Angie's List: Cheaper coolants can damage HVAC system or cause fire

Published: Aug. 22, 2016 at 4:27 PM CDT
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Consumer groups are warning you to be on the lookout for companies using unapproved refrigerants.

For more than 60 years, most home air conditioning systems have used a refrigerant known as R-22, commonly known as Freon. But the Environmental Protection Agency is phasing that out in favor of a more efficient coolant, making R-22 harder to come by, but still in high demand, and its price is now soaring.

“One of the rules in our industry is you don’t ever mix refrigerants. That’s a big no-no," said Charles Holden, HVAC professional.

But that’s exactly what some service companies have been caught doing – using alternative coolants that are easier to get and cheaper to buy. They’re also much more dangerous.

“A lot of them have propane or butane in them, which obviously can create a fire hazard or an explosion hazard, so it’s dangerous for homeowners to handle those refrigerants, and it’s illegal to put them in your system," said Holden.

“If you have an air conditioning system that still requires R-22 refrigerant, you want to be sure that’s actually what you’re getting when you hire a repairman to do work on your house. We’re hearing trends of people getting R-22A instead, and that can actually damage your system or void your warranty," said Hicks.

R-22 comes in a light green tank and is clearly marked. Ask your technician to show it to you before he recharges your system.

Consider upgrading your system if the cost of the service multiplied by the age of your system is greater than five thousand dollars.