How AC Refrigerants Work | Oak Lawn HVAC Services

Importance of Refrigerants for Your AC Device & HVAC Systems


Your air conditioner’s operation is powered by an unseen force known as AC refrigerants. Your AC’s capacity to cool depends on it. As air passes through the compressor and evaporator, refrigerants absorb heat and produce cool air.

Your HVAC system’s refrigerant level needs to be checked frequently as part of HVAC maintenance. Your cooling system will need to push more effort to be able to cool as intended if the refrigerant level is insufficient.

It is best to review your HVAC expertise if you depend on your air conditioner or heat pump. Learn more about the air conditioner refrigerant so you can see any potential problems early and solve them.

How Do AC Refrigerants Work?

Chemicals called refrigerants are used in air conditioners to move heat from one location to another. Refrigerants come in various forms, but they all function similarly. The refrigerant absorbs heat from its surroundings as it evaporates and releases heat as it condenses. Your home stays cool in the summer because of this absorption and release process.

Clarifying how an air conditioner operates will help you better understand how an AC refrigerant works. In order to remove heat from a room and transfer it to the outside, an air conditioner uses refrigerant, which is housed in copper coils in the evaporator and condenser. The refrigerant undergoes this transformation, going from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid.

This is the simplest way to explain how refrigeration works. The heat is subsequently released into the environment by blowing over the high-pressure liquid using a fan. This liquid undergoes additional compression before ejecting quickly via a specialized nozzle to change back into a gas and start the next cycle. Another fan blows over this cold gas to blast cold air into the room, and the cycle repeats.

How AC Coolants Came to Be

Thomas Midgley, Albert Henne, and Robert McNary worked together in 1928 to find a coolant for air conditioners. They found these compounds when they worked at General Motors in the air conditioning department. General Motors wanted to make a refrigerant that wasn’t as dangerous or flammable as Sulfur Dioxide or Ammonia, which were already on the market at the time. Their coolants were called Freon, which was a brand name for chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) coolants.

R-22, a hydrofluorocarbon, was the first AC refrigerant that was found (HCFC). It was used a lot as a refrigerant in the next few decades, and because of its good qualities, it became the most popular choice.

In the late 1980s, when the world started paying more attention to global warming and other environmental issues, CFCs and HCFCs were paid more attention. They hurt the Ozone layer and were banned because of how bad they were. In 1987, they were put on the list of banned substances in the Montreal Protocol and were slowly taken out of use.

Kinds of AC Refrigerants

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

By 1995, CFCs, which are also called Freon, were no longer being made. R11, R12, and R115 are all examples of these coolants. They were thought to be bad for the environment because they hurt the ozone layer and caused the greenhouse effect.

R22 Refrigerant

R22, also known as Freon 22, is an HCFC refrigerant. It is a chlorofluorocarbon, but it has an extra hydrogen atom to make it break down faster in the environment. After CFCs, they were used in most air conditioners from 1960 until 2010, when they were banned for use in all new air conditioners.

If your air conditioner was put in before January 1, 2010, it probably used R22. You may have been able to get this at a higher cost in the past, but it will no longer be available after 2020.

R22 is also linked to environmental damage, which is why the Environmental Protection Agency banned it (EPA).

R410A Refrigerant

Due to the ban on R22, a new AC refrigerant called R410A, also called Puron, had to be made. R-410A is a refrigerant that doesn’t have any chlorine in it, which makes it much less harmful to the environment without affecting its ability to cool.

Be careful because HVAC appliances made for R-22 can’t be used with R-410A because their operating pressures are higher.

Also, an HVAC system that uses R-410A can have a higher SEER rating than one that uses R-22. The air quality and comfort are also better with R-410A. With a higher SEER and lower power use, the total demand for power plants goes down. This means that greenhouse gas emissions go down as well.

What Are the Pros of Using AC Refrigerants?

Putting refrigerants in air conditioners has a lot of good points. Refrigerant is a safe and effective way to move heat, and unlike other greenhouse gasses, it doesn’t add to global warming. Also, by lowering humidity, refrigerant can help improve the air quality inside your home.

When Should AC Refrigerants Be Replaced?

The frequency of replacement is another question people ask about refrigerants. How to answer this question depends on the type of air conditioner and the refrigerant. Some kinds of refrigerants need to be changed every few years, while others can last for decades. Check the owner’s manual for your air conditioner to determine how often you should replace the refrigerant. But here are some clear signs:

Built Up of Frost

When there is a refrigerant deficiency in your HVAC system, heat is taken from the water on the condenser coils because it is easier to get to. When all the heat is taken out of the water, it freezes and builds up on your condenser coils, which can cause other problems with your AC.

Warm or Hot Air from AC

If you set your thermostat to “cool,” your air conditioner should blow cold air. If you only get cold air at night when it’s cooler outside, or if you don’t get any cold air at all, that means you’re low on refrigerant.

Higher Than Anticipated Power Bill

If your electric bill goes up all of a sudden, it means that your air conditioner is doing more effort than it should to keep your house at the same temperature. You will eventually save money if you keep your system in good shape.

Need assistance with your AC or HVAC system at home or in your business establishment? Look no further because our expert technicians can help you! Call us today to discuss your options at (708) 556-2336 or send us a free quote through our website at

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