Air Conditioner Refrigerant


How does air conditioner refrigerant affect our environment? All of us have probably heard about the ozone layer which is located 35 miles above the ground. This upper layer of our earth's atmosphere protects the earth from the sun's ultraviolet rays by reflecting them back to space. UV rays are harmful to the plant, marine life and human beings on the earth.




How does air conditioner relate to the ozone layer? It was discovered in the mid 1980s that the commonly used air conditioner refrigerant has a damaging impact on the ozone layer.

At that time, the refrigerants that used then were known as CFC(chlorofluorocarbons) and HCFCs(hydrochlorofluorocarbons). CFCs are a family of chemicals that contain chlorine, fluorine and carbon. The chlorine content in these compounds cause the depletion of the ozone layer.


R410A RefrigerantR410A Refrigerant

This discovery prompted the signing of Montreal Protocol of 1987, an agreement signed by 180 nations that target to phase out the production of CFCs by 1995 and HCFCs by 2030. As of January 2012, all the 197 countries in the world have ratified the Montreal Protocol.

New refrigerants that are being used to replace these CFCs are HFCs(hydrofluorocarbons) and refrigerant blends(Azeotropic, Zeotropic). In summary, the 4 commonly used refrigerants that you can find today are:

  • CFCs
  • HCFCs
  • HFCs
  • Refrigerant blends

The future commonly used refrigerants will be in the last two categories. Among the currently widely used ones are R-134a, R407C and R410A.

The Montreal Protocol has undergone six Amendments:

  • London in 1990
  • Copenhagen in 1992
  • Vienna in 1995
  • Montreal in 1997
  • Beijing in 1999
  • Kigali in 2016

The Kigali Amendment had agreed to reduce the use and production of HFCs as these refrigerants contribute to greenhouse effect causing global warming. HFCs use are projected to reduce by 85% by 2036 in developed countries and a reduction of 80% by 2045 in developing countries.

The latest country to ratify this amendment is Serbia on Oct 8, 2021. A total of 127 countries have ratified it as of this date. List of countries that have ratified it with the latest on top and date ratified.

