Refrigerant Fact Sheets

facts

R-744 Carbon Dioxide is one of the oldest refrigerants in the world. Its first usage can be traced all the way back to the nineteenth century. Before the popularity of CFC and HCFC refrigerants Carbon Dioxide was one of the most widely used refrigerants. Chances are if you went to a movie theatre in the 1920’s then you were experiencing an R-744 air conditioning system.

When R-12, R-22, and other HCFC/CFC refrigerants began to rise to prominence we began to see a large decline in R-744 usage. This was due to its extremely high operating pressures which caused numerous part failures. The newer artificial refrigerants were much easier to maintain. In today’s world, as we progress through the twenty-first century we have begun to see resurgence in R-744. This is due to the detrimental effects that CFC, HCFC, and HFC refrigerants have had on the environment. Carbon Dioxide on the other hand is climate neutral with zero Ozone Depletion and a Global Warming Potential of only one.

If you haven’t run into an R-744 system yet you soon will as its popularity grows with each passing year. In this article we’re going to take a deep dive and take a look at everything there is to know on R-744. If I miss something please let me know!

The Facts

Name:R-744
Name - Scientific:Carbon Dioxide
Name (2):744
Name (3):CO2
Name (4)R744
Classification:Natural Refrigerant
Chemistry:CO2
Status:Active & Growing
Future:Will Be Used All Over World in Various Applications
System Type:SubCritical (Cascade) & TransCritical
Application:Vehicle Air Conditioning & Transport Refrigeration
Application (2):Commercial Refrigerators & Freezers
Application (3):Commercial Vending Machines & Plug-Ins
Application (4):Industrial Refrigeration
Application (5):Ice Rinks
Replacement For:R-22, R-134a, R-404A, and other HFCs
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:1
Global Warming Risk:Very Low
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 - No Flame Propagation
Lubricant Required:POE & PAG Oils
Boiling Point:−78 °C (-108.4 °F; 195.15 K)
Critical Temperature:31.04 °C or 87.87 °F
Critical Pressure:7,380 kpa
Triple Point:4.2 bar (60.9 psi) and -56.6 °C (-69.8 °F)
Temperature Glide:None
Molar Mass:44.009 g·mol−1
Density (2):1101 kg/m3 (liquid at saturation −37°C)
Melting Point:−56.6 °C; −69.8 °F; 216.6 K
Vapor Pressure:5.73 MPa (20 °C)
Heat Capacity:37.135 J/K mol
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless gas
Odor:Low concentrations: none.
Odor(2):High concentrations: sharp; acidic
EPA Certification Required:No
Require Certification to Purchase?No
Cylinder Color:Unknown
Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-744 Pressure Chart

Knowing the pressure and the temperatures associated to the machine you are working on is essential to being able to diagnose any possible issues. Without knowing the temperatures you are more or less walking blind. These pressure checks give you the facts so that you can move onto the next step of your diagnosis. Instead of pasting a large table of information here I will instead direct you to our specific R-744 refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.

R-744 Applications

Let me first start out by saying that R-744 is a very unique refrigerant, more so then others.  R-744 is a natural refrigerant. But, unlike other natural refrigerants, there is not a safety concern. With hydrocarbons you have the flammability risk, with Ammonia you have the toxicity risk, but with CO2 the safety risk is minimal. Along with it being a safe natural refrigerant it also is very versatile. It is mainly used in a transcritical refrigeration system but it can also be used in subcritical systems when done through a cascade. On top of that R-744 can be used as a secondary fluid refrigeration system. (For more information on transcritical systems please click here to be taken to a recently written article on the topic.)

Between these different types of refrigeration there are a wide a range of applications such as vending machines, supermarket refrigerators/freezers, industrial refrigeration, refrigerated transport, automotive air conditioning, heat pumps, and even in sports arenas for ice rinks. In this section we are going to take a look at each of these applications:

Vending Machines

One of the first targets in the global HFC phase down was R-404A. As you know, 404A was used in a variety of applications including vending machines. In the early 2010’s there was a push from a variety of companies, including Coca-Cola, to switch their vending machines away from 404A and over to R-744 Carbon Dioxide. Now, as I write this article CO2 vending machines are found all over the United States. One of the initial struggles of these systems was finding qualified technicians as these vending machines operate as a transcritical system rather then subcritical. The good news is that as the years go by and the amount of these transcritical machines grow then the technicians will become more seasoned and experienced with working on these kinds of systems.

Supermarket Refrigerators/Freezers

The grocery store refrigerators and freezer market didn’t switch over as fast as vending machines but there is significant progress being made. While R-744 isn’t necessarily the preferred refrigerant to use in these applications there are some companies moving forward. Depending on the application supermarkets will either use a stand alone plug-in unit that is very similar to a vending machine or they will use one system that connects to all of the various refrigerators and freezers.

When it comes to using R-744 the type of application will determine if the unit will be a subcritical cascade or a transcritical system. If we look at a stand alone refrigerator/freezer then we would be dealing with a standard transcritical system. This would operate very similar to how vending machines do. On the other hand, if we look at some of the larger systems that are all connected then we would be looking at a cascade system. A cascade system uses two or more refrigerants. In the example of R-744 we would find R-744 on the low temperature side of the cycle. By having R-744 isolated to the low end of the system we can prevent the refrigerant from going past the critical point and keep it subcritical. The other refrigerant used for the high side of the system can vary. It could be Ammonia, Propane/Isobutane, or even an HFC or HFO refrigerant.

Industrial Refrigeration

The term industrial refrigeration can be quite vague and can encompass a variety of applications from chillers, to chilled warehouses, to heat extraction, and so much more. In the past, before R-22 was phased out it was one of the top refrigerants used in these larger scale operations. When R-22 was phased out some companies switched over to the HFC R-404A/R-134a only to find that these refrigerants were going to be phased out soon as well.

In Europe, in Canada, and in other countries R-717 or Ammonia is one of the top picks when it comes to industrial refrigeration such as meat packing plants. Ammonia is chosen as it is highly regarded as the most energy efficient refrigerant out there. The downside, of course, is that Ammonia is toxic and can also be slightly flammable. Whenever you see a story in the new stating that a plant had to be evacuated due to a refrigerant leak the chances are that it is Ammonia is quite high. There are many instances of this occurring here in the United States and in most cases everyone is fine. We just have to ensure that the proper precautions are followed.

