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What is Freon (And Why It’s In Your Air Conditioner)

CEO Khai Intela
If you're like most people, you rely on your air conditioner to keep you cool and comfortable during the summer. But have you ever wondered what actually cools the warm air in your AC? The...


If you're like most people, you rely on your air conditioner to keep you cool and comfortable during the summer. But have you ever wondered what actually cools the warm air in your AC? The answer is Freon, a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) that has been used as a refrigerant in many air conditioning units manufactured before 2003. However, due to its harmful effects on the ozone layer, Freon is now being phased out. So, what does this mean for your air conditioner? Let's take a closer look at the history of Freon and its current status.

History of Freon

Freon, also known as R-22, was first produced by Kinetic Chemicals, a collaboration between General Motors and DuPont, in the 1930s. It quickly became a popular refrigerant for various applications, including air conditioning units and aerosol cans. However, in 1974, concerns about ozone depletion arose when a researcher at the University of California suggested that CFCs like Freon were damaging the ozone layer. This led to the United States banning the use of CFCs in aerosol cans and the establishment of the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to phase out CFCs.

The Uses of Freon

Freon is not only found in air conditioning units but has also been used in freezers, commercial appliances, and dehumidifiers. To identify if your AC system uses Freon, check the nameplate on the unit or contact the manufacturer for more information. It's essential to be aware of the type of coolant in your AC system, especially if you need to make repairs or maintain the unit.

How Freon Works

In an AC unit, Freon goes through a cycle that involves compressing the gas, cooling it down to a liquid form, and then using it to absorb heat from the outside air. This process allows the AC to release cold air and maintain a comfortable temperature in your home or car. However, if the coolant leaks, your AC will stop blowing cold air, and it can also have detrimental effects on the ozone layer. It's crucial to address any leaks promptly and call an HVAC technician to fix them before adding more coolant.

The Montreal Protocol and the Future of Freon

Under the Montreal Protocol, the United States has committed to reducing its consumption of CFCs, including Freon. By January 1, 2020, the usage of CFCs needs to be at least 99.5 percent below its baseline use. Currently, Freon must be recovered and recycled from older systems, and it is no longer produced for use in new equipment. After 2020, recycled Freon will be the only source available for those who still require it.

Freon at Home

If your air conditioning system was manufactured after 2003, it likely uses a different refrigerant, making it safer for the environment. As the phase-out of Freon continues, it may become more expensive to use and maintain older AC models that rely on Freon. This factor, coupled with the desire for energy-efficient cooling and heating, makes it worthwhile to consider replacing older units with ozone-friendly alternatives. Not only will this decrease repair costs but also help reduce utility bills.

Freon Disposal

When disposing of appliances that contain Freon, it's essential to do so responsibly. Many retailers will remove your old unit when installing a new one, ensuring proper disposal. However, if you need to dispose of the appliance elsewhere, be sure to check local guidelines and regulations. Some scrap yards and landfills may require proof that the refrigerant has been removed before accepting the item. Always rely on trained technicians to handle the removal of Freon to ensure the environment is protected.

By understanding the history and current status of Freon, you can make informed decisions about the maintenance, repair, and eventual replacement of your air conditioning units. Remember to prioritize the environment by seeking professional help in handling Freon-related matters and disposing of old appliances responsibly.