Does Freon Go Bad?
In the sweltering summers in Charleston, SC, you rely on your air conditioning to keep you cool and comfortable. Little thought goes into how an air conditioner works until something goes wrong.
Freon is a colorless and odorless noncombustible gas used as a refrigerant in air conditioners and freezers. Freon doesn’t run out as it’s part of a closed system, but you may be wondering, “does Freon go bad?” And if it does, how can it be fixed?
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding Freon, and it’s important to understand what it is and why it’s used. Freon is actually the brand name given to a chemical substance called fluorocarbon. The name is a registered trademark by Chemours Company, and it describes a group of refrigerants.
The manufactured gasses that are used as refrigerants and called by the brand name Freon are:
- R-12, R-13B1, R-22
- R-410A, R-502, and R-503
R-22 is also known as HCHC-22, which is a chlorofluorocarbon used in many home air conditioners. This includes central air and mini-split systems made before 2010. Newer AC units use a hydrofluorocarbon called R410A, otherwise known as Puron. Since 2015, Puron has been the standard refrigerant used in air conditioning.
Why Isn’t Freon Used Anymore?
Freon was invented in 1928 by Thomas Midgley and was deemed a miracle compound that was both non-toxic and non-flammable. It most certainly was — back in its day — and it revolutionized refrigeration.
In 1932, Freon was used in the first self-contained air conditioning unit. At that time, the new miracle compound was considered totally safe for humans and the environment.
Midgley went to great lengths to “prove” its safety. He did this by inhaling the gas and blowing it out onto a candle flame, causing it to be extinguished rather than combusted.
In 1992 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to phase out the use of Freon. The phase would continue until a total ban took place in 2020. Freon can no longer be produced within the US or imported in. Appliances that already contain Freon are not banned, but the chemical itself is.
So what went wrong since its glorious discovery in 1928?
Freon — The Facts
In the 1970s, extensive studies into CFCs and HCFCs revealed that these gasses significantly destroy the ozone layer. The ozone layer protects the earth from ultraviolet light from the sun, which is dangerous and is known to cause cancer.
Freon ravages the environment and is recognized as one of the most significant inventions that has led to climate change. CFCs and HCFCs warm the lower atmosphere of the earth, causing a rise in global temperature and melting the ice caps.
Freon is not only catastrophic to the environment — it is harmful to humans and wildlife. Freon is sealed inside an air conditioning unit, circulating inside the unit, and switching between gas and liquid to cool your home.
However, leaks from faulty units or poorly maintained systems can happen, and sometimes old equipment containing Freon is not properly disposed of.
The signs of refrigerant poisoning are:
- Swelling in the throat or sinuses
- Breathing difficulties
- Vision loss
- Severe stomach cramps
- Severe pain in your nose, throat, or sinuses.
- Burning sensation in the eyes, nose, ears, lips, or the tongue
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Indigestion or heartburn
Any sign of refrigerant poisoning needs to be acted upon immediately.
So, Does Freon Actually Go Bad?
After all of the bad news about Freon, there is some good news. Freon does not go ‘bad.’ As Freon is self-contained in the AC unit, if there are no leaks or damage, the existing Freon will continue to circulate and provide you with cool, comfortable air conditioning.
Freon is not used up in the process of cooling your home, and it will not rot or dissipate if it sits unused in its sealed unit.
It does become a problem if there is a leak and your refrigerant levels are low. Recycled Freon is available to top up after a leak is repaired, but it is becoming very difficult to find. Systems that contain Freon cannot be topped up with a different, environmentally safe refrigerant once they run low.
So now that the question of, “Does Freon go bad?” has been answered, what are your options when your AC — which contains Freon — runs low? This is a job for an HVAC professional at your local repair company in Charleston, SC.
Freon Leaks? Call the HVAC Professionals
There are signs that your Freon is leaking, and the levels are low. An HVAC professional should be called to investigate and diagnose the potential Freon leak as soon as you have any of the following problems:
- Your home is not cooling
- Warm air coming from the vents
- Rising energy bills
- Hissing or bubbling noise
- Frozen evaporator coil
- Ice on the line of outdoor units
Because of Freon’s dangers, any suspected leak needs to be investigated by an HVAC professional. Licensed HVAC professionals are trained to handle Freon leaks, and it should not be attempted by anyone else. There are legal requirements to handling Freon, and it should never be a DIY project.
Once it is low on Freon, only licensed HVAC professionals are certified by the EPA to recharge your air conditioning in Charleston, SC, so even if you are tempted to top it off yourself, you will be unable to purchase more Freon.
HVAC Replacements by Your Local Repair Company
Considering that recycled Freon is becoming increasingly unavailable in Charleston, SC, you must weigh your options regarding repairing or replacing your old air conditioning system. Any system that is still using Freon is well over ten years old, and aging systems experience an increase in repairs each year.
Not only is recycled Freon difficult to find, but old AC system parts also become obsolete and hard to find as the years go by. Because the answer to the question of, “Does Freon go bad?” is no, it also means that it is always a risk to the environment and humans in the case of leakage or mishandling.
Older air conditioning systems have a lifespan of 10-12 years if they are well maintained, so any system that still contains Freon needs to be replaced to avoid breakdowns or potential leaks.
Modern air conditioning systems are designed to be more energy-efficient and have many features to enhance your home’s comfort. Rather than spending money calling out your local repair company to fix an outdated AC system, a replacement is a great investment that will save you money in the long run.
AirMax Heating & Air — HVAC Professionals in Charleston, SC
AirMax Heating & Air are your licensed HVAC professionals in Charleston, SC, with experience in repairing and replacing air conditioning systems.
Our qualified technicians will quickly diagnose your AC problems and provide you with a fast repair or a superior replacement that you can afford. Call us today for the service and experience you can count on.