While R-744 may not be as efficient as Ammonia it has another thing going for it. It’s not toxic. That being said though it appears that the use of R-744 plants and chillers is still quite rare. I spent some time looking around online trying to find stories on R-744 plant usage but wasn’t able to find anything. It seems that Ammonia still has a strong hold on the industry but as technologies change and as HFCs become completely phased out we may begin to see more active R-744 industrial applications. If you know of some active R-744 plant applications please reach out to me and let me know.

Refrigerated Transport

When I hear the words refrigerated transport I instantly think of trucking. That’s most likely because I came from the trucking industry. I remember going through pallets of R-404A for our carrier refrigerated trucks. In the case of R-744 though the refrigerated transport we are discussing is naval transport or refrigerated shipping containers. It’s not just produce or meat being refrigerated on cargo ships though. No, in some cases cruise liners have installed CO2 systems to cool their larger refrigerators and freezers. Again, I looked around for any mention of R-744 being used in refrigerated cargo transport on trucks but saw no mention of it. This may still be down the road.

Automotive Air Conditioning

This one is definitely unique. If we rewind about ten years ago there were two refrigerants to choose from for automotive air conditioning. The first was the ever popular HFC R-134a. I am sure most of you are familiar with this refrigerant. You can buy cans of it at your local O’Reillys. At this time though a new refrigerant was introduced to the automotive sector. This refrigerant known as R-1234yf, was an HFO refrigerant invented between a partnership of DuPont and Honeywell. YF was to be the refrigerant of the future. It would replace R-134a and it would be used in every car from now on.

Most of the world was on board except for Germany. The German automakers had tested with YF and found that it was flammable. In one instance during a simulated collision the lines ruptured and spilled the refrigerant onto the hot engine block. The refrigerant ignited and caused a fire. This one test scared the German automakers, especially Daimler, away from using YF. While the rest of the world pushed forward with YF Daimler set off on their own to create the first automotive R-744 application.

Years later they achieved their goals and we now have German made cars using CO2 as their refrigerant. There is now no risk of flammability with their cars and they are still being environmentally friendly. I love hearing this story again and again as it’s a prime example of forging your own way and still coming out on top.

Heat Pumps

Japan has put forth a lot of focus on R-744 heat pumps. CO2 heat pumps can produce a much higher temperature output then a traditional HFC heat pump system. This is thanks in part due to the transcritical process. These heat pumps can heat water all the way up to one-hundred and ninety-four degrees Fahrenheit. (Source) The adaption of CO2 based heat pumps is moving forward, but it has been slowed due to the extremely high operating pressures and the breakage of components. (The same story we have seen in other CO2 applications.) In the future we will most likely begin to see CO2 heat pumps in mini-split air conditioner systems. Perhaps, down the road, we may even see them in traditional split air conditioning systems.

Ice Rinks

From my experience a typical ice rink uses either Ammonia, R-22, or an HFC such as R-134a or R-404A. What refrigerant is used seems to depend on what country you are in. Outside of America the standard refrigerant has been Ammonia. As we discussed earlier in this article Ammonia is widely seen as the most efficient refrigerant. When dealing with such a large application like an ice rink efficiency is a must. The downside of course, is the toxicity. The toxicity is especially important when it comes to a public area like ice rinks. It’s not just technicians or employees who are at risk but you also have the general public.

Here in America we are always hesitant to use the more ‘dangerous’ refrigerants such as Ammonia or Hydrocarbons. Because of this hesitation we instead went the route of R-22 for our ice rinks and hockey arenas. Now though, with R-22’s phase out coming to a close in 2020 ice rink owners are looking for alternative refrigerants. Sure, there are HFC and now even HFO alternatives that can be used in these applications but each of these alternatives still have a higher then neutral Global Warming Potential (GWP). The problem with these refrigerants is that they will not stand the test of time when it comes to climate impact and phase outs.

If I was an arena owner or manager I would only seriously be considering two options. The first is Ammonia like I discussed earlier. This comes with it’s own risks but you get the low cost and energy savings. The alternative is R-744 Carbon Dioxide. R-744 has it’s own Pros and Cons which I’ll get into in our next section, but the big selling point is that you get a climate neutral refrigerant that is safe to the public in case a leak occurs. While R-744 systems aren’t widely found in the world today, they are growing. An article I was reading from 2016 had this quote, ”

“Today the number of CO2 ice rinks is growing rapidly. There are now 25-30 CO2 ice rinks in the world,” he says. 20-25 of these CO2 ice rinks are in North America, 20 of which are in Canada (mostly in Quebec) and three in Alaska, according to EKA.” – Source

R-744 Pros & Cons

As we all know, there is no perfect refrigerant. Each one has its own individual upsides and downsides. It could have a great efficiency but also end up being very flammable. Or, it could be non-flammable and non-toxic but have very high Global Warming Potential. The point I’m making here is that there isn’t a perfect one out there and there may never be. In this section we’re going to take a brief look at the various Pros and Cons of using R-744 as a refrigerant. I pulled this information from all over the web, but one site in particular stuck out to me. This article from Emerson has an entire page dedicated to R-744 Pros and Cons. It can be found by clicking here and then scrolling to page twelve.

Let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons of R-744:

Pros

  • R-744 is seen as the ‘perfect’ natural refrigerant as it is climate neutral and there is not a flammability or toxicity risk.  It is rated as an A1 from ASHRAE. While it is non-toxic there is still risk if a leak occurs in an enclosed area as R-744 will displace the oxygen in the room and could cause asphyxiation. It is always best to have a leak detector with you so that you can detect the problem early before anything major occurs.
  • Overall, R-744 is more energy efficient and has better heat exchange then a standard HFC based system. While it may not be as efficient as Ammonia this gap between the two refrigerants is shrunk as the evaporator temperature drops. Carbon Dioxide also has a low compression pressure ratio which can improve volumetric efficiency. In some cases CO2’s volumetric efficiency is four to twelve times better then Ammonia. (Source – under Pressure & Temperature.)
  • I mentioned this earlier, but the biggest selling point of R-744 is that it is climate neutral. It has no Ozone Depletion Potential and it’s Global Warming Potential is one. In fact, R-744 is the zero basis for the whole GWP scale. This is a huge Pro as if there is one thing that business owners are looking for it is stability and consistency. R-744 is never going away due to it being so climate friendly.
  • One Pro to R-744 operating at such a high pressure and being such a dense gas is that the overall size of the parts and components is smaller and the overall charge required for a refrigerant cycle is lessened. In some cases the compressor can be up to ten times smaller than an ammonia compressor. As far as refrigerant charges, one example I read from manufacturing.net stated that to cool a two-hundred thousand square foot warehouse you would need forty-thousand pounds of Ammonia but with CO2 you would need less than seven-thousand pounds.
  • Carbon Dioxide is readily available and the price for this refrigerant is much less then HFC refrigerants that we see today. This is a welcome relief from the instability of prices on HFCs and HCFC refrigerants that we all know about.

