Air conditioners and heat pumps basically work almost exactly the same, only heat pumps can work both ways, or in reverse, so that they can either heat your home or cool it. What they do, in the simplest explanation, is absorb heat from one area using a refrigerant, then pump the refrigerant to the other half of the unit to dissipate that heat. Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that, using fans, compressors, coils, and valves, but you get the general idea. The chemicals that have been used over the years worked quite well at absorbing heat on one end and dissipating on the other end, however, the original chemicals had many problems and each replacement had others. Researchers have struggled to find an inexpensive, non-hazardous replacement for years and have tried several. Here is the latest and most efficient coolant information for your HVAC unit.
The Original Coolants Were All Toxic
Once scientists figured out how the mechanics of a cooling system were going work, the search was on for a good chemical that would absorb heat really well, release it just the same, and not wear out the piping, compressors, valves, and radiators.
Ammonia was used for a few decades, it wasn’t very efficient, but it was incredibly cheap to use. The problem was if there were any kind of leak, the whole building would have to be evacuated. This gave air conditioners and refrigerators a bad reputation that was hard to combat. Methyl chloride was also used as was propane, the combustible fuel for stoves, they were toxic and flammable so still, evacuations were necessary, and explosions sometimes were caused when the coolants came in contact with any kind of flame.
Finally, Freon was invented, it was not toxic to breathe, and it didn’t burn either. It was called a chlorofluorocarbon or CFC gas. While it had chlorine and fluorine in its chemical structure, they were both tied up in long chains with carbon atoms keeping them from being their toxic selves. There were then several different types of Freons developed starting with Freon R-11 and then Freon R-12 each with a slightly different chemical structure. Some were more expensive while others more efficient, but they were all good at their jobs.
Then it became known that these CFC gases were destroying the ozone layer high above in the atmosphere and very rapidly at that. The ozone layer is what protects most living things on earth from being struck constantly while outside by harmful radiation from the sun. Without the ozone layer, which at one time had retreated to a tiny fraction of normal, humans and other creatures would get a lot more cancer. In addition to that, it was discovered that the CFCs were a lot stronger greenhouse gas than either CO2 or methane.
Then R-22 Came On The Market
R-22 was far, far better when it came to ozone depletion and after the switch from the other CFCs the ozone layer began to grow back, slowly but surely. So the older CFCs were banned and all new products could only be made with the newer, better, R-22.
In most cases, the more advanced countries got together and signed treaties to stop using the older refrigerants and could only use recovered refrigerant to replenish the older HVAC units and refrigeration units. The poorer countries, on the other hand, could continue to use the ozone depleting and greenhouse gas causing older coolants until there was a cheaper replacement.
As time went on, the R-22 became the dominant coolant worldwide, even though it still caused some ozone depletion and was a potent greenhouse gas. R-22 is 1800 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than Carbon Dioxide, that’s an alarming statistic. Most of the poorer countries began manufacturing their own, such as China and India so the price dropped and became more affordable.
The problem was, because of the huge increase in growth of air conditioning and refrigeration in the poorer countries, there became an increasing release of the gas into the atmosphere causing some of the same problems as the older CFCs that were in use previously. So, again, the modern countries of Europe and North America got together and banned all new manufacturing of R-22 and regulated the capture and reuse of the refrigerant only for repair of older units. This came to pass in the year 2010 and was named the Montreal Protocol after the city where the agreement was reached.
Now The Best, Most Efficient, And Safest For The Ozone Layer Is R-410a
Since R-22 has been regulated out of use in Europe and North America a new coolant called R-410a has become prominent. It has been advertised as not contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer at all, so no more worries there after all the older appliances work their way out of the market. It does, however, still cause huge greenhouse gas problems so it’s illegal to release it into the air purposely, it can only be reclaimed by licensed technicians that have the training and equipment to do so. It will still leak into the atmosphere on occasion when appliances break down with bad compressor seals or leaks in their piping.
Since R-410a from bluon energy is much more efficient than R-22 it is believed that the reduced amount of power used will compensate equally with the amount of greenhouse gas problems created. In other words, they’ll break even on greenhouse gases while saving the ozone layer at the same time. R-410a is now the number one refrigerant coolant used in all of North America, Europe, Japan, and most other modern countries on earth.
It can’t be substituted into older appliances since it needs higher pressure values to operate and the older machines can’t be retrofitted. In addition to that, because of the higher pressures involved the technicians have to be specially trained and have special tools in order to work on R-410a appliances.
At this point, unless some new problem is found with this new coolant, all new HVAC units and refrigeration units will be using it from here on going forward. The brand name of this coolant is Puron and it is considered a long-term environmentally safe solution that won’t have to be changed in the future like all of the coolants of the past.