CLAIM: Air conditioners that use the refrigerant Freon will have to be replaced by 2020.
WHAT’S TRUE: As of 1 January 2020, the chemical HCFC-22, which a principal component of the trade-named refrigerant “Freon,” will no longer be produced in or imported by the United States.
WHAT’S FALSE: Freon-based air conditioning systems will not have to be replaced by 2020, but over time it will become more and more difficult to obtain the HCFC-22 necessary to run them.
ORIGIN: Most household air conditioning units work by using a vapor-compression refrigeration system. In such systems, a mixture of chemicals known as a refrigerant is contained in liquid form under pressure, and when that mixture is pumped into a region of lower pressure, it expands and changes phase into a gas, absorbing nearby heat before being pumped to a different location. The gas is then recompressed and this process begins anew.
The first widely used refrigerants were chlorofluorocarbons, also known as CFCs. In the 1970s, however, the scientific community determined that CFCs were building up in the Earth’s upper atmosphere in a way that damaged the ozone layer, lessening the planet’s natural protection from some forms of solar radiation. In 1987, 27 countries, therefore, signed a global environmental treaty called the Montreal Protocol to Reduce Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
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