Cons

While R-744 is the ‘perfect’ natural refrigerant in theory there are a lot of downsides.

  • The biggest one is for Carbon Dioxide to be used as a refrigerant it has to run under extremely high pressure. As an example, R-744 operates at ten times higher pressure then R-134a. Because of this extremely high pressure everything has to be custom built for an R-744 system so that it can withstand the high operating pressure. This includes the pipes, components, and everything else that goes along with the machine. If lesser components are used then you pose risk of constant failure due to the pressure.
  • If you wish to use R-744 as a stand alone refrigerant not in a cascade system then you will have to be running it as what’s known as a transcritical system. This is because R-744’s critical temperature point is only eighty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. There are many cases where the ambient temperature could be between eighty to one-hundred degrees. If your critical point for R-744 is only at eighty-eight degrees then how can you expect to remove the heat? (You can read more on the topic of transcritical refrigeration by clicking here.)
  • Suffice to say, a transcritical system and a high operating pressure system means two things.
    • The first is that there is increased expense for these systems. Not only do you have to pay for high pressure rated materials and parts but you also have to pay for a transcritical system. This setup is different then your standard subcritical system. The good news here is that with each year that passes technology improves and the cost of these higher pressure parts goes down.
    • The second is the increased complexity. The higher the complexity means less available qualified technicians. It may be a struggle to find qualified R-744 technicians, at least here in the United States. Each year though this is getting better as more and more businesses are adopting R-744 systems.
  • I mentioned efficiency in our Pros section earlier. The reason I mention it again is that the efficiency of R-744 is highly dependent on the type of system it’s being used in and the surrounding climate. I mean, think about it for a moment. We could have a subcritical cascade system for a supermarket in Miami. Or, we could have a transcritical ice rink in British Columbia. In each example we’re using R-744 but we now have two entirely different systems as well as two entirely different climates. Because of these variety of systems and applications it is difficult to measure one single efficiency measurement.

R-744 Past/Future

History

I am a big fan of history and can never get enough of reading historical books or watching documentaries. If you don’t understand the past then how can you understand the present or even the future? While refrigerant history might not be as interesting as other historical topics it is still good to understand it. R-744 can be traced back all the way back to the nineteenth century. In fact it was one of the very first refrigerants to ever be developed and used across the world. Experiments in refrigeration began in the late seventeen-hundreds and began to pick up speed in the eighteen-hundreds. It was in 1850 that Carbon Dioxide was first proposed as a refrigerant by Alexander Twinning. In 1869 one of the very first ice machines invented used Carbon Dioxide. Then in 1897 the first Carbon Dioxide refrigerator was introduced. More and more inventions and innovations followed.

In the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s there were a few mainstream refrigerants that we saw. These were your natural and hydrocarbon refrigerants such as Ammonia, Propane, Isobutane, and Carbon Dioxide. At this time Carbon Dioxide was found in all kinds of applications ranging from display cabinets, cold storage areas, market places, home/commercial kitchens, movie theaters, hospitals, trains, and even on cargo transport ships. The other natural refrigerants weren’t used as widely as Carbon Dioxide due to their safety concerns.

It seemed that R-744 was going to reign supreme as the main refrigerant in the world. This held true until the 1930’s. It was then that a partnership was formed between General Motors and DuPont. This partnership was made with one goal in mind: To create a cheap, safety, and reliable refrigerant. While Carbon Dioxide was safe it had it’s own problems. Just like we mentioned in our Pros and Cons section R-744 systems had numerous failures due to the extreme pressure that they operated under. The technology just wasn’t there to prevent these failures either so these air conditioners and refrigerators would bey very expensive to maintain.

After some time the General Motors & DuPont partnership came out with a new artificial class of refrigerants known as CFCs and HCFCs. Some of the refrigerants in this new classification were R-12 and R-22. These new refrigerants checked all of the boxes. They were safe. They were cheap. They were reliable. There was no more constant failure due to high operating pressures. At first, the adoption of these refrigerants was slow but that was only because of the manufacturing speed of the product. It was in the 1950’s that an innovation was done that greatly increased the speed of manufacturing CFC and HCFC refrigerants.

Once the supply could be met the demand skyrocketed. It wasn’t long until CFC and HCFC refrigerants were found all over the world in various applications. They could be your home air conditioner, your automobile, your refrigerator, or your local grocery store. They were everywhere. In the 1960’s there were a few more CFC/HCFC refrigerants invented, including R-502, that led to even more explosive growth.

With the growth and dominance of these new refrigerants it seemed that R-744 had taken a backseat. It was cast aside when the newer refrigerants came to market due to the high pressure that it operated at. There was no reason to use this expensive refrigerant anymore due to the mass production and reliability of R-12, R-22, and R-502. At least for a while, R-744 had reached it’s peak. It was in the 1980’s that things began to change.

The Ozone

It was in the 1980’s that a problem was discovered. Two American scientists, Mario Molina and Shepwood Rowland, from a California university were the first to notice Chlorine’s effect on the atmosphere. (Remember now folks, all of these CFCs and HCFCs contain Chlorine.)

These two scientists found that when a CFC refrigerant was exposed to ultra-violet irradiation that the Chlorine atom would detach itself from the CFC molecules. The remaining residue is oxidized resulting in the creation of a Chlorine oxidized molecule and a new residue. The Chlorine atom and Chlorine oxidized molecule move their way up to the stratosphere. Within the stratosphere there is a layer called the Ozone layer. This Ozone layer protects the Earth from ultra-violet rays and irradiation. What these scientists found out is that all of this Chlorine from CFC and HCFC refrigerants was working it’s way to the stratosphere. When it reached the stratosphere the Chlorine began to attack and weaken the Ozone layer.

