If you’ve purchased an air conditioner, dehumidifier, or other appliance with a refrigeration system recently, you’ve probably noticed a change in the type of refrigerant being used. More specifically, you may have noticed the words “eco-friendly” or “non-ozone-depleting” popping up on product packaging or in sales literature when refrigerant is discussed.
First, let me assure you—these new claims aren’t just lofty selling points made by manufacturers in order to try to secure a sale. There is truth in these statements. However, as an informed consumer, it helps to understand this new change and what it means for you when you purchase an appliance equipped with “environmentally friendly refrigerant.” Here is the lowdown.
Up until December of 2009, most refrigerant-based appliances like air conditioners and dehumidifiers used R-22 refrigerant—commonly known as Freon—to aid in the cooling or dehumidifying process. In January 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricted all manufacturers from producing new appliances and appliance components that use R-22 refrigerant. The reason? R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) chemical, depletes the ozone layer if released and contributes to climate change.
This move was made as part of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, a treaty that was signed in 1987 designed to protect the Earth’s ozone layer by gradually phasing out ozone-depleting substances. On January 1, 2010, we entered the next phaseout period of the treaty as the EPA banned the production, import, and use of R-22, except for the continued servicing of existing appliances. The EPA is working toward a total ban on production and import of all HCFCs, including R-22, by January 1, 2030.
So what does this mean for appliances manufactured after January 1, 2010? Perhaps that shiny new Whynter portable air conditioner sitting in your bedroom? Sure, it’s environmentally friendly. But now it works even better and it’s more reliable.
The standard replacement refrigerant for R-22 is R-410A, a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) that does not contain chlorine, which is the main catalyst of destruction in ozone depletion. New appliances such as portable air conditioners and dehumidifiers that use R-410A are not only eco-friendly, they’re also more efficient, longer-lasting, and thus, more reliable.
According to Honeywell International, original inventor and patentee of R-410A refrigerant, R-410A absorbs and releases heat more efficiently than R-22. This means an air conditioner or dehumidifier equipped with R-410A has a compressor that runs cooler than one that uses R-22. This reduces the risk of overheating and system failure.
Additionally, appliances that use R-410A refrigerant also use new synthetic lubricants that are more soluble and mix more efficiently with the refrigerant. This helps keep the compressor and other moving parts properly lubricated during operation, which reduces wear and tear and extends the life of the appliance.
Therefore, when you purchase a new dehumidifier or air conditioner that uses R-410A refrigerant, you’re upping your potential for energy (and cost) savings and investing in an efficient appliance that will be reliable for years to come. You’re also doing your part to help protect the environment.
Nearly all of Sylvane’s dehumidifiers and room air conditioners now use R-410A refrigerant.
For more information on HCFC phaseout and ozone layer protection, visit the EPA’s page on the Montreal Protocol treaty.
(And for those of you who, like me, have a borderline morbid curiosity about the state of the ozone hole, check out NASA’s interesting website Ozone Hole Watch.)