The political environment has changed quite a bit since the current administration took the White House, but what hasn’t is the phase-out date for R22 freon set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As things stand, on Jan. 1, 2020, this particular gas will no longer be tolerated, and homeowners will need to switch to a more environmentally-friendly solution to cool their homes.
This new solution — R-410A — goes by several names. One of the most popular trademarks is Puron. In the following article, we’ll use these terms interchangeably. We’ll also examine the differences between Puron and Freon, so you’ll know what to expect leading up to the 2020 deadline. Let’s begin!
Why Is R22 Freon Being Banned?
R22 freon was banned effective Jan. 1, 2015 with a five-year phase-out period. That means starting on Jan. 1, 2020, it will not only be inefficient to have your AC unit serviced or maintained using it, it will be illegal.
Why did the EPA take this action? As it turns out, R22 has two things working against it. For starters, it is considered an ozone-depleting gas, though not to the extent of CFC-11 and CFC-12, its predecessors. That said, it’s also considered a greenhouse gas with an 1810 potential for global warming (i.e., it is 1810 times more powerful than carbon dioxide).
The Obama administration’s EPA took steps to ban R22 for these reasons, but they also understood an immediate transition would be expensive, unpopular with the public, and, quite frankly, unrealistic, since so many air conditioners still functioned on it. The Trump administration has taken many steps to roll back Obama-era regulations, particularly EPA-related items like the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, but thus far, the freon ban has survived.
Is Puron a Better Solution?
R-410A was initially created in the early 1990s by the former Allied Signal (Honeywell). By 1991, scientists had a clearer understanding of the long-term dangers of ozone depletion and greenhouse gases, so manufacturers poured their resources into improving the profiles of the gases used to cool homes. Puron was identified as a healthy alternative with no risks for ozone depletion, thus providing additional protection from the sun’s rays over R22.
That said, it’s still considered a potential contributor to global warming with a carbon dioxide multiplying factor of 1700 — lower than the previously mentioned 1810, but not without its share of negatives. That said, phasing out freon and doing a full replacement with R-410A greatly reduces power consumption and the overall environmental impact of AC units while generating a higher seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) number. The better the SEER number, the more annual savings a homeowner can enjoy from their energy usage.
So What Are the Drawbacks?
Ultimately, switching to Puron is a net positive, though it may not feel that way at first. For those upset by the change to R-410A, there are two common complaints:
- Higher upfront cost: When the EPA determined it would be phasing out freon, there were many older AC units among homeowners. That’s still the case. And because of the shortening time between now and 2020, there are millions who will have to replace their entire units in the next two years, regardless of how well the units are functioning. The extended notice helps somewhat but considering it can cost thousands of dollars for a full-scale replacement, it’s going to put a lot of cash-strapped families in a bind. Furthermore, the present potential for a trade war could lead to even higher prices for new unit replacements. The good news is that once you rip off the band-aid and get a new unit, the savings begin to roll in through reduced energy consumption. It will take some time, but it’s an investment that eventually pays for itself.
- A compulsion to buy: This is a particularly annoying drawback in Texas, where we pride ourselves on individualism and independence. We don’t like being told what to do with our money. However, it’s a little easier to swallow when you know you’re helping the environment. And even if the environment isn’t enough for you, most of us are drawn to the saving money part.
Despite the drawbacks, Puron is a wise investment in your home and the environment. It’s just one that you’ll need to prepare for mentally and financially.
Are You Ready to Make the Switch?
At Ellis Air Conditioning & Heating, we’ve been working with clients for over 40 years to understand the best cooling solutions for their home. We have the knowledge and experience to answer your questions about the 2020 change, and we work with you to make the switch as painlessly and cost-efficiently as possible. If you’re ready, contact us today. We’re eager to help!
[Featured Image via US Air Forces Central Command]