Over decades of using CFCs and HCFC refrierants Chlorine began to accumulate in the stratosphere and overtime a hole began to form in the Ozone layer. Now, I say hole but this wasn’t a hole per-say. Instead, there was a weakening of strength in the layer. So, while there was not a hole the thickness of the Ozone was decreasing and decreasing rapidly thanks to the CFC and HCFC refrigerants.

The Ozone prevents harmful UVB wavelengths of ultra-violet light from passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. Without it, or with a weakened version of it, a variety of bad things could happen. Some of these include a much higher increased chance of Skin Cancer, more severe sunburns, more chances of cataracts, and a whole host of other problems.

After discovering the weakening of the Ozone layer nations banded together in what is seen as one of the greatest and most effective treaty’s every made. In 1986-1987 the Montreal Protocol was created and signed by over one-hundred nations across the world. This Protocol was an international treaty designed to protect the Ozone layer and to completely phase out the chemicals responsible for the weakening of the Ozone. The treaty went into effect in 1989.

Soon after that date marked the beginning of the end for CFC and HCFC refrigerants across the globe. The industrialized countries, like America, began to phase out the refrigerants first. R-12 was phased out in the early 1990’s along with all of the rest of the CFC refrigerants. The HCFC refrigerants such as R-22 or even R-502 were given a bit more time. Heck, R-22’s true phase out didn’t even begin until 2010.

Out with the old and in with the new, so they say. The refrigerants that were proposed to replace CFCs and HCFCs were known as HFCs, or Hydroflurocarbons. These refrigerants contained no Chlorine so there was no chance of them hurting the Ozone layer. Some of these refrigerants include popular refrigerants today known as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A. But, now these refrigerants are under fire for their increase to Global Warming.

R-744 Present & Future

As I mentioned above HFCs were seen as the world’s savior from the Ozone depleting refrigerants. But, HFCs had their own problem. Instead of the Ozone this time it was Global Warming. These HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, R-410A are known as ‘Super Pollutants,’ or ‘Greenhouse Gases.’ In order to measure their impact on the environment each of these refrigerants were given a Global Warming Potential number. The higher the number the more damage the refrigerant causes to the world. As a zero based scale for this measurement our old friend R-744 was used. Carbon Dioxide has a GWP of one. In comparison, R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two. Obviously, there is a large difference here.

I’m writing this article in 2019 and over the past ten years or so there has been a worldwide push to phase down and in some cases phase out HFC refrigerants completely. In order to phase out HFC refrigerants we have to have a replacement refrigerant. In some cases companies and countries have turned to a new classification of refrigerants known as HFOs. These HFO refrigerants are again synthetic products created by Honeywell & Chemours (Formerly DuPont). The problem with HFOs though is that they still have Global Warming Potential. Yes, not as high as HFCs… but the numbers are still there. Along with the GWP risk they also have a slight flammability risk. To me, I do not see HFOs being sustainable. I imagine the world will decide to phase them out in another ten or twenty years.

So, what is the solution you may ask? It’s R-744! Well, R-744 and other natural refrigerants. Technology has changed significantly since the last time R-744 was used widely. It’s been almost one-hundred years since we saw the mainstream use of Carbon Dioxide and now with nearly a century behind us the technology has significantly reduced the chance of component failures due to high operating pressures. We are now able to create efficient and stable R-744 systems without a large risk of failure.

While the cost of implementing R-744 systems is still quite higher then a traditional HFC system the costs have been coming down. This holds especially true in recent years as the push to innovate R-744 systems increases substantially with the phasing down of HFCs. While we are not there yet the costs are quickly shrinking the gap between HFCs and R-744.

There are many companies pushing forward with R-744 systems. Most of these are on smaller systems such as vending machines, but we all need to take baby steps. One company in particular, Coca-Cola, has installed hundreds of CO2 vending machines across the country. Along with Coca-Cola there are other grocery store chains out there using cascade R-744 systems mixed with other refrigerants such as Ammonia or lower GWP HFCs. We are even beginning to see R-744 uses in automobiles with the innovations that Daimler has made. As we completely phase down HFCs over the next ten years we will see more and more usage of R-744. It’s time has come again!

Conclusion

Well folks, after all of that I feel like we have covered our bases when it comes to R-744.  If you only take a few things away from this article let them be this. First, R-744 is a growing market across the world and you will begin to see more applications. It doesn’t matter what section of the industry you specialize in. R-744 is so adaptable that it’s only a matter of time before you come across it.

Secondly, since R-744 has no Ozone Depletion Potential and a Global Warming Potential of only one you can be safe in assuming that Carbon Dioxide will never be phased down our across the world. It is a natural refrigerant that has been used for over one-hundred years and it will continue to be used for another one-hundred years or more.

If you find that you’re still looking for more on R-744 then please check out our sources section below. This is where we pulled most of our data from and in some cases these websites can have a ton of information.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

facts

In the very beginning of refrigerants and air conditioning there were a select few refrigerants used. These refrigerants occurred naturally within our environment and were known as natural refrigerants. These included ammonia, carbon dioxide, water, and oxygen. Among these natural refrigerants under a subset category are what’s known as hydrocarbon refrigerants. Some examples of hydrocarbon refrigerants are propane, butane, ethyl, and isobutane.

