Understanding Different Refrigerant Types Used in Refrigerator & AC

Know How can refrigerant impact your energy bill and maintenance costs?


When we are buying an air conditioner or a refrigerator, we often come across the term “Refrigerant.”

Do you know what it means?

Well, it is the fluid that absorbs the heat and cools down the food (in case of a refrigerator) and the room (in case of an air conditioner).

Are you wondering why should you even know about the refrigerant?

Well, it is because the refrigerants that your appliance uses have a direct impact on the environment.

And being a responsible human, you should ensure that while thinking about your comfort, you do not compromise with the environmental impact of the refrigerants.

Today, we will provide you with all the information about refrigerants.

What is Refrigerant?

Refrigerant is a compound which is in a fluid state. It is typically used in air conditioners and refrigerators.

The refrigerant removes heat from the refrigerator or the room in the case of the air conditioners. It then throws the heat away from the refrigerator or the room. When it absorbs heat, the refrigerant changes from liquid to the gaseous state and then the compressor compresses the gas back to the liquid state.

The refrigerant that one chooses depends on a variety of factors like its thermodynamic properties, whether it is corrosive or non-corrosive and whether it is safe or not.

Previously, CFCs were used as a refrigerant, but it was soon realized that it is harmful to the environment, and now, different kind of other environment-friendly refrigerants are used both in refrigerators and air-conditioners.

Types of Refrigerants

Refrigerants can be broadly divided into four categories, which are CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and HCs.

The CFCs refrigerant has been phased out already. However, we will still discuss all the refrigerant types.

1. CFCs or ChloroFluoroCarbons

Right from the name, it is obvious that this refrigerant contains chlorine, fluorine, and carbon.

In the 20th century, it was the most common refrigerant. Even though CFC is non-toxic, non-reactive, and non-flammable, it is hazardous for the environment. It depletes the ozone layer, and since then there has been a ban on this refrigerant.

In the beginning, the Freon gas which belongs to this category was widely used in the air conditioners. Some of the known CFC refrigerants are R11, R12, R13, R113, R114, R500, R502 and R504. Most of these contribute to the greenhouse effect.

2. HCFCs or HydroChloroFluoroCarbons

HCFC also contains chlorine, but the catch is that the amount of chlorine in HCFC is much lesser than CFC.

HCFCs are used as a substitute for CFC. In addition to chlorine, fluorine, and carbon, HCFC also has hydrogen.

The damage caused by HCFCs is very minute in comparison to CFCs. The HCFCs are non-toxic and cheap.

In 2004, the European Union banned HCFC. The refrigerants that come under the group of HCFCs are R22, R123, R401A, R402A, R403B, R408A, R409A, R414B, and R416A.

3. HFCs or HydroFluoroCarbons

The best part of HFCs is that it doesn’t have chlorine. And these refrigerants do not harm the ozone layer in any way.

After the ban on CFCs and HCFCs, the HFCs became prevalent choice as a refrigerant. However, it should be noted that HFCs heavily contribute to global warming.

The refrigerants in this category are R23, R134A, R404A, R407C, R10A, R417A, R422A, R422B, R422D, R507, and R508B.

4. HC or HydroCarbons

All of the above-stated refrigerants are not much environment-friendly, but Hydrocarbon based refrigerants are very environment-friendly. The HC doesn’t deplete the ozone layer, and apart from that, it hardly contributes to the greenhouse effect.

However, HC is still not used actively because it is highly flammable. The refrigerant is most commonly used in Europe. In India, mostly R-290 and R-600A are used as refrigerant from this category.

Comparison of Refrigerants

When we draw a comparison among the refrigerants, we usually take into consideration its Ozone Depletion Potential and Global Warming Potential. The lower the potential, the better the refrigerant it is. So, in a comparison between R22 vs R410A, the better refrigerant is R410A. However, when you have to decide between R32 vs R410A, the clear winner is R32 because it has a low global warming potential.

RefrigerantGroupOzone Depletion Potential (ODP)Global Warming Potential (GWP)
R-22HCFCMedium1810
R-32HFCNil675
R-134AHFCNil1430
R-290HCNil3
R-410AHFCNil2088
R-600AHCNil3

Which Refrigerant is Used in AC & Refrigerator?

