Air conditioners use different types of refrigerants, which are called R-22 or R-410A. The type of air compressors used for each type of refrigerant are also different. The R-22 compressors are the older model, while the R-410A compressors are the models being installed on all new air conditioning units.
The major difference between R-22 and R-410A compressors is that the R-22 refrigerant is being phased out. A revised Clean Air Act was constructed in 1989 that required all new air conditioning systems to phase out substances that depleted the ozone layer, which included R-22. A new coolant took the place of that refrigerant, the R-410A, and all compressors had to operate using this type of refrigerant or coolant. Even though R-22 is still available for the older model air conditioning systems, no manufacturer is allowed to produce this type of unit. The requirement became law as of Jan 1, 2010 and all R-22 units must be completely eliminated by 2030.
The type of oil used in the compressors is also different. The R-22 compressor uses a mineral oil, while the R-410A compressor synthetic oil. The mineral oil used in the R-22 compressor cannot be mixed with the hydroflourocarbon or HFC refrigerants like the R-410. Because of this, every old air conditioner that used R-22 refrigerant must have the air compressor replaced when retrofitted or when the compressor fails.
The R-410A has about 40 percent less heat-carrying capacity than the R-22. This causes the reduction of the replacement between the two different compressors. If an R-22 compressor has R-410A refrigerant put into the system, the motors will overload and burn out. The overloading can also cause the motor to start tripping the breaker, shutting down the air conditioning system.
A compressor that uses R-410A refrigerant has more pressure pushing through the tubes of the system than the R-22 compressor. Approximately 60 percent more pressure is required for the refrigerant to cool the air that flows through the ducts or vents of the air conditioning system. So much pressure will cause a R-22 compressor to burst the tubes running throughout the unit. The tubes used with the R-410A compressor are also smaller than the tubes running through the R-22 compressor, which creates some of this increased pressure within the device.