In this article we’re going to take an in-depth look at the isobutane refrigerant also known as R-600a. What are the facts on this refrigerant? What are the pros and cons? What are some worthy notations? How is it used today and how will it be used in the future? We will go all over of this and more. Without further adieu let’s dive in and take a look:

The Facts

Name:R-600a
Name - Scientific:Isobutane
Name (2):HC-600a
Name (3):Care-10
Name (4)R600a
Classification:Hydrocarbon Refrigerant
Chemistry:C4H10 or CH(CH3)2CH3
Status:Active & Growing
Future:Will Be Used All Over The World
Application:Home Refrigerators & Freezers
Application (2):Commercial Refrigerators & Freezers
Application (3):Commercial Vending Machines & Plug-Ins
Application (4):Industrial Refrigeration
Application (5):Medium, High, &Very High Temperature
Replacement For:CFCs, HCFCs, and now HFCs
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:3
Global Warming Risk:Very Low
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 3 - Highly Flammable
Lubricant Required:MO, AB, POE
Boiling Point:−11.7 °C (10.9 °F; 261.4 K)
Critical Temperature:134.7 °C or 274.46 °F
Critical Pressure:3,640 kpa
Auto ignition Temperature:460 °C (860 °F; 733 K)
Flash Point−83 °C (−117 °F; 190 K)
Molar Mass:58.124 g·mol−1
Density:2.51 kg/m3 (at 15 °C, 100 kPa)
Density (2):563 kg/m3 (at 15 °C, boiling liquid)
Melting Point:−159.42 °C (−254.96 °F; 113.73 K)
Vapor Pressure: 3.1 atm (310 kPa) (at 21 °C (294 K; 70 °F))
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless gas
Odor:Odorless
EPA Certification Required:No
Require Certification to Purchase?No
Cylinder Color:Unknown
Cylinder Sizes:1 lb, 20 lb, 100 lb, 200 lb, 420 lb.
Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-600a Pressure Chart

Knowing the pressure and the temperatures associated to the machine you are working on is essential to being able to diagnose any possible issues. Without knowing the temperatures you are more or less walking blind. These pressure checks give you the facts so that you can move onto the next step of your diagnosis. Instead of pasting a large table of information here I will instead direct you to our specific R-600a refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.

R-600a Pros & Cons

Just like with any other refrigerant there are always going to be pros and cons. I’ve said it countless times before, but there are no perfect refrigerants out there. Regardless of what you look at you will always have a downside. As an example of this I like to use Ammonia R-717.

Ammonia is deemed as one of the absolute best refrigerants due to it’s energy efficiency. This is why you see ammonia applications in systems that require very large charges such as meat packing plants. These systems demand a lot of energy and by having the most efficient refrigerant out there these companies can save a lot of money. The downside of ammonia based systems is it’s safety rating. Ammonia is rated as slightly flammable and is rated as toxic if exposed in large enough quantities. It is this reason alone that ammonia has seen very limited use in more residential and commercial applications.

Ok, so now that we have that in mind let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons that come with R-600a Isobutane refrigerant.

Pros

  • Just like with other hydrocarbons and natural refrigerants, Isobutane has zero Ozone Depletion Potential, or ODP. When using R-600a there is no risk of damaging the Ozone layer.
  • Sticking with the environmental side of things, R-600a also has a very low Global Warming Potential (GWP) when compared to other synthetic refrigerants such as R-134a or R-404A. Isobutane’s total GWP is 3.
  • There are also no venting regulations to worry about when dealing with R-600a. (Although, I would advocate venting due to the flammability aspect.)
  • Moving to safety, R-600a is rated as an ‘A’ from ASHRAE. The A stands for non-toxic. While that is great news, please note that isobutane is heavier then air and if enough is leaked in a confined area it can displace the oxygen in the room which can cause asphyxiation.
  • R-600a is a very efficient refrigerant with low discharge temperatures. It also operates at a low pressure level when compared to other refrigerants. Not only does this make for an overall quieter machine, but it also reduces chances of failures and extends the life of your compressor.
  • Going along with the efficiency benefit, R-600a actually requires a smaller charge to complete the same job as other refrigerants. As an example, the required charge is forty-five percent less when compared to R-134a and sixty percent less when compared to R-12.
  • Lastly, isobutane is relatively low cost when compared to the synthetic refrigerants we use today.

Cons

  • Well, you may have guessed it by now, but the biggest drawback when it comes to R-600a is it’s flammability rating. Yes, just like other hydrocarbons, flammability is the biggest factor. R-600a is rated as a ‘3’ from ASHRAE. That three signifies a ‘higher flammability,’ rating.
  • Because of this higher flammability risk with isobutane the amount of charges allowed by governments is quite limited. As an example, in the United States isobutane based systems can not have a charge greater then one-hundred and fifty grams. This was actually recently changed by the EPA. (UL standard 60335-2-24 – Source) Before that the old limit was just fifty-seven grams. This rule change applied to refrigerators and freezers as well as other approved applications we’ll get into further on into this article.
  • Again, due to it’s flammability, R-600a is not suitable for use in retrofitting existing fluorocarbon based systems such as R-22, R-134a, or R-404A. These machines were not made to handle flammable refrigerants such as R-600a.
  • Depending in the municipalities and governments on where you live you may find that hydrocarbon based systems are not allowed within certain types of buildings. These could be database centers, museums, or government buildings. This is to minimize risk of fire or explosion.
  • Lastly, technicians must be well trained in order to properly use, handle, and maintenance hydrocarbon based systems. While this may not been seen as a con, it does require extra knowledge and cost to train. This limits the amount of people who can work on these types of systems.

R-600a Points of Note

OK folks so we’ve got the facts and the pros and cons down. Now let’s take a look at some of the more intricate details of R-290.

  • Isobutane belongs to the hydrocarbon refrigerant classification and it, along with propane, are the most popular hydrocarbon refrigerants used today.
  • Isobutane is derived from butane and is created by the isomerization of butane.
  • R-600a is used for blending in a variety of other refrigerants mixes found in HCFC, HFC, and Hydrocarbon classifications. There are nearly twenty different blends with R-600a. (R-441A being one of them.)
  • As I had mentioned earlier in our ‘Pros’ section isobutane has zero Ozone Depletion Potential and a very low Global Warming Potential of three. It is one of the most climate friendly refrigerants out there today. This is one of the main reasons we are seeing a growing hydrocarbon market.
  • Because of the climate friendliness of 600a there are not venting regulations or purchase restrictions that you would normally find on other refrigerants like HFCs and HCFCs. In other words, anyone can purchase and handle R-600a without EPA Clean Air certification.
  • R-600a has an A3 safety rating from ASHRAE. The ‘A’ stands for non-toxic and the ‘3’ stands for higher flammability. This flammability rating is the biggest problem with isobutane and other hydrocarbons.
  • Isobutane is mainly used in household appliances such as refrigerators and freezers. It is also used in medical equipment, vending/ice machines, and in larger scale refrigerators and freezers such as at bakeries or gas stations.
  • R-600a is often the best choice when it comes to medium, high, and very high temperature applications. Whereas R-290 is geared towards lower temperature applications.
  • Ninety-five percent of refrigerators manufactured in Europe, China, Brazil, and Argentina use Isobutane. Even today there are more and more countries adopting R-600a for their refrigerators and freezers.
  • Isobutane is also used in non-refrigerant applications such as aerosol sprays, portable stoves that are used in camps and for geothermal power generation.
  • It is illegal to convert or retrofit existing systems over to using isobutane unless it explicitly stated in the EPA’s SNAP Program. (If outside the US then you will need to check your local regulations.)
  • Isobutane and other hydrocarbons should be handled by trained professionals due to their flammability risk.
  • Due to it’s flammable nature, systems that use isobutane have their charge amount strictly limited by governments and worldwide agencies.
    • In the United States the EPA has approved isobutane for use in certain applications but only up to one-hundred and fifty grams.
    • There are also pending global proposals to increase the standard one-hundred and fifty gram charge upwards to five-hundred grams.

