The Special Fluid that Powers Your Air Conditioner

AC refrigerant is the power behind the cooling function of your air conditioner. When it’s hot and muggy outside and you enter a nice, comfortable, cool home, you can thank AC refrigerant!

How an AC Works

Let’s take a look at how an AC works and the role of the refrigerant in this process. An air conditioner has two units: an indoor unit and outdoor unit. The outdoor unit of the cooling system includes a compressor and condenser coil. The indoor unit of the AC has an evaporator coil, air handler, and fan. Both the indoor and outdoor units work together to make your home cool and comfortable. AC refrigerant is a key player that keeps the indoor and outdoor units connected.

AC refrigerant doesn’t power your AC like gasoline powers your car. Instead, it’s a chemical compound inside the copper coils in the evaporator and condenser of your air conditioner. The refrigerant absorbs heat in the room from indoor air and expels it to the outside environment. The AC refrigerant changes from a low-pressure gas into a high-pressure liquid during this process. This process is ongoing when your air conditioner is on: the cool refrigerant absorbs heat from indoor air, expands it into a warm gas, and sends it to the outdoor unit that expels the heat and turns it into a cool liquid. This then returns back indoors to absorb more heat and the cool air is distributed throughout your home through air ducts.

Types of AC Refrigerants

There are three main types of AC refrigerants that have been used in air conditioners:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), including R12. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) banned the use of this refrigerant and production ended in 1994 because it was harmful to the ozone layer and contributed to the greenhouse gas effect.
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R22.  It was slightly less harmful to the environment than R12, but the Clean Air Act of 2010 mandated a phase out of this AC refrigerant and R22 was completely phased out in 2020.
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), including R410A and R134. Since they don’t include chlorine, HFCs are safer for the environment and air conditioners that use them offer better air quality and they’re more reliable and efficient. There are no restrictions on the use of HFCs.

When to Upgrade your AC


If your AC is not cooling down your home as it did in the past, you may have an issue with your AC refrigerant. It could be low or it could be leaking. Take a look at your AC and if it uses R22 refrigerant, you are using an outdated refrigerant that was phased out in 2020. If there is a leak, it will be difficult to find R22 and repairs may take much longer. It’s a smart choice to consider upgrading your AC unit as the efficiency and reliability will be much better with a new unit that uses HFCs.

Our Experienced Team

The HVAC experts at Vredevoogd Heating & Cooling are proud to have been entrusted with the safety and efficiency of so many homes for residential customers in Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Grandville, Grand Haven, Holland, Kalamazoo and Lansing since 1964. If you’re experiencing any issues with your AC, Vredevoogd Heating & Cooling offers a premier line of efficient, reliable air conditioning systems. We are specialized in heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) repair and replacement and will be happy to come out and provide options to ensure your home is cool during the hot summer months.

For more information on how we can make sure your home is comfortable – no matter what temperature it is outside – contact us today!

Call Vredevoogd Heating & Cooling for all your Furnace & AC needs. In the Grand Rapids, Holland, Grand Haven Areas, Kalamazoo & Lansing areas call: 844-HVAC-365

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