Have you ever wondered what goes into a heating or air conditioning system for a large office building or another large building like a mall or a school? My name is Evelyn, and I am an HVAC architect. I design heating and air conditioning systems for large, corporate buildings. Making sure that a large building with many rooms or offices is efficiently heated and cooled is a very large job and is much more complicated than simply heating or cooling a home. This blog will educate the reader on how heating and cooling jobs this large are designed and completed.
Next year, HVAC technicians will have a harder time getting their hands on Freon, a refrigerant that numerous heat pump systems rely on. The upcoming phaseout of brand-new production will see Freon supplies dwindle as the HVAC industry transitions to other, more ozone layer-friendly refrigerants. The upcoming phaseout, scheduled for January 1, 2020, is part of an EPA-led effort to remove ozone-depleting refrigerants from circulation.
Today's heat pumps already use alternatives like R-410a, also known as Puron, but plenty of Freon-using heat pumps still exist out in the wild. If your heat pump was manufactured before 2010, then chances are it still uses Freon. The following shows how you can prepare yourself for this upcoming change.
Check Your Heat Pump Thoroughly for Leaks
With supplies of Freon limited, you can't afford to have refrigerant leaks. Even the slowest of leaks can prove expensive to deal with as time goes on, especially as the cost of Freon rises in response to dwindling stocks. For many technicians, Freon is already getting harder to find, with some technicians scavenging the refrigerant from retired air conditioners and heat pumps.
Stay on top of refrigerant leaks by having your heat pump inspected on a regular basis. An experienced technician can easily spot leaks and make the appropriate repairs, ensuring your heat pump remains leak-free throughout its service life.
Consider Using a Drop-In Replacement
So-called "drop-in replacement" refrigerants offer a potential alternative to Freon. These refrigerants are not only formulated to be compatible with heat pumps and air conditioning systems reliant on Freon but also offer performance and efficiency similar to the outgoing refrigerant. There are several varieties of drop-in refrigerants to choose from, with each offering its own performance advantages and drawbacks. R-407C, R-422D, and R-438A are among the more common alternatives to Freon.
Despite what the name implies, you can't simply drop your drop-in replacement in a heat pump that's already charged with R-22. Many of the alternatives use synthetic oil instead of the mineral oil commonly used with Freon. Mixing the two oils could easily damage your heat pump. Most technicians will completely evacuate your system of Freon and lubricating oil before adding the drop-in replacement.
You could also convert your heat pump from Freon to R-410A, the current standard refrigerant used by today's heat pumps and air conditioning systems. The conversion process takes more time and requires more work than simply using drop-in replacements. Complete conversion to R-410A is worth the effort only if your heat pump was a recent purchase and you want to get the most from your system. Otherwise, you're better off exploring drop-in replacements or another option mentioned below.
Plan for an Eventual Replacement
You might love to keep your heat pump system around, but it'll eventually need replacement at some point. A typical heat pump offers 10 to 15 years of reliable service before it needs replacement. If it's been that long since you've last replaced your heat pump, then it's due to for retirement regardless. The upcoming phaseout offers another good reason to ditch your current heat pump for a newer and more compliant system.
There are plenty of advantages to getting a brand-new heat pump over retrofitting your existing unit. For starters, you'll have a more reliable machine that offers greater peace of mind and fewer worries about breakdowns and malfunctions. You'll also have a heat pump system with a strong factory warranty — which is a plus considering your existing heat pump's warranty has likely expired.
When you purchase a heat pump that uses R-410A or another modern refrigerant, you'll be ahead of the curve when it comes to the upcoming Freon phaseout.