R-600a EPA Approved Applications

As I was writing this article I took the time to go through the EPA’s SNAP Approved Refrigerant listing. Under each category I searched for R-600a and rather it was approved and for what charge it was approved for. (Be aware that these can change at anytime if the EPA decides to issue a new rule.) Let’s take a look:

  • Household Refrigerators & Freezers – Originally approved in December of 2011 and then revised in August of 2018. This change increased the maximum charge to one-hundred and fifty grams (source).
  • Retail Food Refrigeration – Stand Alone Equipment – Acceptable as of April of 2015. Approved applications cannot exceed charges of higher then one-hundred and fifty grams.
  • Vending Machines – Approved as of April of 2015. Approved applications cannot exceed charges of higher then one-hundred and fifty grams (source).

When going through these approved applications I was honestly surprised to see how small this list was. The list is significantly smaller then even it’s rival hydrocarbon R-290. This may be quite different if your outside of the United States.

>Also, please note that these regulations can change at any time. It is best to check the EPA’s SNAP Substitutes in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning page by clicking here to check for the most updates.

R-600A Past

The concept of refrigeration and air conditioning using refrigerants dates back over one-hundred and fifty years ago. In the very beginning stages of invention, innovation, and testing the most common refrigerants used occurred naturally within our environment. These were what’s known as natural refrigerants and within these natural refrigerants existed a subset known as hydrocarbons.

Hydrocarbons were among the very first refrigerants ever used. These included propane, isobutane, ethane, and butane. These hydrocarbons along with the natural refrigerants ammonia and carbon dioxide were the building blocks of modern refrigeration and air conditioning technology that we use today.

While these refrigerants were able to cool to the desired temperatures that we wished there were inherent problems with each one of these natural refrigerants. These ranged from the flammability problem found in hydrocarbons to the toxicity in ammonia and to the extreme operating pressures of carbon dioxide. Whatever the natural refrigerant was there was a problem associated to it.

It was in the 1930’s that the DuPont corporation formed a partnership with General Motors. The goal of this partnership was to synthesize a new type of refrigerant that would be efficient, safe, and affordable to the masses. The end result of this partnership brought into the world some of the most famous refrigerants in the world: R-11, R-12, and R-22. These new refrigerants were known under the classifications Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs).

These new refrigerants reigned supreme for nearly sixty years. The thought of hydrocarbons and natural refrigerants was just that, a thought. Nearly everyone had moved to the new and improved CFC and HCFC refrigerants. While there was still some usage of hydrocarbons they were scarce and more often then not replaced by artificial refrigerants.

It was in the 1980’s when it was discovered that when vented or leaked into the atmosphere the chlorine in these refrigerants would damage the Ozone layer. It had gotten so bad that a thinning of the layer was beginning to form in Antarctica. Scientists sounded the alarm to their governments and after some time a world wide treaty was signed to phase down and eventually phase out all CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was known as the Montreal Protocol.

To take the place of the phasing out CFC and HCFC refrigerants a new synthesized classification was introduced known as Hydroflourocarbons (HFCs). These refrigerants were very similar to their predecessors except that they did not contain chlorine, so they did not affect the Ozone layer. While there was a rise in natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons usage during this time it was still mostly eclipsed by the newer HFC refrigerants.

The reign of HFCs was much shorter lived then previous refrigerants. It was only about fifteen to twenty years before the world decided to start phasing down HFC refrigerants as well. This time instead of the Ozone it was due to the Global Warming Potential (GWP). The higher the GWP the more damage the product does to the environment and it was found that HFCs have extremely high GWPs. A new solution needed to be found.

While HFCs are still majorly used in today’s world there is a large market for alternative refrigerants such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and now natural refrigerants including hydrocarbons. The attraction of natural refrigerants is that they are just that, natural. They are environmentally neutral which is exactly what the world is looking for today. On top of that, technology has improved leaps and bounds from where it was over a hundred years ago. In today’s world natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons are much safer.

R-600A Present & Future

In the future of refrigeration and air conditioning  we will see these most common refrigerants that we use today, HFCs, become a thing of the past. Already today they are being phased down across the world. The European Union has done away with R-134a and is working towards R-404A and eventually R-410A.

The question though is what refrigerants will replace these? There is a battle going on in the industry between natural refrigerants and the newer artificial refrigerant classification known as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs). At this point I don’t know if there’s going to be a declared winner or not. It seems that as the years go by we are going to see certain parts of the world, and even certain companies, advocate and use one over the other. If it was me, and my business, I would push for natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons. We never truly know how long the HFOs will be with us. I mean just look at the history of the other artificial refrigerants out there. At least with the natural refrigerants we know they’ll be here forever as there is no risk of phase out.

While the push to use hydrocarbons is admirable there is still a large hurdle that needs to be cleared before we can begin to truly see world wide adoption. This hurdle is the various charge limits that have been suggested and implemented by different governments and agencies.

The IEC

In the early summer of 2018 the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) released a drafted proposal that outlined increasing the charge limits on hydrocarbon refrigerants, such as R-600a, from one-hundred and fifty grams upwards to five-hundred grams. The current standard known as IEC60335-2-89 is seen as the worldwide guideline for what charges to use in hydrocarbon based systems.

This proposed changes goes hand in hand with the lobbying efforts of North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC). The aim is to increase the charge limits for a variety of hydrocarbon applications to five-hundred grams. This change would allow R-600a and R-290 (Propane) to be deployed to larger systems such as supermarkets and eventually air conditioners. While this change has not yet been approved, most people expect it will be sometime in 2019.

