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Refrigeration 101: Different Refrigerant Types

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A refrigerant plays an essential role in a refrigeration system. Refrigerants are often overlooked whenever individuals are talking about cooling units – they don’t get the attention they deserve! Why is that so? Get this; NO Refrigeration, freezing or air conditioning can take place without a refrigerant. Yes, they are that crucial.

Refrigerants can be found either in a gaseous or fluid state. They work by readily absorbing heat from the environment to bring about a cooling effect after passing through the compressor and the evaporator.

Types of Refrigerants

Refrigerants are classified into different groups depending on their chemical composition. The most common refrigerant groups include:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs)
  • Natural Refrigerants

Let’s look at the different classes.

1.  Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

This group is made up of refrigerants containing chlorine. These were the commonly used refrigerants back in the days before they were banned in the early 90s for their negative environmental impact. Examples of Chlorofluorocarbons are R11, R12, and R115.

2.  Hydrochlorofluorocarbons

The CFCs were replaced by the Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). Although the HCFCs contained chlorine in their structures, they were deemed less harmful to the environment than their predecessor, the CFCs. They have less chlorine and consequently a lower Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP). However, the HCFCs are slowly being phased out – again, they are not green enough. The most commonly used HCFCs include R22, R123, and R124.

More about R22 (Freon)

Freon has been the central air conditioning system refrigerant for decades. However, it was linked with ozone depletion, and its currently being phased out following the 2010 clean air act. The non-flammable HCFC was used/ is used in air conditioners and refrigerants. Its ODP is at 0.055 and has a medium GWP of 1810.

3.  Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)

The HFCs replaced Freon (HCFCs). These refrigerants don’t contain chlorine; therefore, they don’t cause the depletion of the ozone layer (Their ODP is zero). With that said, however, they have a more significant impact on global warming compared to traditional refrigerants. Some of the popular HFCs include R410A, R407C, R134A, R32, R454B, etc.

More about R410A (Puron)

Freon was replaced by Puron, which became the go-to refrigerant for most cooling units. Puron is a blend of two HFCs: pentafluoroethane and difluoromethane. It doesn’t contain chlorine in its mixture hence less harmful to the environment. Apart from being more green, Puron has some other excellent characteristics. For instance, due to its high pressure, systems that run on this hydrofluorocarbon produce better air quality, are more efficient, and offer more reliability and comfort.

Puron, however, can’t run on a Freon system…an upgrade is in order. Compared to R22 and R407C, the R410A offers superior energy efficiency. Puron is ideal for commercial refrigeration, chilling units, and air conditioning.

Puron has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 2088 and zero ODP. It is non-flammable, and Compared to R22, it is more eco-friendly. 

More about R407C (Suva/Genetron)

The R407C is known for its thermodynamic properties and can be used to retrofit Freon equipment. It is made up of a blend of pentafluoroethane, difluoromethane, and 1,1,1,2-tetrafluoro-ethane.

Suva is mainly found in packaged air conditioners, water chillers, and ductless split systems. It is also used in light air conditioning and direct expansion systems in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Most new appliances use this refrigerant.

R407C has almost similar pressures as R22 and hence provides the most straightforward conversion from Freon. It has an ODP of zero and a GWP of 1774.

More about R134A (Norflurane)

R134A is a haloalkane refrigerant known for its thermodynamic properties. It is not blended like most R22 alternatives – it is a single component, and working with it will not require different recovery machines.

The refrigerant is a great alternative to retrofit R12 air conditioning systems found in motor vehicles. The refrigerant is friendly to the environment since it has an ODP of zero and GWP 1430.

It is mainly used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems.  It is non-corrosive and non-flammable.

More about R32

Another widely used refrigerant in refrigeration and air conditioning systems is the R32. This HFC is mildly flammable and doesn’t affect the ozone (ODP=0). It has a GWP of 675.

Refrigerant Chart

RefrigerantBoiling Point (0F)ODPGWP