  • 127. Serbia 2021-10-08
  • 126. India  2021-09-27
  • 125. El Salvador  2021-09-13
  • 124. Tunisia  2021-08-27
  • 123. Cameroon  2021-08-24
  • 122. China  2021-06-17
  • 121. Bosnia and Herzegovina 2021-05-26
  • 120. Gambia 2021-05-05
  • 119. Dominican Republic  2021-04-14
  • 118. Cambodia  2021-04-08
  • 117. Syrian Arab Republic  2021-04-05
  • 116. Burundi  2021-03-26
  • 115. Zambia  2021-03-15
  • 114. Colombia  2021-02-25
  • 113. Iceland  2021-01-25
  • 112. Eswatini 2020-11-24
  • 111. Angola  2020-11-16
  • 110. Cabo Verde  2020-10-28
  • 109. Malaysia  2020-10-21
  • 108. San Marino 2020-10-20
  • 107. Bolivia (Plurinational State of)  2020-10-09
  • 106. Russian Federation  2020-10-03
  • 105. Nicaragua  2020-09-30
  • 104. Botswana  2020-09-19
  • 103. Liechtenstein  2020-09-16
  • 102. Kyrgyzstan  2020-09-08
  • 101. Turkmenistan  2020-08-31
  • 100. Liberia  2020-07-12
  • 99. Romania  2020-07-01
  • 98. Holy See  2020-06-17
  • 97. Fiji  2020-06-16
  • 96. Sierra Leone  2020-06-15
  • 95. Bangladesh  2020-06-08
  • 94. North Macedonia  2020-03-12
  • 93. Lebanon  2020-02-05
  • 92. Mozambique  2020-01-16
  • 91. Guinea  2019-12-05
  • 90. Somalia  2019-11-27
  • 89. Argentina  2019-11-22
  • 88. Jordan  2019-10-16
  • 87. Lesotho  2019-10-07
  • 86. Sao Tome and Principe  2019-10-04
  • 85. New Zealand  2019-10-03
  • 84. Mauritius  2019-10-01
  • 83. Bhutan  2019-09-27
  • 82. Vietnam  2019-09-27
  • 81. Cook Islands  2019-08-22
  • 80. Seychelles  2019-08-20
  • 79. Peru  2019-08-07
  • 78. Ghana  2019-08-02
  • 77. South Africa  2019-08-01
  • 76. Cyprus  2019-07-22
  • 75. Ethiopia  2019-07-05
  • 74. Cuba  2019-06-20
  • 73. Namibia  2019-05-16
  • 72. Armenia  2019-05-02
  • 71. Montenegro  2019-04-23
  • 70. Chad  2019-03-26
  • 69. Honduras  2019-01-28
  • 68. Andorra  2019-01-23
  • 67. Albania  2019-01-18
  • 66. Poland  2019-01-07
  • 65. Nigeria  2018-12-20
  • 64. Japan  2018-12-18
  • 63. Slovenia  2018-12-07
  • 62. Croatia  2018-12-06
  • 61. Denmark  2018-12-06
  • 60. Switzerland  2018-11-07
  • 59. Paraguay  2018-11-01
  • 58. Kiribati  2018-10-26
  • 57. Guinea-Bissau  2018-10-22
  • 56. Greece  2018-10-05
  • 55. Panama  2018-09-28
  • 54. Sri Lanka  2018-09-28
  • 53. Austria  2018-09-27
  • 52. Czech Republic  2018-09-27
  • 51. Estonia  2018-09-27
  • 50. European Union  2018-09-27
  • 49. Mexico  2018-09-25
  • 48. Tonga  2018-09-17
  • 47. Hungary  2018-09-14
  • 46. Uruguay  2018-09-12
  • 45. Senegal  2018-08-31
  • 44. Niger  2018-08-29
  • 43. Latvia  2018-08-17
  • 42. Burkina Faso  2018-07-26
  • 41. Lithuania  2018-07-24
  • 40. Portugal  2018-07-17
  • 39. Uganda  2018-06-21
  • 38. Belgium  2018-06-04
  • 37. Grenada  2018-05-29
  • 36. Costa Rica  2018-05-23
  • 35. Bulgaria  2018-05-01
  • 34. Niue  2018-04-24
  • 33. Vanuatu  2018-04-20
  • 32. Barbados  2018-04-19
  • 31. France  2018-03-29
  • 30. Samoa  2018-03-23
  • 29. Benin 2018-03-19
  • 28. Ireland  2018-03-12
  • 27. Togo  2018-03-08
  • 26. Gabon  2018-02-28
  • 25. Netherlands  2018-02-08
  • 24. Ecuador  2018-01-22
  • 23. Côte d'Ivoire  2017-11-29
  • 22. Malawi  2017-11-21
  • 21. Sweden  2017-11-17
  • 20. Trinidad and Tobago  2017-11-17
  • 19. Comoros  2017-11-16
  • 18. Lao People's Democratic Republic  2017-11-16
  • 17. Luxembourg  2017-11-16
  • 16. Slovakia  2017-11-16
  • 15. Finland  2017-11-14
  • 14. Germany  2017-11-14
  • 13. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland  2017-11-14
  • 12. Maldives  2017-11-13
  • 11. Canada  2017-11-03
  • 10. Australia  2017-10-27
  • 9. Democratic People's Republic of Korea  2017-09-21
  • 8. Tuvalu  2017-09-21
  • 7. Chile  2017-09-19
  • 6. Norway  2017-09-06
  • 5. Palau  2017-08-29
  • 4. Rwanda  2017-05-23
  • 3. Marshall Islands  2017-05-15
  • 2. Micronesia (Federated States of)  2017-05-12
  • 1. Mali  2017-03-31


Find out more about Montreal Protocol from UN Environment Programme.




More discovery on the causes of global warming had prompted many countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. The main reason this was being done was to reduce the greenhouse effect caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gases include:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Carbon monoxide
  • CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs
  • Ozone
  • Methane
  • Water Vapor 

In the field of HVACR, refrigerant such as R32 has been widely publicized as a replacement for R-410A and R-407C as this gas has a lower Global Warming Potential. Lower GWP will reduce the greenhouse effect hence reducing the global warming effect. Many manufacturers are beginning to design and develop HVAC equipment using this refrigerant.

Do your part to preserve mother nature...


CFC Refrigerants

These refrigerants were developed more than 70 years ago and are harmful to our respiratory systems and the ozone layer. Their production was stopped since 1995 but are still being used widely in existing residential air conditioning units as many equipment have a lifetime of up to 30 years. Today's refrigerants used are from reclaimed units that are no longer in operation. The common ones still used are:

  • R-11      CCl3F
  • R-12      CCl2F2
  • R-113    CCl2FCClF2
  • R-114    CClF2CClF2
  • R-115    CClF2CF3



HCFC Refrigerants

These air conditioner refrigerant is considered partially halogenated as they consists of methane or ethane in combination with chlorine and fluorine. They are shorter lifespan and are less destructive to the ozone layer compared to CFCs.

