Air conditioners cut out ozone-depleting gas under new rules

"It made the most sense to go a little bit more efficient," says Jan Bohrer of Fairfax, Va., who recently had a new R-410A air-conditioning system with a 17 SEER rating installed into her house. She also says that her whole house feels cooler when her thermostat is set at a higher temperature and that she is able to control humidity far more effectively, which translates to comfort. The new system is also much quieter, she says.

"My old system sounded like aircraft carriers taking off when it was on," Bohrer says.

Because these new air conditioners operate with much higher pressure, they consume less energy.

Schneider says the average annual energy consumption cost of a 13 SEER machine is $665, which would save about $200 (or 23%) vs. the average energy cost of a typical existing unit. There is no difference between R-22 and R-410A energy costs when both are used in a 13 SEER system, because they are equally efficient, Schneider says.

HFCs have received scrutiny from some participants of the Kyoto Protocol, an international environmental treaty dedicated to combating global warming, based on concern that molecules of R-410A in its gaseous state trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere more than carbon dioxide. HFCs also have been criticized by Allan Thornton, president of the Environmental Investigation Agency, who says certain HFCs will be a major global warming threat in the future.

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