Refrigerant – R410a vs. R-22


Since the ground-hog predicts an early spring, I thought it would be a good time to talk about refrigerant.

As you know, manufacturers could no longer produce air conditioners with R-22 as of 2010. There is also a scheduled phase-out of R-22  with a 90% reduction in the manufacture of  virgin R-22 in 2015 and  virgin R-22 can no longer be produced as of 2020 . It will only be available as recycled refrigerant.

r-22 phase out graph

However, a lot of manufacturers are producing what are called dry charged R-22 units. Basically, they are R-22 units without any R-22 charge in them.  Contractors like them because they use them for “change-outs” of existing R-22 units. What they don’t consider is the fact that the existing indoor coils may only be an 8 to 12 SEER coil. These units are all 13 SEER to meet the minimum efficiency standards set by the D.O.E.. But they figure it is an easy sale and just replace the outdoor unit and leave the existing coil. They really are not providing their customer what they are paying for.

But now, there is a new twist to this scenario — the actual cost of the refrigerant needed to charge the dry charge unit which could be any where from 5 to 10 pound depending on the size of the unit and the length of the line set.

The last time I checked, the wholesale price refrigerants has changed dramatically.  Right now, R-22 = $450.00 for a 30# drum = $15.00 / lb. while R-410a has actually gone down in price — R-410a = $75.00 for a 25 # drum = $3.00/ lb. 

Now, these are wholesale prices,  so, what does the contractor charge his customer for the refrigerant – double, triple? By the time he adds the refrigerant, he could have provided a new R-410a  indoor coil and put in a complete R-410a system.

The other thing to keep in mind about the cost of refrigerant used in older air conditioning  systems, based on the fact that the cost has again sky rocketed, is the fact that it will eventually go even higher, and finally phased out. This means it could hundreds of dollars to add refrigerant to a leaking system. In comparison, R-410a used in newer systems is about 5 times cheaper than refrigerant used in systems installed in the past.

So, are you doing your customer a favor by just replacing the outdoor unit with a dry charge R-22 unit?  Are you doing your customer a favor adding refrigerant to a system that will become near obsolete, refrigerant wise, in just 2 more years with the 90% reduction in production and completely obsolete in just  7 more years when there is no longer virgin R-22 available and the price is who knows where?   To my way of thinking, this is not even penny wise and dollar foolish,  this is just dollar foolish putting good money into something that will only cost more and more down the road.

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About yorkcentraltechtalk

I have been in the HVAC industry most of my life. I worked 25 years for contractors on anything from residential to large commercial boilers and power burners. For the past 23+ years I had been employed by York International UPG Division ( a division of Johnson Controls) as a Technical support/Service Manager but I am now retired. One of my goals has always been to "educate" dealers and contractors. The reason for starting this blog was to share some knowledge, thoughts, ideas, etc with anyone who takes the time to read it. The contents of this blog are my own opinions, thoughts, experiences and should not be construed as those of Johnson Controls York UPG in any way. I hope you find this a help. I always welcome comments and suggestions for postings and will do my best to address any thoughts, questions, or topics you may want to hear about. Thanks for taking the time to read my postings! Mike Bishop
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10 Responses to Refrigerant – R410a vs. R-22

  1. Pots says:

    Have a friend who needs to get her A/C replaced. Her contractor says units with R-410a don’t cool as well as units with R-22, and she needs a larger unit. Is this correct?

  2. Uche says:

    Thanks for the article. My compressor has earthed twice in the last 2 yrs so am leaning towards changing the whole system. It’s a Lennox 5 ton R22 unit. Am leaning towards changing the condenser, would it be smarter to change the whole system including coil to upgrade to a R410a. What should I consider??

    • since R-22 is scheduled for complete phase out in just 7 years and even now it is in limited supply- it does not make sense to go to an R-22 system. The only wasy these are available is as a “dry” system meaning there in NO refrigerant in the system. This is added after the install. The equipment might be less expensive, but once you factor in the cost of refrigerant. there is no savings. And, down the road, if any refrigerant side repair was needed, the cost will be exhorbanant.
      It is also better to go with a “matched system” and replace the outdoor, indoor, and lines to assure proper efficiency and operation.

  3. Mehir says:

    Hi,

    What about replacing the refrigerant with R407C instead of R22? I understand that R22 is being phased out and the reasons for it. If we are going to replace an older unit, would it not be better if the contractor can use the same pipe work but just change the units and charge them with R407C. He will, of course have to make sure that the refrigerant lines are flushed out thoroughly to leave no oil residue from the R22 refrigerant and to make sure that he uses a filter drier.

  4. edwin guerrero says:

    Hi Sir,

    Aircon Unit with Compressor scroll R22 with Mineral oil charge – was mistakenly charge of R410A refrigerants and Start compressor for Test run only for Few minutes..

    1. What will be the consequences?
    2. Will be the R22 compressor mechanical, Valve cylinder or Motor winding will be damage?
    3. Will be the R22 Compressor Oil will be Contaminated?
    4. Is there other parts Like TXV, Filter driers etc.. in the system will be affected or damage?
    5. Will the R22 compressor Mineral oil will have oil discolorations effect?

    What are the necessary Corrective actions should be taken for this kind mistaken charging of R410A to a R22 Aircon refn system?
    1. Should we replace the compressor with new Compressor ?
    2. Should we change existing mineral oil with New Mineral Oils?
    3. Should we Re-process the system with R141B with Nitrogen dry gas ?
    4. How long and how many microns should we vacuum the system?
    5. What is the proper way to remove R410A resedue in the R22 compressor and Refrigeration system?
    6. If we only Change oil and re-process the system only and charge the right R22 – Can we assure R22 Compressor will last as a normal working life same as not subjectted to R410A ?
    7. Do we have actual studies or actual simulations of this kind of incedent?

    Can you Share technical buliteen or Articles regarding R22 system with Mineral oil charge with R410A/?

    • The reason R-410A cannot use mineral oil or alkabenzine lubricant is because it is not “miscible” with the refrigerant and therefore is not carried very well through the system resulting in poor lubrication of components and possible slugging at the metering device. In my opinion, if you only ran it for a short test run, you should be fine .

  5. Srinivasa says:

    We wish to replace R22 with R407 in our system. Would like to know if the existing AHU and ACCU can be re-used with the modifications limited to compressor parts, expansion valve and such. Is there a need to change the AHU coil as well? With all other conditions same, will the change in refrigerant entail a drop in cooling performance?
    Please oblige us with a reply

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