Recently I have discovered that there is a lot of confusion about the changes to the air conditioning industry. For us to clear up some of this confusion, I will need to take you back to the beginning of 2001.
This was a great time for America; this marked the beginning of a new administration in the White House, as well as a consistent 10 years of growth in American industry. What transpired over the next nine months would change our world and our industry forever. Before the recession started in the spring of ‘01 and nine months before the most tragic attack on American soil in 60 years, President Clinton signed a bill that would reshape our industry.
At the very end of his second term in office, President Clinton approved a bill that was the most aggressive step to date in the fight to save the ozone layer. This new piece of legislature would mandate the HVAC industry to replace the old ozone-depleting R-22 (refrigerant) with a new environmentally friendly refrigerant called R410-A. This new refrigerant has many different properties than the old R-22, including better heat transfer, which equates to higher efficiency for the homeowner. This brings us to the second part of President Clinton’s legislature. The air conditioning industry will increase the seasonal energy efficiency rating (SEER) from a minimum of 10 SEER to a new industry standard of 13 SEER. This is in place to ensure that the consumption of fossil fuels will be reduced with a decrease in electrical consumption.
This is great for the environment, but what does this mean to you as a homeowner in need of air conditioner replacement or repairs? The most important thing to remember is that the old R-22 is not compatible with the new R-410A. With higher pressures and different types of oil in the respective systems, you will need to do a full air conditioner replacement when it comes time to upgrade. That’s right; the days of just replacing part of your old R-22 system when it fails are behind us. Due to the new oils that are used in the R410-A systems, it is critical that you replace the entire system. This is because mineral oil (used in R-22 systems) cannot be mixed with POE oil (in the new R-410A systems), or it will compromise the viscosity of the oil in the new energy-efficient system. The bottom line is if these oils are mixed by more than 5%, there is a good chance the oil will form a globular mass that won’t allow the proper flow of refrigerant in the system.
One more thing that is very important to understand as the consumer is that POE oil is very moisture critical! For example, if you place 2 oz. of POE oil in an 8 oz. cup on a table overnight, it would expand over the top of the cup and spill onto the table. This is due to the oil absorbing as much moisture as it can from the air surrounding it. Why is this important for you? When it comes time to decide who will install your new system. you must do your due diligence. Your air conditioner replacement professional must be a very knowledgeable, certified technician who is looking out for the best interests of your system. After all, this is not a small purchase, and you want to protect your investment from day one. If installed properly, your system will live a very long, healthy life; if not, you will remove at least five years off the life of the system just because your installer didn’t do his job when it was originally installed.
Here at JLK Mechanical Heating & Cooling, we have technicians who installed four R-410A systems back in 1997 that are still running today. That’s right– this technology isn’t new to our industry, Carrier Corp. started producing these R-410A systems back in 1996. So don’t worry about letting the industry “work out the bugs” before you upgrade your A/C system– the bugs are long gone, and what we are left with is a very well-oiled machine when installed properly.