A complete guide to air conditioning refrigerant

What is air conditioning refrigerant, and what are the various types available? Discover everything you need to know to ensure you pick the right choice for your business.

Your air conditioning system is filled with different components, each as important as the next. They ensure your system runs as efficiently and effectively as possible. A key ingredient to the smooth running of your system is refrigerant.

To put it simply, refrigerant helps create the cool air that circulates around your environment through your air conditioner. Without refrigerant, your system wouldn’t work. So, what is refrigeration? Is air conditioning refrigerant toxic? What air conditioner refrigerant types are available? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is air conditioning refrigerant?

The refrigerant used in air conditioning systems is found in either a gas or liquid form. It’s a crucial component for a working system, as it absorbs heat from the environment and converts it into a cool airflow when combined with the other components of your air conditioning system.

Refrigerants have been through a huge development process over the last 20 years or so. One of the biggest driving forces behind the popularity and the changes in the way commercial air conditioning operates is the introduction of energy-efficient refrigerants. Let’s take a closer look.

Air conditioner refrigerant types

There are many air conditioner refrigerant types, including R-22, R-410A and R-32. The latter is much more environmentally friendly and popular for modern AC systems.

R-22 vs R-410a vs R-32 refrigerant

R-22 refrigerant

Let’s begin by looking at R-22. Now, the type of refrigerant in your air conditioning system depends on how old it is. If your air conditioning unit is more than 10 years old, there’s a good chance it uses R-22 refrigerant, commonly known as “Freon.”

After years of using R-22 in air conditioning units of all sizes, it was discovered that this refrigerant is a dangerous chemical contributing to the thinning of the ozone layer.

Since 2015, The EC Ozone Regulation was introduced in the UK to help phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbon’s (HCFC’s), including the use of R-22 refrigerant. It’s now illegal to use new, recycled, or reclaimed R-22 to maintain or repair air conditioning systems and units. In the coming years, more regulations will come in to limit the use of HCFCs in refrigeration by 2030. The overall aim is to shift to climate-friendly technology wherever possible.

If you are currently using a system that utilises R-22 and are wanting to continue using it, then it’s best to start planning for a new system before a repair is needed on your current unit. R-22 refrigeration repairs are illegal in the UK. So, a new system will need to be installed. But you will benefit from being able to make significant savings with a modern-day air conditioner.

R-410A refrigerant

One of the most common air conditioner refrigerant types used to replace R-22 is R-410A. It’s been a much-preferred refrigerant since its invention and is far superior to older refrigerants for various reasons.

R-410A works at a higher pressure than other refrigerants. The compressors can withstand a significant amount of vibration, allowing for a longer lifespan. Not to mention, it emits zero ozone-depleting chemicals. Here are some other reasons R-410A is a preferred refrigerant choice:

  • It possesses a non-flammable chemical structure, unlike early refrigerants.
  • It’s non-corrosive – limiting hardware damage.
  • This refrigerant works with several types of tubing, including copper, brass, and steel.
  • It’s non-toxic, making it safe to use in populated buildings.
  • The production of R-410A is much cheaper than R-22. It’s also much more cost-effective and efficient for you in the long run.

If you haven’t already, we recommend upgrading your old system. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

R-32 refrigerant

A third refrigerant we would like to mention is the environmentalist’s favourite, R-32. This refrigerant also provides significant benefits. So much so that industry leaders, Daikin, implemented the use of R-32 in all of its modern-day air conditioners. This choice was quickly followed by other well-known manufactures across the industry.

R-32 is a new generation of refrigerant that efficiently circulates between indoor and outdoor units, while actively reducing electricity consumption up to as much as 10% compared to air conditioners using existing R-22 refrigerant. It’s also far more energy-efficient than other refrigerants on the market and has a global warming potential (GWP) that is two-thirds lower than comparable products. The GWP of R-32 is 675 compared to R-410A which has a GWP of 2088.

Since R-32 has a lower density than R-410A, a lower quantity of R-32 is used in air conditioners. In other words, every time your AC runs ‘out of gas’, it can be ‘re-charged’ with smaller amounts of R-32.

Choose the right air conditioner refrigerant for your system

Air conditioner refrigerant is an essential part of the running of an air conditioning system. Choosing the right type is not only kinder on the environment, but your back pocket too.

If you need more information about your air conditioning system or refrigerant, don’t hesitate to contact us and speak to a specialist today.

How does refrigeration air conditioning work?

Air conditioner refrigerant is a crucial part of the air-cooling process. The role of the refrigerant is to travel through the system, changing from gas to liquid. As it does so, it absorbs heat and then releases it along its “journey”, helping to bring cool air to the rooms of your building.

  1. The compressor which pumps the refrigerant around the system, is the heart of the air conditioner. Before the compressor, the refrigerant is a gas at low pressure. Because of the compressor, the gas becomes high pressure, gets heated and flows towards the condenser.
  2. At the condenser, the high temperature, high pressure gas releases its heat to the outdoor air and becomes subcooled high pressure liquid.
  3. The high pressure liquid goes through the expansion valve, which reduces the pressure, and thus temperature goes below the temperature of the refrigerated space. This results in cold, low pressure refrigerant liquid.
  4. The low pressure refrigerant flows to the evaporator where it absorbs heat from the indoor air through evaporation and becomes low pressure gas. The gas flows back to the compressor where the cycle starts all over again. In case of a heat pump the cycle can be reversed.

The process repeats itself quickly, which allows for the constant blow of steady cool air into a room. The refrigerant cycle in air conditioning is continuous and the refrigerant itself will always stay at the same level. However, this only works if your system doesn’t encounter any leaks.

How to spot an air conditioner leak

Leaks of any type of refrigerant are very serious and should be resolved immediately. These leaks can be harmful, not only to the environment, but to anyone who comes into contact with the substance. There are several signs you should be aware of, some being more obvious than others.

Warm air and low airflow

  • If you have your air-con set to a cool setting and it is blowing out warm air, this could be an indicator that you have a refrigerant leak or low air conditioner refrigerant pressure.

Increase in electricity bills

  • You may notice your utility bills are higher than usual, even though you may not be overusing your system. This could mean that the air conditioner is operating harder to provide the right amount of cooling capacity due to the loss of refrigerant.

Unusually noisy system

  • The AC system may be much noisier than usual, especially with bubbling and gurgling sounds. This is a big indication that there is a fault within the system which could be a leak of refrigerant.

Refrigerant poisoning

  • If someone in the environment where AC is constantly being used is suffering from dizziness or nausea, or even struggling to breathe, then seek medical help immediately. It’s not very common. However, this could be due to refrigerant being released into the atmosphere.

Contact the air conditioning refrigeration specialists

It’s crucial to fix a refrigerant leak as soon as possible. If you’re not sure, you should get in touch with Mid-Tech, and we’ll send an engineer over to run a series of tests to check for a possible leak.

In the meantime, follow our journey on LinkedInFacebook and Instagram for more handy insights. We hope you learned a thing or two today about air-con refrigerants.

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