For those with an air conditioner, you’ll know the importance of the unit when the temperatures warm up. Your clothes start sticking, you begin getting uncomfortably hot, and only the air conditioner can save you from the experience. However, not many people understand how air conditioners actually work. In particular, the role of refrigerant to cool the warm air.
If your air conditioner was made before 2003, your air conditioning unit likely relies on Freon to operate correctly.
As a CFC (chlorofluorocarbon), Freon is sometimes referred to as R-22. Whatever name you see, it’s a colourless gas used in aerosol cans and refrigeration products for many decades. Initially, CFCs entered the market before the turn of the 20th century. However, they entered the market as a dangerous product and were highly flammable. General Motors launched Frigidaire in the 1920s to seek an alternative; it wanted a product with no toxic elements and with more stability.
By the 1930s, DuPont and GM were working together and created Freon from a combined company called Kinetic Chemicals. For many decades, Freon was then used as the main refrigerant inside air conditioning units.
When reading about Freon, most of the time, you’ll see that it’s linked with air conditioning systems. However, the product was also used in chest freezers and upright freezers. What’s more, Freon also had a purpose in the commercial world in cold storage warehouses and in transporting food. Depending on the model and age, you may even find this refrigerant inside dehumidifiers.
How Does Freon Work?
Using air conditioning as an example, since this is the most common application of Freon, your unit contains all sorts of compressors and coils. To start, the gas is compressed within the air conditioning unit, and it heats up. From here, it moves through the coils and turns into a liquid. Now cooled, the liquid absorbs as much of the heat in your home as possible. In return, it gives cooler air, and you can find out more here.
Simply put, the refrigerant helps to remove hot air from a room and replace it with cooler air. Ergo, the clothing stops sticking to your back, and you can sit a little more comfortably. For an air conditioner to work, it needs a refrigerant – this is why AC units stop working after a leak. With no more refrigerant to take away the hot air and provide cool air, the whole system fails.
The Montreal Protocol – Freon Controversy
Way back in 1974, scientists worldwide were investigating CFCs and how they may destroy the ozone layer. Eventually, the University of California brought attention to the problem with the results of its study. As a result, the National Academy of Science did its own research and found similar results. By the end of the 1980s, the United States had banned CFCs from aerosols. Then, a new international environmental agreement was signed by major countries in 1987, and the use of CFCs is now limited – this agreement was called the Montreal Protocol.
For anybody living in a new home, you can be sure that your unit uses a safer refrigerant. However, those with air conditioning units made before 2003 may still rely on Freon. Many studies have determined that the chemicals in the gas destroy the ozone layer, as well as the manufacturing process itself.
In recent years, Australia has started to phase out the use of R-22. Instead, homeowners need to rely on recycled products when servicing an older unit. If in doubt, it’s best to contact a professional service to check your unit and get the right advice!