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Explained: What is HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) Refrigerant?

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Note for our technician members: This article “what is hfc refrigerant” covers all types of refrigerants, including some that are not common in the commercial foodservice industry. As a service to our readers, we are providing information about residential and commercial refrigerants.

Usually, a cooling unit requires a refrigerant to operate. Different refrigerants have existed in the market over the years. Some have been discontinued due to health and environmental reasons, while some are still in use to date. You must have heard about HFC refrigerants, especially if you have been in refrigeration for some time. Don’t feel intimidated if you’ve never heard of HFC refrigerants. You’re in the right place at the right time.

So what is an HFC refrigerant? Let’s dive right in!

HFC Refrigerants Explained

HFC stands for hydrofluorocarbons. HFCs are commonly used refrigerants in most cooling units globally. The most widely used HFC refrigerants include R-404A, R-410A, R-32, R-134a, and R-407C.  HFCs are used in residential air-conditioners, automotive, and industrial refrigeration.

HFC refrigerants became popular in the early ’90s following the Montreal Protocol. The treaty (Montreal Protocol) targeted the phasing out of certain refrigerants such as Chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs) and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) that were harmful to the ozone layer. Examples of these ozone-depleting refrigerants are R-22 and R12 – these were the go-to refrigerants for decades.

The first to be targeted was R-12 back in the ‘90s. R-12 was mainly found in car air conditioners and was replaced by R-134a (HFC). Some years down the line, R-502 was replaced by an HFC refrigerant known as R-404A. In 2010, R-22 was phased down and replaced by R-410A (HFC).

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Commonly Used Refrigerants

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New commercial refrigeration systems come with different types of HFC refrigerants such as R-410A, R-131a, R-404A, R-32, and R-407C. Not all of these are specific to the commercial market, and some may only be found in smaller residential systems. Let’s look at some of these refrigerants.

R-410A Refrigerant

R-410A is also referred to as Puron, Genetron AZ-20, or Suva 9100. Puron is made up of two ozone-safe refrigerants, R-125 and R-32. New equipment has been made to take advantage of the R-140A’s properties, such as negligible temperature glide and a higher cooling capacity.

Puron is energy efficient and has become more preferred to R-407C. The refrigerant has become common in most heat pumps and air conditioning systems. When charging a system, you should always have the right rated gauge for Puron. Although the refrigerant is at times known as an azeotrope, it is better to remove it from the cylinder as a liquid.

Puron is compatible with synthetic oil (never use mineral oil). The refrigerant has been designed for higher operating pressures and should never retrofit some existing R-22 systems. It has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 2088.

R-407C Refrigerant

This refrigerant is also known as Genetron 407C or Suva 407C. It is made up of (blend) non-ozone-depleting refrigerants, R-134a, R-125, and R-32. Its properties are almost similar to R-22. It is common used for water chillers (direct expansion), VRF, and splits. Since it’s a blend, always remove it as a liquid when charging a system.

The refrigerant uses POE (polyol Ester) oil – it’s not compatible with any mineral oil. The R-407C can be used in an existing R-22 system. However, you will have to change the oil (carry out several oil flashes). R-407C has a GWP of 1774.

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R-134a Refrigerant

The R-134a is a single-component refrigerant (HFC). It has been the first choice refrigerant for automotive air conditioning, but R-1234yf is slowly replacing it. The refrigerant is used as a component for other HFC refrigerant blends and is common in commercial refrigeration, automotive refrigeration, and other large chiller applications. R-134a has a GWP of 1430.  

R-404A Refrigerant

R-404A comprises (blend) several HFC refrigerants R-134a, R-143a, and R-125, and it’s considered an azeotropic. The refrigerant is ideal for commercial refrigeration such as ice machines/cold rooms, industrial refrigeration, automotive refrigeration, and display cabinets. It has a GWP of 3922 (above 2500) and might not be used for servicing in different regions and countries.

R-32 Refrigerant

This is one of the hydrofluorocarbons with a low GWP. It is mildly flammable (it’s an A2L refrigerant). The R-32 is used in split air conditioning units (however, the charge size must comply with EN378 requirements). It cannot be used as a retrofit option for any system, but it perfect for use as a component in HFO and HFC blends. It has a GWP of 675.