Homeowners Beware: Some AC Companies Use Propane and Dangerous Refrigerants

July 12, 2013

With the current phase-out of R-22 refrigerant (commonly called Freon by homeowners), it seems consumers and less-than-reputable air conditioning contractors have turned to some dangerous alternatives.

On 7/1/13 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a statement warning homeowners of the dangers of using propane and other explosive alternatives to R-22

The release cites “incidents that have occurred both overseas and in the U.S. where individuals have been injured as a result of the use of propane and other unapproved refrigerants in air conditioning systems.”

What you need to know

If you have an air conditioner that’s more than a couple years old, you have a system using R-22 refrigerant. The EPA has started phasing out this chemical because it is bad for the environment. The decreased supply and steady demand has caused prices for this refrigerant to skyrocket.

This has left many homeowners (and air conditioning companies) looking for cheaper alternatives. While there are approved alternatives on the market, some contractors and DIYers have decided to try unapproved refrigerants, instead.

The EPA recommends avoiding the following unapproved refrigerants:

  • Propane
  • R-290
  • 22a
  • R-22a
  • HC-22a
  • CARE 40

Why you should avoid propane as a refrigerant

Your air conditioning system was made to take a specific refrigerant. It is not made to handle an flammable gas like propane.

If you put propane in your AC and then have someone work on it who doesn’t know there is propane in the system, it can result in fire, explosion and serious injury.

The AC companies that are using propane as a refrigerant alternative are usually not licensed or insured. That means if something happens, you will be responsible for the damage and any hospital bills.

How to avoid an AC disaster

Some homeowners are not even aware that the contractor they hired is re-charging their system with propane. So to keep yourself safe, here are a few things to remember:

  • Only hire professional, trained air conditioning companies to work on your AC system.
  • Ask to see proof that the company is licensed and insured so you know you won’t be liable for damage or injury.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. R-22 refrigerant (Freon) is expensive (currently around $80-$115 a pound.) So if someone offers to recharge your AC system for much less, they probably aren’t using R-22.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If in doubt, ask what refrigerant they are using!

Have any other questions about your home air conditioning system? Contact us online. Or you can call us at 913-856-5801.

Santa Fe Air Conditioning and Heating is licensed and insured in the state of Kansas and we’ve been keeping homeowners and businesses in Gardener, Kansas and the surrounding areas comfortable since 1987.