The importance of refrigerant in refrigeration, air-conditioning, and freezing can’t be stressed enough. Without a refrigerant, an HVAC system, for example, can’t cool an interior space. Similarly, the system won’t work effectively if the refrigerant is low or leaking. A refrigerant works by absorbing heat from the environment to produce cool air (cooling effect).
Over the years, different systems have been using different types of refrigerants. Legislations keep changing, some refrigerants get phased out, and new ones get introduced into the market. For instance, some decades ago, cooling systems used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) such as R-12, which were ceased back in 1994 following a regulation (the greenhouse gas effect).
Then came the Hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The HCFCs were considered less damaging to the environment than R-12. The HCFC R22 has also been phased out. The US, for example, banned the manufacture and importation of R-22 (Freon) following the 2010 Clean Air Act.
However, it is prudent to note that even though different governments phased out R-22, some people might still be using it. If you find an HVAC system manufactured before 2010, it’s probably using the Freon refrigerant. The most common and current refrigerants used include the R-410A (Puron) and R-32.
Let’s talk about R-410A.
What is R-410A?
Puron (also known under the brand names AZ-20, EcoFluor R410, Forane 410A, Genetron R410A and Suva 410A) is an EPA-approved Freon substitute. The refrigerant is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), and it’s safer for the environment than R-22, its predecessor. Its Global Warming Potential (GWP) is at 2,088 and has zero Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP).
On top of the environmental friendliness, systems using R-410A work under higher pressure and consume less energy compared to the Freon ones. In other words, Puron has a high SEER rating and consumes less energy while delivering efficient cooling.
In terms of usage, Puron is the recommended commercial and residential refrigerant in the US, Europe, Japan, Canada, and most countries.
R-22 Vs. R-410A: is Puron the Better Option?
Although Freon has been phased out, there is still a discussion of how the refrigerant compares to Puron. Let’s compare the two refrigerants.
R-22 was outlawed in 2010 and can’t be used for new HVAC systems. The hydrochlorofluorocarbon(HCFC) was discontinued because it contributed to ozone depletion. Most new systems don’t use the refrigerant, and the supplies are limited following its discontinuation.
The R-410A is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) and is considered safe for the ozone layer. Puron is the approved refrigerant and has become the standard refrigerant for most cooling devices.
Puron is more efficient and reliable compared to Freon. How? R-410A absorbs and releases more heat than R-22, meaning that the compressor runs cooler and reduces the risk of overheating and possible compressor burnout.
Puron can also function at a higher pressure than Freon, which means that newer compressors can withstand greater stresses, reducing the possibility of cracking. For example, if you were to put Puron in a Freon system, the unit would break due to too much pressure.
Usually, systems use oil to lubricate the compressor when in use. Freon systems use mineral oil, while Puron ones use synthetic oil. R-410A is more soluble in synthetic oil than R-22 is with mineral oil. That means that a Puron system will operate more efficiently and significantly reduce wear and tear on its compressor.
You may have heard about ‘dry charge’ units or come across one in the field. Following the discontinuation of Freon, some manufacturers took advantage and started producing the ‘dry charge’ units. The units come without the Freon installed in them (the refrigerant is not installed during manufacturing), and a technician has to install (charge) it after purchase.
While these units are legal, they are not the best due to a couple of reasons such as:
- Freon was banned, and therefore the supplies are limited
- The supplies are costly due to limited supply
- Dry charged units come with a short warranty
- Puron is more efficient, safe for the environment, and saves on energy
Advantages of Puron
Here are some of the merits of using Puron systems.
· Reduced Environmental Impact
Freon damages the ozone layer when it leaks. Puron is more environmentally friendly. Although it is also made up of harsh chemicals, it doesn’t harm the ozone.
· Lower Price
Following the discontinuation of the R-22, the refrigerant has become scarcer and consequently more expensive. Replacing an R-22 unit with an R-410A one might be costly initially, but it is more cost-effective in the long run.
· Improved Efficiency
Puron is more energy-efficient than Freon since it absorbs and releases heat better. As a thumb rule, Freon has an efficiency rate of 13 SEER or less. On the other hand, Puron operates at a SEER rating of 20 or more – that’s like double the efficiency.
The Disadvantage of Upgrading to Puron Systems
· High initial cost
Upgrading means replacing your R-22 system with a new R-410A system. Setting up an entire system can be costly.
Can You Use Puron in a Freon Unit?
R-22 and R-410A are entirely incompatible. More so, older systems can’t handle Puron. It requires a lot of pressure to operate, and R-22 systems can’t keep up. Mixing the two refrigerants can be catastrophic. For example, you can’t top off a car that uses regular oil with synthetic oil without damaging the heat pump or air conditioner.
There’s no shortcut; you have to upgrade. Well, there are options too, but how sustainable are they?
Is Puron the Only Freon Substitute?
Puron is the most popular choice for most units, but it is not the only refrigerant used in place of R-22. According to EPA, there are other substitutes such as HFC-32, HFC-13A, R-422C, R-407F, R-407C, R-407A, R-404A, R-1270, R-125 among other products.