-22 in Europe, North America and other regions will eventually be shut down or converted to make other chemicals. Just this past year, the 3rd largest R-22 manufacturer in the U.S. closed its facility. In 2003 the U.S. EPA implemented an allocation program which limits both the companies who can make and import R-22, and the amounts that they each can make or import. This essentially "capped" the supply of R-22 in the U.S. In order to meet the reduction in use of ozone-depleting chemicals that Congress laid out in the Clean Air Act of 1990, the U.S. EPA expects to pass further laws before 2010 to reduce allocations of R-22 and other ozone-depleting chemicals. By 2015, the cap on R-22 and other ozone-depleting HCFC refrigerants will be reduced to allow a maximum of about 60 million pounds of virgin (new) R-22 to be produced in or imported into the U.S. Currently, the U.S. uses over 160 million pounds each year! Forecasting the effects of these regulations isn't easy, but it sure doesn't look good for R-22!

4. R-410A isn't the final refrigerant, and other new refrigerants are coming

Every major air conditioner manufacturer in the United States has selected R-410A as its choice to replace R-22 in new equipment, and there are at least a dozen brands of R-410A air conditioners or heat pumps available today, with more coming soon. Why? In less than 3 years the U.S. Department of Energy will require a 20% increase in the minimum efficiency of new home central air conditioners. This means that air conditioner manufacturers will have to find ways to increase the efficiency of their air conditioners. One easy way is to use a more efficient refrigerant, and because the refrigerant 410A is at least 5% more efficient than R-22, manufacturers can use R-410A to help them meet these energy efficiency goals. In other countries like Japan where the phase-out of R-22 is further along than in the U.S. and Canada, the refrigerant R-410A is used extensively. The United States is expected to follow their lead, allowing R-410A to become the global standard. Honeywell is the world leader in developing and manufacturing non-ozone depleting refrigerants, and we've never seen anything like R-410A, and neither have our customers!

5. R-410A costs too much

It's true that non-ozone depleting refrigerants are more expensive to manufacture. They use more expensive raw materials, are more difficult to make, and aren't yet produced in the large quantities in which R-22 is produced. Over the long-term though, manufacturing costs are likely to decline as R-410A becomes more popular and is produced on a larger scale. Also, in order to properly install and service air conditioners containing R-410A, your air-conditioner equipment dealer had to invest in new tools and new training, and part of this cost is passed along to you in your price for a new R-410A system. There are usually costs associated with new technology as well as with protecting our environment. Air-conditioners that contain R-410A refrigerant are likely to be slightly more expensive than air conditioners charged with R-22 for at least the next few years. Because of design differences between manufacturers, the cost to upgrade from an R-22 system to R-410A can vary. There are at least 12 different brands of R-410A air conditioners and heat pumps available in the U.S. and Canada today, so you have many choices as a consumer. We recommend you research both the equipment brand and the dealer you select to make sure that your choice is appropriate for the quality of equipment and installation you want. Remember, you do get what you pay for!!

6. R-410A technology is too new and risky

Air conditioners using R-410A have been available in the U.S. since 1995, so they're not at all new. They're just new to people who haven't heard about them! Honeywell invented the refrigerant 410A over a decade ago, and it's taken several years for some air conditioner dealers to learn about these products and for some air conditioner manufacturers to design and offer their own R-410A systems. Most manufacturers have had their R-410A air conditioners and heat pumps on the market for several years. Some contractors and AC dealers are rightfully concerned about selling consumers on a refrigerant that might be discontinued. But this fear just doesn't apply to R-410A systems anymore. Every major manufacturer in the U.S. and Canada now offers a R-410A brand, and because of the terrific track record of the reliability of R-410A air conditioners, it has quickly become the new industry standard.

7. R-410A is new and may not be available to service your new air conditioner if it breaks down

We've heard this line several times. As the inventor of R-410A, Honeywell is committed to having ample supplies of this refrigerant available, and started up a new $100 million manufacturing plant to make sure that there is plenty of R-410A available. There are at least 2 other refrigerant companies in the U.S. besides Honeywell who offer their own brands of R-410A, providing both ample supply and competitive pricing to air conditioning manufacturers and to service technicians.

8. The lubricating oil used in R-410A systems absorbs water and makes systems break down

Many air-conditioning contractors who haven't learned about R-410A often hear this myth and repeat it to others. Air conditioners and heat pumps that use R-22 use a mineral oil that circulates through the system to keep the compressor and other parts lubricated. Systems containing R-410A usually use a synthetic oil . Some of these synthetic oils do absorb moisture more readily than mineral oils, but there are several reasons why this is not an issue for home owners. First, equipment manufacturers train their technicians to keep these oils from getting exposed to the air where they could absorb moisture. As long as technicians follow the manufacturers' directions in installing and servicing R-410A systems, then the oil will remain clean and dry. These procedures may also be required to make sure your warranty stays valid during the life of your R-410A system. Second, nearly all air conditioners and heat pumps that use R-410A have a device called a "filter drier". This important part does exactly what the name implies - it filters, cleans, and dries the refrigerant and oil as it circulates through your system just like the oil filter in your car. This device has been an important reason why air conditioners with 410A are considered by some manufacturers to be the most reliable product they make.

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