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July 29, 1999
By Stuart Lieberman, Esq
Air conditioning refrigerant is the gas that is used to make air cool in air conditioning systems. Without refrigerant, your air conditioner would just be a fan. Most modern residential air conditioners rely on hydrochloroflurocarbons, or HCFCs, for this purpose and the one most often encountered in residential air conditioners is called HCFC-22, or R-22.
So long as R-22 remains hidden in your air-conditioning system, it is not a problem. But when it escapes, many scientists and lawmakers believe it harms the environment by affecting the earth's ozone layer.
Ten years ago, the federal Clean Air Act was amended to begin a mandatory phase out of the production and use of many ozone depleting substances, including R-22. R-12, which is usually found in auto air-conditioning systems, is also covered by the phase out, as are many substances that are less familiar to most people. The ban is more gradual for R-22 than it is for R-12.
By the year 2010, no U.S. company may manufacture a product that relies on this substance. In addition, R-22 cannot be manufactured or imported except for use in equipment manufactured prior to that year. There is a total ban on production and impor tation that becomes effective in 2020.
If you are purchasing a new central air conditioning system now, you may not want to purchase a system using traditional refrigerant. As refrigerant production is reduced, the cost will probably increase. Maintenance costs will likely increase as well. This will become significant if your system needs to be re-charged or requires repairs.
Fortunately, air-conditioning manufacturers intend on remaining in business after 2010, and have reponded to the need to develop a new refrigerant that will not harm the environment and that is not dangerous to use. A possible contender has now been found, and is called "Puron." Puron might be to those of us who enjoy cooler temperatures what Equal is to those of us with a few pounds to shed and a sweet tooth.
Puron is a brand name for a refrigerant called R-410A. Carrier Corporation markets the refrigerant under this brand name. Carrier has been making Puron based air-conditioning systems for three years. Other manufacturers are now beginning to use it in their air-conditioning systems as well.
To many in the cooling industry, Puron is already viewed as the universal replacement refrigerant for R-22, to be used in residential systems. This belief is supported by the fact that eight of Japan's top air-conditioner manufacturers will introduce Puron systems to the public this year.
Puron is reported to be an efficient product, in fact slightly more efficient than the R-22 it is replacing. It is nonflammable and generally viewed as nontoxic.
The biggest problem with Puron appears to be that a specially required lubricant, called polyol ester, can absorb a great deal of moisture during system operation. Moisture can be problematic to air-conditioning systems and as a result, special care is needed to properly dehydrate Puron systems during installation and maintenance.
Currently, Carrier offers three models that rely on Puron: the 38TSA, 38 TXA and 38TZA. A heat pump, and two fan coils are also available from the company.
Other manufacturers, such as Bryant, are beginning to market Puron based air-conditioning systems as well. Soon, just about every company will likely sell a Puron system. If reliability and performance continue, it might very well be that Puron will become the air-conditioning industry standard.
If your system is working well, you probably don't want to make any changes at this time. After all, Puron systems are still new, and advances are sure to follow.
But, if your system is having problems, you might want to consider replacing it with a Puron system. Though a Puron system purchase may be somewhat risky, it may also prove to be a good investment, and one that will support a better environment.
In any event, remember the word "Puron." People will be talking about it at work and around the community pool. You want to be "in the know."