IEC addresses the safety concerns of dealing with a larger R-600a charge in the following manners.

  1. The first precaution they give is that the system should be completely air tight… but shouldn’t this already be the case when dealing with a refrigerant cycle?
  2. The second precaution is that any construction in or around the system cannot cause excessive vibrations. If these vibrations occur damage to the pipes could happen which could cause the isobutane to leak out causing an ignition risk.
  3. The last safety precaution that they mention is that if a leak does occur that there is enough room for air to flow and for the refrigerant to dissipate.

According to IEC If these precautions are followed then there should be no safety difference between a one-hundred and fifty gram system and a five-hundred gram system.

Please note that IEC does not represent the United States of Americas. Their suggestions are just that, suggestions. It is up to individual governments and regulatory agencies to determine the exact amount of hydrocarbon charge that they are comfortable with. Here in the United States the EPA has approved R-600a for use in some applications as long as the charge does not exceed one-hundred and fifty grams.

United States

Isobutane is quickly becoming the standard refrigerant when it comes to home refrigerators and freezers. In some parts of the world it is becoming standard even in larger commercial refrigerators and freezers that you would find in restaurants or bakeries.

As usual, the United States has lagged behind on this change. We are still using HFCs like R-134a and R-404A to cool our food and drinks. Back in 2015 there were proposed rules by the EPA to begin phasing down HFCs across the US but the rule was overturned by a court’s ruling in 2017. Now, as of today in 2019, there is not yet an Environmental Protection Agency policy on phasing down HFCs. They are expected to make an announcement sometime this year on proposed new HFC rules, but so far there is nothing yet.

Some states have taken matters into their own hands and have begun phasing down HFCs. The problem with this though is that many applications that could use hydrocarbons are still deemed as unacceptable by the EPA’s SNAP program. So, it seems that these states will be forced to go through the HFO or other natural refrigerant routes such as R-717 or R-744.

Conclusion

Regardless of the various regulations, charge limits, and different agencies we can all be assured of one thing. The hydrocarbon market is growing and will continue to grow. There are just too many benefits for them not to grow and only one, albeit significant, drawback to using them.

Just know that these systems are perfectly safe as long as you follow the proper precautions, training, and procedures. Here in the United States we may still be quite a ways off from seeing widespread hydrocarbon usage the time will come where you will run into one of these systems.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

Sources

facts

Natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons, such as propane, are some of the cleanest and environmentally friendly options out there for air conditioning and refrigeration. However, over the past century America has had very little use of natural refrigerants. Instead, we have opted for synthetic refrigerants such as CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and now HFOs. While these synthetic refrigerants get the job done and provide us with that cool air we all crave they are not healthy for the environment.

As we move deeper into the twenty-first century natural refrigerants have become more and more of our everyday life. The pressure is on here in America and across the world to begin phasing down these synthetic refrigerants and replace them with more environmentally friendly natural refrigerants such as R-290 propane.

In this article we’re going to take an in-depth look at propane. We’ll look at the facts, the pros and cons, points of note, the past, present, and the future of this natural refrigerants. Let’s dive in and take a look:

R-290 Facts

Name:R-290
Name - Scientific:Propane
Name (2):HC-290
Name (3):CARE-40
Name (4)R290
Classification:Hydrocarbon Refrigerant
Chemistry:C3H8 or CH3CH2CH3
Status:Active & Growing
Future:Will Be Used All Over The World
Application:Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Vending/Ice Machines
Application (2):Refrigerated Transport, Industrial Refrigeration, and Much More
Replacement For:CFCs, HCFCs, and now HFCs
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:3.3
Global Warming Risk:Very Low
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 3 - Highly Flammable
Lubricant Required:MO, AB, POE
Boiling Point:−42.25 to −42.04 °C; −44.05 to −43.67 °F; 230.90 to 231.11 K
Critical Temperature:96.7 °C or 206.06 °F
Critical Pressure:4,248 kpa
Auto ignition Temperature:470 °C (878 °F; 743 K)
Flash Point−104 °C (−155 °F; 169 K)
Molar Mass:44.097 g·mol−1
Density:2.0098 kg/m3 (at 0 °C, 101.3 kPa)
Melting Point:−187.7 °C; −305.8 °F; 85.5 K
Vapor Pressure:853.16 kPa (at 21.1 °C (70.0 °F))
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless gas
Odor:Odorless
EPA Certification Required:No
Require Certification to Purchase?No
Cylinder Color:Unknown
Cylinder Sizes:1 lb, 20 lb, 100 lb, 200 lb, 420 lb.
Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-290 Pressure Chart

°F °C PSI KPA
-40 -40 1.4 9.7
-35 -37 3.4 23.4
-30 -34 5.7 39.3
-25 -32 8.1 55.8
-20 -29 10.7 73.8
-15 -26 13.6 93.8
-10 -23 16.7 115.1
-5 -21 20.1 138.6
0 -18 23.7 163.4
5 -15 27.6 190.3
10 -12 31.8 219.3
15 -9 36.3 250.3
20 -7 41.1 283.4
25 -4 46.3 319.2
30 -1 51.8 357.15
35 2 57.7 397.8
40 4 63.9 440.6
45 7 70.6 486.8
50 10 77.6 535
55 13 85.1 586.7
60 16 93 641.2
65 18 101.4 699.1
70 21 110.2 759.8
75 24 119.5 823.9
80 27 129.3 891.5
85 29 139.7 963.2
90 32 150.5 1037.7
95 35 161.9 1116.3
100 38 173.9 1198.9
105 41 186.5 1285.8
110 43 199.6 1376.2
115 46 213.4 1471.3
120 49 227.8 1570.6
125 52 242.9 1674.7
130 54 258.7 1783.7
135 57 275.1 1896.7
140 60 292.3 2015.3
145 63 310.2 2138.7
150 66 328.9 2267.7
155 68 348.4 2402.1
160 71 368.7 2542.1

R-290 Pros and Cons

Just like with any other refrigerant there are always going to be pros and cons. I’ve said it countless times before, but there are no perfect refrigerants out there. Regardless of what you look at you will always have a downside. As an example of this I like to use Ammonia R-717.

