Cooling systems evolving for ozone layer

The Baltimore Sun

Spring is the season to start thinking about air conditioning, or at least to put in a call and have the gizmos looked over. What you really need to think about this year is that the inner workings of cooling systems in this country are due for a big change come Jan. 1 - in an effort to comply with an international green treaty and spare the ever-depleting ozone layer. There are at least five things you should know in the cooling department.

What's Montreal got to do with it? There's an international treaty - the Montreal Protocol - that, if adhered to, could lead to the recovery of the ozone layer by 2050. The treaty, which dates to 1987, calls for phasing out the production of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.

One of the culprits that pokes holes in the ozone is chlorine gas. At least since the 1970s, the coolant that whirls through nearly all air-conditioning systems, residential or commercial, has been something called R-22, which emits plenty of chlorine gas.

Ditch the chlorine, patch up the ozone: As of Jan. 1, R-22 will be a thing of the past. The new industry standard is a chlorine-free coolant that goes by the catchy name of R-410A, which happens to be a zero-ozone depleter. So if you're thinking of updating your air-conditioner, you might want to make the switch now. Since R-22 won't be produced any longer, the supplies will dwindle and costs for R-22-dependent systems or parts will increase.

Upgrade your energy efficiency: Switching to the updated coolant systems could boost your energy efficiency by as much as 45 percent. What you want to look for here is the SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) rating; the higher, the better. Minimum efficiency today is 13, but you can buy up to 20 SEER.

Money back for making a difference: Pay attention to rebates and tax incentives when it comes to upgrading your environmentally friendly factor. The recently passed economic stimulus package, for instance, could provide a $1,500 tax credit.

Don't skimp when it comes to installation and maintenance: Be sure technicians are NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certified. That's one way to ensure you're getting the most efficiency out of your cooling system. And the best time to schedule your A/C checkup is early spring, after the long winter's nap.

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