Should You Upgrade Your AC Before the R410A Phase Out?

HVAC professionals and homeowners are facing uncertainty surrounding the EPA’s progressing
restriction of equipment produced with R410A refrigerant, as well as the phase out of the
refrigerant itself. One of the most common concerns we hear from homeowners today is whether
they should replace their equipment now with R410A compatible equipment, or wait for the new
refrigerant and equipment to become available.

WHY IS R410A BEING PHASED OUT?

Prior to r410a being the refrigerant standard, there was R22. This utilized chemicals
called hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and when heated by the sun, they release chlorine.
These chlorine atoms bond with ozone and break down the ozone layer. In 1995, the UN created
a plan for the long-term phase down of R22 refrigerant, replacing it with r410a which does not
contain HCFCs. However, after time with r410a on the market, it has been discovered that the
refrigerant contains hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Following this realization, it was determined
that r410a has high Global Warming Potential (GWP). In 2016, the UN Montreal Protocol
Kigali Amendment was created, setting the standards for refrigerant but not naming the
particular refrigerant that will replace r410a. This amendment changed the industry standard by
requiring a non-HFC refrigerant by January 1st, 2025. The American Innovation and
Manufacturing Act of 2020 mandated the EPA to reduce the production of all HFCs by 85% over
the next 15 years. It has also mandated the lowering of the GWP standard in 2034, creating the
necessity of another replacement refrigerant. As of now, the main question on homeowners
minds is whether they should wait for equipment with new refrigerant, or buy equipment that
uses r410a, which is gradually being phased out.

SHOULD YOU STILL ACQUIRE R410A EQUIPMENT?

The main argument in favor of replacing with equipment that uses r410a is the current
knowledge and understanding of the refrigerant, and how it works in a system. R410a was first
introduced in 1991, and became the industry standard on January 1st, 2013. This means that by
the time it became the main refrigerant used in the industry, equipment had already been
produced with it for twenty-two years. Therefore, technicians had twenty-two years to learn the
refrigerant before it was seen in most homes.

The new refrigerant, r454b, was first introduced in 2018. Despite existing for six years at this
point, r454b wasn’t accepted as the replacement refrigerant by most manufacturers until 2022.
As of January 2024, no major manufacturer had released equipment with the replacement
refrigerant, and it will become the industry standard by January 2025. This has left homeowners
and HVAC contractors both in a state of apprehension.

Our recommendation is to utilize equipment that is familiar and reliable. Compared to the change
from R22 refrigerant to r410a, the switch to r454b seems rather rushed. Considering that HVAC
contractors do not currently have access to r454b compatible equipment to learn on, the lack of
knowledge of this equipment will cause major hurdles once it becomes the primary refrigerant.
There are some trainings currently available, but they’re extremely limited. Each piece of
equipment that will become available to contractors on January 1st, 2025 will be first generation
equipment. Any first generation mechanical equipment will come with unforeseen concerns.
With r410a equipment, the industry had two decades of experience with the equipment before it
was mandated. Unfortunately, with r454b, the same can not be said. Experienced technicians will
likely pick up on the differences quickly, but there are bound to be unpredictable issues. We are
also unaware of how the new refrigerant will impact the long-term health of r454b equipment.
The rate at which this change has occurred does not allow manufacturers to properly prepare
contractors for this transition.

ARE THERE SAFETY CONCERNS WITH R454B?

As a result of the lack of knowledge surrounding r454b, there have been many misconceptions
about the refrigerant. The primary concern is that it is classified as a semi flammable refrigerant.
Considering that r454b has the same flammability range as olive oil, it is not dangerous and has
been proven to be non-explosive. The main issue with the semi flammable classification is that

HVAC contractors will be required to install a sensor that detects the presence of the refrigerant.
This will unfortunately cause more cost to the consumer, along with additional mechanical
issues. R454b is also expected to be more expensive than r410a. However, it is also expected that
the new equipment will require 5-10% less refrigerant than r410a systems, and also has over
50% less GWP. R454b equipment is also expected to be anywhere from 10-25% more expensive
than r410a components.

REFRIGERANT PHASE DOWNS

Although there is currently a phase down of the amount of r410a allowed to be produced, there is
currently not a date for when it will be fully discontinued. Therefore, r410a will be available to
homeowners who currently have, or choose to purchase r410a equipment before the transition.
However, as less r410a is produced, the refrigerant will gradually get more expensive.

PHASE DOWN SCHEDULE:
2022- 10% reduction
2024- Additional 30% reduction
2029- Additional 30% reduction
2034- Additional 10% reduction
2036- Final 5% reduction

FINAL DECISION

There are a variety of factors to consider when replacing your HVAC system. When it comes to
replacing your system before or after the refrigerant transition, it is essential to consider the pros
and cons of both sides. Known components that have been around longer are obviously more
predictable, and first generation equipment comes with a level of uncertainty that can be scary. It
would be an understatement to say that HVAC contractors are nervous about the refrigerant
transition. This change will naturally come with unexpected issues and learning curves.
Whatever changes the industry throws at us, Crow’s Heat and Air will do its best to remain
up-to-date with all of the industry’s best practices and training to assure your safety and comfort.
If you have any further questions or concerns regarding the transition from r410a to r454b
refrigerant, give us a call at 972-548-1323.

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