From our previous discussion, we know that CFC has been phased out and HC is not commonly used because it is highly flammable.

This indicates that either HCFCs or HFCs is used in the modern refrigerators and air conditioners. Between HFCs and HCFCs, the HFCs are commonly used as a refrigerant because its cooling capacity is higher.

The most common HFC refrigerant which is used in the air conditioners is R-410A. The R-410A refrigerant is a mixture of two other HFC refrigerants that is R-125 and R-32. Its cooling capacity is great, and it has zero ozone depletion potential.

Apart from R-410A, you will also find appliances that use R-290, which is an HC refrigerant. In case, you have the option of choosing HC as a refrigerant, go for it as it is the most environment-friendly refrigerant.

Which Refrigerants are Harmful and Should Be Avoided?

CFC has already been phased out. Among the other three categories, the most harmful refrigerant is HCFC. You should try not to buy a refrigerator or air conditioner that uses R-22 refrigerant. In the group of HFC refrigerant, the most harmful one is R-410A. The second most harmful refrigerant in the HFC group is R-143A, and the least harmful is refrigerant R-32.

Which Refrigerants are Safe and Should Be Preferred?

The safest refrigerants belong to the HC group. Hence, R-290 and R-600A are the most reliable refrigerants which are available out there. After the HC group, the safest refrigerants belong to the HFC category. The safest refrigerant in the HFC group is R-32. The other alternative refrigerant is R-134A.

India’s Plan and Deadline for Phase-Out of Harmful Refrigerants

The problem with CFC refrigerant is that its excessive use has caused the ozone hole. And therefore, a global decision was taken to rule out CFC refrigerants altogether. After the ban on CFC, it was decided by most of the countries even to phase out HCFC.

India, by keeping itself aligned with the global commitment, in 2017, decided to phase out HCFC. It was decided to phase out HCFC because the global warming potential of this refrigerant is extremely high.

The preliminary process of phasing out HCFC began in 2017, and it will continue till 2023. The entire process is expected to be completed by 2030.

Currently, HCFC is being phased out gradually. India has created an HCFC management plan for the period of 2017-2023. During this phase, the Indian government will try to shift the industries to an alternative of HCFC.

During this phase, a lot of focus will be given to research and development in this sector. After removing HCFC, India will gradually try to phase out HFC too.

Even though HFC doesn’t have ozone depletion potential, it is necessary to phase out HFC because of its damaging climate potential. India is planning to phase out the usage of HFCs by 85% by 2047.

Is It Possible to Upgrade the Refrigerants?

Whether you can upgrade the refrigerant or not actually depends on the refrigerant which is currently being used in the appliance.

If your refrigerator or air conditioner uses refrigerant gas R-22, you will not be able to upgrade it. The best decision in such a case is to dispose of the appliance and shift to an appliance that uses a better refrigerant.

However, if you are using R-410A refrigerant, you can upgrade it to a much better refrigerant.

How Can Refrigerant Impact Your Energy Bill and Maintenance Costs?

Your choice of refrigerant will have an indirect impact on the energy bill and maintenance cost. If you end up choosing an inefficient refrigerant, the energy bill will shoot up.

For the Indian climate, R-290 is the most efficient refrigerant. In India, the ambient temperature is high, and researches have shown that R-290 is the best refrigerant in such a climate.

Currently, the R-290 refrigerant is available only for the 1.5-tonne air conditioner. When you use R-290 as a refrigerant, you save money in the long run because it is energy efficient. And not to forget that it is super environment-friendly.

In case you are buying a 1-tonne air condition, you can go for the R-32 refrigerant. For room AC, the R-32 has been proved as a highly efficient refrigerant.

Conclusion

When you are buying a refrigerator or an air conditioner, apart from thinking about your comfort, you should devote some time to ensure that you are doing your bit to save the environment too.

You can do that by buying an air conditioner or a refrigerator that uses environment-friendly refrigerants like R-290, R-32, and R-600A.

You will, of course, be rewarded for your choice too.

Are you wondering how?

Well, these refrigerants are not only environment-friendly but are also highly efficient, and therefore they will keep your energy bill in check!

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