Don’t Get Duped by Fake Air Conditioner Coolant

FBI issues warning regarding non-EPA approved replacements for R-22 refrigerant.

Fake CoolantEfforts to phase out the polluting refrigerant R-22 have sent prices for legitimate R-22 skyrocketing and a host of low-cost imposters scurrying to fill the void. The FBI warns that some of these fake coolants can be dangerous. Products containing propane are especially worrisome as they have the potential to cause explosions.

Why R-22 is Being Phased Out

R-22 has been a popular coolant used in air conditioners and refrigeration units for decades. Unfortunately, it is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon, meaning it is an ozone-depleting chemical. Efforts to reduce ozone depletion by phasing out certain chemicals began in the late 1980s, with the signing of the Montreal Protocol. However, the phaseout schedule for R-22 didn’t begin in the US until 2004. Use of R-22 in new appliances has already been banned, but using R-22 to service existing units is still permitted. By 2020, manufacture of new R-22 will be banned, but recycled or reclaimed fluid may still be used to service existing equipment. However, by this point the supply will be very low, hopefully 99.5 percent below the US baseline cap.

What to Do If Your AC Unit Uses R-22

If your air conditioner uses R-22 as a coolant, you should follow these tips to ensure safe and reliable operation of your system.

Don’t Buy Coolant Online

If you’re frustrated by the high prices of R-22, you need to resist the temptation to go online looking for a different option. Many of the cheap products that claim to replace R-22 are not approved by the EPA and are not safe for use. The FBI has issued a specific warning regarding a product called “Super Freeze 22a” which is manufactured in China and sold directly to consumers online so as to bypass government regulation.

Consider Switching to an Approved Coolant

The EPA has compiled a list of approved substitutes for R-22, and is also constantly reviewing new products as they are developed to determine their impact on the planet and on human health. One approved substitute you may consider is R-410A. This coolant does not contribute to ozone depletion. The Puron refrigerant used in Carrier products is a trade name for R-410A.

Consider Buying a New System

While air conditioners can continue to be serviced with R-22 for the time being, within 10 years or so this may not be possible due to the high cost of even recycled or reclaimed R-22. If your air conditioner is getting old anyway, you might consider replacing it now with a new unit that can deliver improved comfort and efficiency and will not require costly R-22.

Always Use a Certified Contractor

Because R-22 is harmful to the environment, it is extremely important to follow the practices outlined by The Clean Air Act when servicing equipment to minimize the release of this chemical into the atmosphere. While the average do it yourselfer doesn’t know how to do this, a NATE-certified ac contractor such as General Heating & Air Conditioning does.