4 Chemicals Coming From Your HVAC That Could Cause Problems

A good HVAC system is an essential addition to keeping your household comfortable and controlled. These brilliant inventions require a complex interplay of machinery and chemicals in order to keep running. However, if you’ve ever had an issue with chemical leaks from your HVAC, you’ll know that the first question that comes to mind is: What problems is this going to cause me?   

Refrigerant Fluid

Refrigerants are an essential ingredient in your HVAC. Refrigerating fluids, such as Freon work by absorbing the heat from your house and transporting it outside. It does this by a process of different phases, changing from a liquid to a gaseous state when exposed to heat, then back to liquid when compressed.

If your HVAC unit leaks this chemical in its fluid state, it’s important to avoid skin contact. Due to its extremely cold temperature, prolonged contact can result in frostbite. It is also common to develop a rash after exposure, in which case the affected area should be washed thoroughly for 15 minutes.

Aside from the immediate health risks, floods caused by these fluids can also result in significant and costly damage to electrical components within your unit.

Refrigerant Gas

If your HVAC system begins to leak refrigerants in their gas form, it can be harder to notice. The gas produced is largely tasteless and, almost entirely, odorless. However, if inhaled regularly in a confined space, these gasses can lead to vital oxygen being cut off from your lungs and cells – otherwise known as Refrigerant Poisoning 

Despite this being very uncommon, if anyone in your household begins experiencing repeated headaches, nausea or dizziness, you should turn off your HVAC system and have it inspected by a professional.


Image via Flickr by AFGE 

If your HVAC system was built or installed before 1995, there’s a chance it still runs on Chlorofluorocarbon based refrigerants (or CFC). These chemicals have been banned in the United States since 1995 because of their devastating impact on the earth’s ozone layer.  

The effects of enclosed exposure to CFCs are the same as regular refrigerant poisoning. Interestingly enough though, the largest damage CFCs can deal you are to your wallet! Improper disposal of a device containing the chemical could leave you with a whopping $25,000 fine from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act.


R-22 is a common chemical used to replace the now-banned CFCs, but is also in the process of being phased out by the EPA. As a result of this, the R-22 you might already have in your HVAC is becoming increasingly precious. Any replacements needed to refill leaks in your system could be very expensive and, by the year 2022, illegal!

It’s simple to find out if your system runs on R-22 refrigerant. If it does, make sure you keep your system well-maintained to avoid any costly fixes. In the long term, it might be time to begin thinking about investing in sustainable alternatives.

Ultimately, any immediate anxieties about potential problems caused by the chemicals in your HVAC systems can be quelled by quality care and sensible vigilance.

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