They are an interim solution to a totally "free from chlorine" refrigerant that are being developed. Their production are scheduled to be phased out totally in 2030. The common ones used are:

  • R-22      CHClF2
  • R-123    CHCl2CF3

R-22 is used extensively in residential, commercial and industrial applications. The schedule of phaseout :

  • 2015 - Production freeze and use limitations
  • 2020 - Prohibited for new air conditioning and refrigeration use
  • 2030 - Total phaseout


HFC Refrigerants

These air conditioner refrigerant contain no chlorine atom and is not destructive to the ozone layer though they have a slight effect on global warming. R-134a is used in new systems that are specially designed for its use. The common HFCs are:

  • R-134a    CH2FCF3
  • R-125      CHF2CF3

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol puts R-134a as one of the 6 greenhouse gases that must be reduced. There is no phaseout date for this refrigerant and it is expected to be highly used in the HVAC industry.


Refrigerant Blends

These air conditioner refrigerant are also known as "azeotropic" and"zeotropic". Their use is increasing as they are environmental friendly. The setback is that the total air conditioning systems production cost is higher.

However, as more manufacturers switch to this type of refrigerants, the cost/unit will drop eventually. The common refrigerant blends used in the air conditioning industry are:

  • R-410A    CH2F2/CHF2-CF3
  • R-407c

R-410A are used as a replacement refrigerant for residential air conditioning applications. R-407C are used as R-22 replacement.

Due to their higher GWP, R-410A and R-407C are being replaced by R32 refrigerant. Daikin, Mitsubishi Electric and many other manufacturers are designing new products that use this refrigerant.


Air Conditioner Refrigerant Hazard Classification

The ASHRAE Standard 34 identifies the Hazard Classification of refrigerant based on flammability and toxicity of the refrigerant. For toxicity, the first character of the classification denotes the Class which is either A or B, Class A denotes refrigerants with lower toxicity and Class B with higher toxicity.

The subsequent one or two characters denotes its flammability. There are three classifications and one subclass. Class 1 is for refrigerants that do not propagate a flame when tested as per standard; Class 2 for lower flammability and Class 3 for highly flammable refrigerants. Class 2L is for refrigerant that burn very slowly.

Examples of A1 refrigerants are R-22, R-407C, R-410A, R-507A, R-513B and R-515B.

Examples of A2L refrigerants are R-32 and R-1234yf.

Example of A2 refrigerant is R-152A.

Example of A3 refrigerant is R-290.

Example of B1 refrigerant is R-123.

See the complete Ashrae Standard 34 that include a list of refrigerants with their safety group and global warming potential here.


Recovery, Recycling and Reclaiming of Refrigerants

Laws have been passed to prevent the release of CFC refrigerants into the atmosphere. The steps taken are:


Recovery

The act of removing the refrigerant from a system and store it in an external container. No testing or processing is needed in any way.


Recycling

Refrigerant is cleaned for reuse by oil separation and passes though devices such as core filter-driers. This procedure reduce the moisture, matter and acidity of the refrigerant for reuse. It is usually done for jobs on the field or service shops.


Reclaiming

Reprocess the refrigerant to new product specifications which may include distillation process. This can only be done by manufacturing plants where chemical analysis is required. Highly equipped local service shops may have this facility as well.


Consumer Role

How can consumer like you play your part in the effect to keep our earth green? You can do that by purchasing air conditioning systems that uses new refrigerant such as R-134a, R-407C, R-410A or R32.

Most equipment are labelled with stickers that indicate the type of refrigerant used. Examples are "ozone friendly" sticker or "R-410A" sticker.

If the HVACR equipment is available, choose lower Global Warming Potential refrigerant such as R32 to help reduce the greenhouse effect compared to if you were to use a higher GWP refrigerant.

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Manufacturers

Here are the top refrigerant manufacturers that you will probably encounter in the HVAC market.

  • Chemours
  • Honeywell
  • Mexichem
  • Arkema
  • Daikin
  • Linde
  • Dongyue Group
  • Zhejiang Juhua
  • Meilan Chemical
  • 3F


See Also 


R32 Air Conditioner Refrigerant 

This newer refrigerant is poised to replace R-22 and R-410A refrigerants as it has zero ODP and lower GWP.


Refrigerant Color Codes 
See the color and color codes of the CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs refrigerants. 


8 facts about refrigerant phaseout date 
Facts you need to know about refrigerant phaseout date such as R-22 before making a decision with regards to purchasing or manufacturing air conditioner equipments. 


Freon and the early history of refrigerants 
Read a brief history of FREON and its impact on the environment. 


R-134a Refrigerant 
Find out the properties and applications of R-134a ozone friendly refrigerant. This refrigerant has been designed to replace CFCs and HCFCs refrigerants. 


Methods of refrigerants detection 
Find out the various methods that are used to detect the refrigerant of a leaking system. 








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