You may have heard from us or read elsewhere that newer air conditioning units are using a newer refrigerant that is less harmful to the environment. Here is a more detailed explanation.

Refrigerants are essential components of an air conditioning system. Refrigerants are the substances – usually fluids – that air conditioners use to transfer heat to the outdoors.

When air conditioners were first invented in the early 1900s, refrigerants included ammonia, methyl chloride and sulphur dioxide. Methyl chloride and sulphur dioxide were deemed to be toxic and were replaced by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the 1920s. These were used for decades, with the most common being chlorodifluoromethane, also known as R-22, and more commonly referred to as Freon.

In the 1980s it was determined that CFCs used both in aerosol products and refrigerants were a primary cause for depletion of the ozone layer. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol called for the phasing out of ozone-depleting refrigerants. Manufacture of air conditioning systems using R-22 was phased out in the United States in 2010.

New alternatives are R407C and R410A refrigerant. Both are less harmful to the environment than R22. They also provide similar performance and higher capacities than R22, and they are both readily available. However, R410A is perceived to provide improved overall system efficiency. So it is currently used for most new, small residential systems.

This is not the end of the story, though. Just last year, a study by the nonprofit organization “Drawdown” put proper refrigerant management and disposal at the very top of the list of climate impact solutions. And R410A does have a potential negative impact on global warming, so it will not be around forever. New, more climate friendly refrigerants are currently being developed, and should replace R410A down the road.