Category Archives: 2015 DOE Air Conditioning Standards

R22 Refigerant Phase Out – Environmental Impact

What does the R-22 Refrigerant Phase out mean for your Hvac system?

The current phase of of R-22 Refrigerant in residential and commercial properties leaves home and business owners with unanswered questions. As R-22 is gradually phased out, alternative refrigerants are being introduced. One of these substitutes is R-410A, a blend of hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs) that does not contribute to depletion of the ozone layer.

HCFC Phase out

Service to current HVAC systems

Production of new air conditioning units charged with R-22 ended in 2010, and by 2020, the servicing of R-22 based systems will rely solely on recycled or reclaimed refrigerants.

If your air conditioner was manufactured before 2010, it probably utilizes R-22. The good news is existing units using R-22 can continue to be serviced with R-22 as there is no EPA requirement for change or conversion of these units.

More than likely, your heating and cooling units will have sufficient R-22, unless a leak occurs. Since production is limited, costs to charge existing units leaking R-22 refrigerant have gone up and are expected to rise. We urge our customers to take the necessary steps to protect yourself from the rising cost of refrigerant. The best thing you can do properly maintain your unit to prevent leaks. You can do so by participating in routine tune-ups in the spring and fall. Remember, routine maintenance is far less expensive than emergency repairs.

Retrofits and Converting units

Retrofit units, converted R-22 units utilize a substitute refrigerant, are allowed if the alternative has been found acceptable for that type of use. Substitute refrigerant can work well in R-22 units with a few changes to system components. For example, simply replacing R-22 refrigerant with R-410A in a preexisting R-22 unit is not recommended due to its higher worker pressure. However, a certified professional can replace R-22 condensers with R-410A condensers, as long as the system coil is also updated. This provides consistency in the refrigerant  cycle, as one coil cannot be replaced without the other, and allows the retrofit to get you by for several more years.

The EPA wanrs of potential safety hazards related to the use of unapproved refrigerants in home air conditioning systems as they are not designed to handle flammable refrigerants.

Impact on the environment

Properly installed home comfort systems rarely develop major refrigerant leaks, and with proper servicing, a system using R-22, R-410A, or another refrigerant will reduce its impact on the environment. Remember to always select a reputable dealer to handle refrigerants.

Refrigerant R-22 is used in a number of refrigeration and air conditioning systems. R-22 is the halocarbon compound named monochlorodifluoromethane with chemical formula CHCIF2 and it is the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). R-22 is one of the most popular refrigerant used in cooling system, but unfortunately, the halocarbons (chlorine and fluorine) present in these compounds have the potential to cause depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere leading to greenhouse effect. The ozone layer destroying potential of R-22, which is HCFC is much lesser than the other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), still in the long-term they do have detrimental effects on the atmosphere.

The depletion of ozone layer from the upper layers of atmosphere results in ultraviolet rays of the sun to reach the surface of the earth. This leads to high temperature on the earth and the ultraviolet ray themselves are very harmful to the skin of humans. To avoid the long-term dangers of the R-22 and other CFCs, it has been decided to phase out the use and production of R-22 completely along with other CFC refrigerants.

ozone depletion

New units

A important thing a homeowner can do for the environment is to purchase a highly energy efficient system. Today’s air conditioners use much less energy, provide cost savings in maintenance an electric costs, and offer a green alternative to R-22 units. Rebates and tax credits also help to offset the cost of new systems.

The best time to switch is before your hit by the high costs of repairing a refrigerant system. Take into account the age of your current unit (as a general rule, systems should be older than 10 years) look for the energy star label to save up to 40 percent on utility bills and consider the minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) specification.

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SEER RATINGS AND NEW AIR CONDITIONING STANDARDS FOR 2015

Today’s best air conditioners use 30% to 50% less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the me 1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save 20% to 50% of your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model.

REDUCE ENERGY USE 20-50%

Proper sizing and installation are key elements in determining air conditioner efficiency. A unit that is too large will not adequately remove humidity. A unit that is too small will not be able to attain a comfortable temperature on the hottest days. Lack of insulation and improper unit and duct installation can greatly diminish efficiency.

What are SEER Ratings? 

SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a measure of system efficiency, which translates to how much it costs to operate and indicates the relative amount of energy needed to provide specific cooling output. The higher the number, the more efficient the system. A SEER rating of 16 or higher with stepped capacity modulation is considered high efficiency and could save you over $400 per year versus an older lower efficiency system. Many older systems have SEER ratings of 6 or less. The minimum SEER allowed today is 13.

Central Air conditioners are rated according to their SEER rating. If you are thinking about purchasing a new air conditioner, look for a model with a high efficiency or look for the ENERGY STAR® label for central air conditioners with SEER ratings of 13 or greater. Also consider using air conditioning equipment with higher SEER ratings for greater savings.

Department of Energy (DOE)
Residential Central Air Conditioner Standards

New residential central air conditioner standards went into effect on January 23, 2006. Air conditioners manufactured after January 23, 2006 must achieve a SEER of 13 or higher. SEER 13 is 30% more efficient than the previous minimum SEER of 10. The standard only applies to appliances manufacture after January 23, 2006. Equipment with a rating less than SEER 13 manufactured before January 1, 2015 may still be sold and installed anywhere in the U.S. If you are in the North region, as specified by the DOE, you may continue to install SEER 13 AC systems even if they were manufactured after January 1, 2015. There is not yet a date for phasing out those units in the North. However, All heat pump systems built after January 1, 2015, must be at least a SEER 14.

If you are located in the South or Southwest DOE regions, you can only install SEER 13 units (AC or heat pump) built before January 1, 2015, and you can continue to do this until the 18-month grace period is over on June 30, 2016. After this date, everything in those regions must be SEER 14 irrespective of when it was built. Also, the Southwest region has an EER (Energy Efficiency Ratio) minimum in addition to the SEER minimum, so homeowners in the region will need to watch for the EER rating as well. It is not clear how the availability of SEER 13 units built before January 1, 2015 will play out, but there are certainly some in the channel for the 2015 cooling season. It is likely that this availability will drop significantly as we move closer to the June 30, 2016 date when they can no longer be used (except in the North).

The standards do not require you to change your existing central air conditioning units, and replacement parts and services are still available for your home’s system. The “lifespan” of a central air conditioner is about 15 to 20 years. Manufacturers typically continue to support existing equipment by making replacement parts available and honoring maintenance contracts.

Other features to look for when purchasing  an air conditioner 
  • A thermal expansion valve and a high-temperature rating (EER) greater than 11.6, for high-efficiency operation when the weather is the hottest
  • A variable speed handler for new ventilation systems
  • A unit that operates quietly
  • A fan-only switch, so you can use the unit for nighttime ventilation to substantially reduce air conditioning costs
  • A filter check light to remind you to change the filter after a predetermined number of operating hours
  • An automatic-delay fan switch to turn off the fan a few minutes after the compressor turns off

If you have an older central air conditioner, you might choose to replace the outdoor compressor with a modern, high efficiency unit. If you do so, consult a local heating and cooling contractor to assure that the new compressor is properly matched to the indoor unit. However, considering recent changes in refrigerant and air conditioning designs, it might be wiser to replace the entire system. (Read more about R-22 and R-410A Refrigerant)

For questions concerning your air conditioning unit, call ACE HI PLUMBING, HEATING & AIR at 970-667-0300 today. We have NATE-trained technicians and provide 24-hour emergency service. Ace Hi Plumbing services the Northern Colorado area including Loveland, Fort Collins, Berthoud, Longmont, Windsor, Greeley, and Estes Park.