Dehumidifiers are commonplace in many households and the most common type of dehumidifier is refrigerant, which uses refrigerant chemicals to help remove moisture from the air.
Freon, which is a trademark used to reference several different types of these refrigerants, may have been used in older models of dehumidifiers but its use has been phased out over recent years.
New refrigerant dehumidifier units won’t typically contain freon but will use another form of refrigerant chemical. Older dehumidifier units may contain freon, which must be disposed of appropriately. Desiccant dehumidifiers don’t contain any refrigerants such as freon.
Our own dehumidifier is the desiccant type and so doesn’t contain freon, or any other form of refrigerant chemical.
Newer models of refrigerant dehumidifier typically won’t contain freon but will use another type of refrigerant, such as Puron.
However, it’s always worth checking to see what type of refrigerant chemical your dehumidifier is using so that it can be maintained appropriately and disposed of properly.
Read on to find out more.
Determining Whether A Dehumidifier Contains Freon
Below are several helpful tips to determine if freon is contained in your dehumidifier and might pose a danger to anyone operating it. Start with what you know for sure about your appliance.
Only one of the two main types of dehumidifiers may contain freon.
The two that do not utilize freon have sensors and use a ventilation fan or a labeled and visible non-gaseous chemical agent to dehumidify, such as desiccant dehumidifiers that use absorbent chemicals such as silica gel.
The type that may contain freon are the models most familiar to consumers that are the refrigerant types and use a heat pump (a common AC component).
Knowing the model, date of purchase and dates for all repairs, and the operational status can help you understand whether your particular dehumidifier contains freon.
If you’re not completely sure of a dehumidifier’s entire repair history and cannot get its history from a trusted source, treat it as used and in need of a professional opinion (see Used and Repaired Dehumidifiers below).
If you know its complete repair history and it has never had a coolant recharge, then the model and dates pertinent to the dehumidifier will determine if it needs to be examined by a professional.
These may often be found on the dehumidifier itself.
Use these to find any user manuals or documentation you may have retained or that are available online.
Alternatively, there may be a Serial Number or SKU inventory code to identify imports online.
If the model was first produced and sold publicly after 2003, then it should not contain freon unless it was improperly repaired (see Used and Repaired Dehumidifiers below).
The date it was manufactured may also be directly on the dehumidifier in many forms such as a sticker or raised stamp.
If you bought it new after 2003 or know when it was built/purchased, especially a very recent build or purchase, the same assumption may be made that it is a non-freon device if it has no history of repairs.
Does your dehumidifier work properly? Test it outside with the wind moving from your back to the appliance if possible to blow any gas away from you while testing.
If you know the model should not contain freon and was never repaired, it can be safe if it condenses water in the receptacles and pumps out drier, cooler air (i.e., works as intended).
Learn how to properly operate, clean, and store your dehumidifier. Instructions for all three activities should be in the User Manual or available online.
If it does not work correctly in any fashion, works but overheats, or you can identify mold or other contaminants that cannot be cleaned, seek a professional opinion on repairing versus replacing the unit.
If a dehumidifier’s model, dates of manufacture, purchase, and repairs, or the operational status are not available, you’ll need to seek advice from a professional.
If you received the unit from a trusted source and know it to be a non-freon model, but you do not know the repair history, check the manufacturer’s guidelines on voiding the warranty.
There may be a sticker or seal intact to establish that the dehumidifier has never been opened for repairs.
If you can establish that the dehumidifier has been opened and possibly repaired, especially if the coolant was topped off, replaced, or recharged after a leak, it should be considered as using freon until examined and cleared by a qualified expert.
This could be true for any year model because using freon during repairs on the unit could have been on purpose for cost savings or time constraints. Freon may have been used during these unintentionally in error.
If any models prove to use freon and are cleared as safe by an expert, they should still be properly disposed of along with the units that cannot be ruled out as using freon.
Keeping them is simply creating extra risk to the user should any appliance break or leak. The risk of future harm and disposal expenses are not worth using them until they become dangerous.
Disposal of freon and equipment that utilizes it is highly regulated in the U.S.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set minimum standards for their safe disposal and works with local governments to avoid contamination and danger to consumers trying to get rid of dangerous models, especially if the local standards are stricter than the federal minimum requirements.
Check the EPA’s phaseout page on its website for information on the disposal of an appliance, including a list of any of their partners in your area to contact along with your waste management service provider for specifics to your location.
There are a wide variety of rules that pertain to dehumidifiers for:
- Repairs (even models with newer, less-toxic coolants)
- Transport of units in certain conditions
- Trade-in opportunities with partnered stores
- Disposal with residential waste or through a special procedure
- Local organizations that handle disposal for free or at additional expense
Be mindful of the disposal of your freon appliances. Fines for a first-time offender from the EPA alone can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
As mentioned earlier, dehumidifiers got a large target on them almost by chance.
Coincidentally, the following converged on the planet:
- Climate control became so versatile and profitable that heat pump air conditioners (ACs) became introduced into many buildings, vehicles, equipment, and eventually into dehumidifiers.
- Freon became a widely used coolant gas for these ACs to refrigerate air, including the almost uniquely mobile dehumidifiers often placed near their owners that wanted to spend time in drier, cooler air.
- Science understood that breathing in freon for more than a few seconds caused lung damage and then quickly became lethal.
- A few decades later, science discovered “holes” in the ozone layer of Earth’s atmosphere and cited gases such as freon as a contributing cause.
- The combined threat freon poses to humans and the atmosphere created debate worldwide. This led to an international agreement in 1990 to phase out these destructive chemicals, with freon’s decommissioning scheduled over 30 years for completion in 2020.
Part of the phase-out specified that any dehumidifier manufactured or for sale in the U.S. after 2002 could not use freon as a coolant gas in any component.
Any dehumidifier that was made pre-2003 has received any maintenance that included recharging the refrigerant gas in its cooling system, or has an unclear model or repair history may contain freon.
The combination that dehumidifiers are mobile and often used both near the operator and indoors made them a top priority in the 30-year phase-out of freon.
The likelihood a dehumidifier leaking freon would harm a user was considered increased in comparison to the risk of exposure to freon from other AC equipment that is stationary and/or outdoors.
Outdoor leaks dissipate quickly and most indoor heat pumps are in areas where people are alert and awake. A leak near someone in bed while sleeping or at a desk with their attention elsewhere can quickly cause injury.
Your dehumidifier may or may not contain freon depending on when it was manufactured or repaired, and what type it is.
Almost every type of appliance that cools air, refrigerates or freezes other items, or regulates its internal temperature with cooling systems may have a heat pump AC that contains freon.
This includes refrigerant forms of dehumidifiers that use refrigerant chemicals such as freon.
Be sure to check your model and make of refrigerant dehumidifier or have a specialist take a look if you’re unsure.
Desiccant models of dehumidifier don’t use refrigerant chemicals and so can’t contain freon.
It is important to examine all areas under your control and identify potential threats from freon and other coolant gases to make informed decisions about their continued use.