Though many people still talk about “Freon” in air conditioners, this type of refrigerant (actually a trademarked class of CFC chemical compounds) has been implicated in ozone depletion and has thus been phased out as a result of the Montreal Protocol. Though this was originally entered into force in 1989, the phasing out of Freon has been a slow process. Only in 2010 did all new air conditioners stop using Freon as a refrigerant. Here’s what you need to know about Freon ACs.

If You Have a Freon Air Conditioner

If your air conditioner was installed before 2003, it likely uses Freon. If it was made in 2010 or after, it definitely does not. If it falls somewhere between those dates, you will need to check the unit to determine the type of refrigerant it uses.

For Freon-based air conditioners, leaks are a major concern. Freon in air conditioners is not like gas for your car — it doesn’t get used up over time, and it should always remain at a stable level. If it begins to leak, this is a concern for several reasons. The first is environmental. As noted above, Freon leaking into the air damages the ozone. It can also cause health problems, especially in people with heart conditions, small children, and pets. Thirdly, it means that your air conditioner will not be running well.

If you suspect a Freon leak, call an HVAC professional immediately. Luckily, most air conditioner issues are not caused by Freon leaks, but a professional HVAC technician will be able to diagnose the problem. If there is indeed a leak, the unit must be repaired–it is not enough to just “top off” the Freon.

Replacing Freon ACs

Newer air conditioners no longer use Freon as a refrigerant. Most use HFCs or a refrigerant blend that is more environmentally friendly. If you are interested in replacing your old, Freon-based air conditioner,  consider installing a geothermal system or swamp cooler that doesn’t use any type of chemical refrigerant. And remember that you must dispose of Freon ACs appropriately. There are very strict regulations on how to dispose of Freon, and an HVAC professional should be called in to help you do so.

Have any additional questions about Freon or about new, greener cooling options? Call Dan at 720.876.7166 or dan@sensibleheat.net.