What’s an Air Conditioning Dry Charge?

Over the past several years, both the U.S. and Canadian governments have directed that all makers of air conditioning equipment stop production of the refrigerant R-22 (Freon) or Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). These refrigerants have been typically used in air conditioners and heat pumps for the last several decades. The recommended phase-out mandates are intended to have the HVAC industry turn to a more environmentally friendly refrigerant with a technical code R410A. R410A has been shown to be safer for the environment. 

In late 2010 reputable air conditioning manufacturers began manufacturing Air Conditioning and Heat Pump units, without adding refrigerant at the factory. These systems are more commonly called “dry charged units”. The units can legally be sold and installed allowing the HVAC contractor to charge the unit in the field with R22. R22 is still legal for AC repair or service for a short time longer. The reason for these Dry Charged Units is to give the greater the U.S. area a more simple and cost effective replacement option for central air conditioners and heat pumps. However, these units also circumvent the spirit of the mandates, which was to help the environment by introducing more environment friendly solutions. 

the U.S. homeowners should know that these Dry Charged Units are approved in the U.S. and Canada. Because of some key ambiguities in the written policies, the entire outdoor unit is technically considered a replacement “part”. Today, condensers or heat pumps intended for use in a replacement R-22 system are now referred to as “Dry Charge” or “Nitrogen Charged” systems. The following are some Frequently Asked Questions about this recent A/C Dry Charge trend. 

Does it make sense to buy a Dry Charge Air Conditioning Unit? 

The answer to this question hinges on a number of things. The most important thing to do is learn what types of HVAC equipment the heating and air conditioning industry has to offer and seek solutions that speaks to your personal comfort, efficiency and lifestyle needs. Take time to understand the benefits and difference between a dry charge unit and new air conditioning products with R-410A refrigerant. 

Why would I buy a R-410A refrigerant system? 

Current R-410A systems offer benefits to the U.S. homeowners that Dry Charge units do not. Some of the benefits include: 

  • Greater energy efficiency for affordable in-home comfort 
  • Modern technology to reduce humidity 
  • Current production refrigerant solutions allowing longer life and extended availability of refrigerant 
  • Expanded warranty periods for even greater peace of mind 
  • Quieter operation for a more peaceful indoor environment 
  • Earth friendly refrigerant for lower impact on the environment 
  • Matched coil solutions for improved reliability and guaranteed cooling and heating performance 

Are Dry Charge units legal? 

Absolutely. There are no Federal laws or legal restriction on the installation of R-22 or Dry Charge Equipment, with the stipulation that it is repairing an existing air conditioning system. 

What about the warranty? 

Major manufacturers have established a standard 5-year parts warranty on dry charge units. While this provides industry standard protection on the components it does not provide protection against R-22 refrigerant prices, which are expected to increase substantially. 

How expensive will R-22 get in the next few years? 

It is likely that as a result of supply and demand, the answer to this question is “yes – we do anticipate R-22 refrigerant to get pricey”. As the phase out process of R22 continues, new R-22 refrigerant production will slowly be reduced, with full elimination of its production in 2020. Until then, indications are that there will likely be sufficient supply to meet the current demand. 

If you have more questions about refrigerant, we encourage you to contact Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for clarification. 

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