What is Freon? Is Freon Illegal?
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“Freon” is a brand name for refrigerants, traditionally R-11, R-12, and R-22. However, it has recently been used to refer to refrigerants as a whole (much like how we call bandages “Band-Aids”).
The first Freon product was R-12, which was introduced as a non-toxic, non-flammable alternative to other refrigerants at the time (like ammonia). Eventually, R-12 was banned because it was made of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which are destructive to the environment.
The next major Freon product was R-22, which contained hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) instead of CFCs. However, the chlorine in R-22 has been proven to be destructive to the ozone layer, and R-22’s ozone depletion potential (ODP) is above 0. As a result, R-22 can no longer be imported or manufactured in the USA as of 2020 due to its depletion of the ozone layer.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrofluoro-olefins (HFOs) do NOT deplete the ozone layer (they have ODPs of 0), as they don’t have chlorine. These refrigerant types have stepped up to replace R-22. Newer regulations will focus on global warming potential (GWP), as some HFCs have high GWPs.
If an HVAC technician has to “add Freon” to a system, then it’s very likely because the system has a refrigerant leak. Refrigerant doesn’t get “used up.” The only reasons why it would need replacement would be if it were contaminated (such as by acid) or if there is a leak.
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