Ammonia is deemed as one of the absolute best refrigerants due to it’s energy efficiency. This is why you see ammonia applications in systems that require very large charges such as meat packing plants. These systems demand a lot of energy and by having the most efficient refrigerant out there these companies can save a lot of money. The downside of ammonia based systems is it’s safety rating. Ammonia is rated as slightly flammable and is rated as toxic if exposed in large enough quantities. It is this reason alone that ammonia has seen very limited use in more residential and commercial applications.

Ok, so now that we have that in mind let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons that come with R-290 propane refrigerant.

Pros

  • The largest attraction when it comes to using R-290 is it’s effect on the climate. Synthetic refrigerants such as CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs all damage the environment. Some damage through Ozone depletion and others through Global Warming. Either way, they are harmful. Propane has zero Ozone depletion potential and has a Global Warming Potential of just three. In contrast, one of the most popular HFC refrigerants today, R-404A, has a GWP of nearly four-thousand. These facts alone are why the world is pushing for more and more R-290 applications.
  • R-290 has excellent thermodynamic performance, it is energy efficient, and it is very reliable.
  • Propane is very affordable and has ample supply especially when compared to some of the more expensive refrigerants out there like R-22.

Cons

  • The biggest drawback with propane, and with many other hydrocarbons, is flammability. Yes, I know most of you could have guessed that already since we’re dealing with propane. The substance can be quite flammable when put under the right conditions. This is why it is rated as an A3 refrigerant from ASHRAE. The A standing for non-toxic and the 3 standing for ‘higher flammability.’
  • Because of this higher flammability risk with propane the amount of charges allowed by governments is quite limited. As an example, in the United States propane based systems can not have a charge greater then one-hundred and fifty grams. This was actually recently changed by the EPA. (UL standard 60335-2-24 – Source) Before that the old limit was just fifty-seven grams. This rule change applied to refrigerators and freezers as well as other approved applications we’ll get into further on into this article.
  • Again, due to it’s flammability, R-290 is not suitable for use in retrofitting existing fluorocarbon based systems such as R-22, R-410A, or R-404A. These machines were not made to handle flammable refrigerants such as R-290.

R-290 Points of Note

Ok folks so we’ve got the facts and the pros and cons down. Now let’s take a look at some of the more intricate details of R-290.

  • Propane belongs to the hydrocarbon refrigerant classification and it, along with Isobutane, are the most popular hydrocarbon refrigerants used today.
  • I mentioned this briefly already but the biggest selling point of R-290 is how environmentally friendly it is. Propane has zero Ozone depletion potential and has a Global Warming Potential of only three. That blows out even some of the newer HFO refrigerants.
  • R-290 has a variety of applications that it can be used in including commercial refrigeration, vending machines, ice machines, industrial refrigeration, residential and commercial air conditioning, industrial chillers and much more.
  • Again, I mentioned this already in our cons section, but propane is highly flammable and is rated as such through the ASHRAE safety guidelines. This means that you need to be extra careful when working with it and observe all of the proper safety procedures.
  • Due to the phasing down of HFCs across the world the demand for hydrocarbon refrigerants like propane have gone up exponentially. Along with that demand has come innovation as we are seeing newer and better ways to use R-290 in various systems.
  • Due to it’s flammable nature, systems that use propane have their charge amount strictly limited by governments and worldwide agencies.
    • In the United States the EPA has approved propane for use in certain applications but only up to one-hundred and fifty grams.
    • There are also pending global proposals to increase the standard one-hundred and fifty gram charge upwards to five-hundred grams.

R-290 EPA Approved Applications

As I was writing this article I took the time to go through the EPA’s SNAP Approved Refrigerant listing. Under each category I searched for R-290 and rather it was approved and for what charge it was approved for. (Be aware that these can change at anytime if the EPA decides to issue a new rule.) Let’s take a look:

  • Refrigerators & Freezers – The EPA approved isobutane in 2012 and propane in 2015. Then, in 2018 a change was made that allowed the maximum charge to move up from fifty-seven grams up to one-hundred and fifty grams.
  • Ice Machines – These were approved for use on December 1st, 2016 and have charges eligible up to one-hundred and fifty grams. (Rule 81 FR 22827 – Source )
  • Industrial Process Refrigeration – Approved in March of 1994 and then changed to June of 2010.
  • Vending Machines – Acceptable as of April of 2015 with a charge limit of one-hundred and fifty grams.
  • Water Coolers – Acceptable as of December 2016 with a charge limit of one-hundred and fifty grams.
  • Retail Food Refrigeration/Freezer – Stand alone equipment acceptable as of December 2011. Maximum charge of fifty-seven grams. ( I searched through out EPA’s rules but I did not see a change to one-hundred and fifty grams for this application.)
  • Very Low Temperature Refrigeration – Acceptable as of December of 2016 with a charge limit of one-hundred and fifty grams.
  • Residential Light & Commercial Air Conditioners – Approved in August of 2015 with a charge limit of one-hundred and fifty grams. Heat pumps are included in this as well.

While they do mention air conditioners as approved please pay close attention to that charge limit. One-hundred and fifty grams equates out to 0.33 pounds. Now, what air conditioner do you know of that only takes 0.33 pounds of refrigerant? MAYBE a five-thousand BTU system, but even then I feel like that might not be enough. So, while we’re approved for air conditioners I think we’re still a long ways off before we even begin seeing R-290 in window or portable systems.

Also, please note that these regulations can change at any time. It is best to check the EPA’s SNAP Substitutes in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning page by clicking here to check for the most updates.

Homeowners, Air Conditioners, & R-290

When R-22’s prices were hitting all time highs in the summer of 2017 there was a big push for R-22 alternatives from shady manufacturers. Now, I’m not saying that all R-22 alternatives are shady. There are in fact quite a few very well designed ones such as Chemours’ MO99 and Bluon’s TDX-20. But, there are also companies out there who marketed R-290 as an R-22 alternative. They called it ‘R-22a.’ In some cases it was straight propane and in others it was a blend of various refrigerants including R-290.

Not only is R-290 illegal in the US for home air conditioners it is also quite dangerous as these R-22 systems are not outfitted to handle flammable refrigerant. This can lead to safety hazards for the homeowner when ‘retrofitting,’ their system to R-290.  Along with that if something does go wrong with their air conditioning system down the road and the homeowner does not know how to repair they will  end up calling an HVAC technician. If the homeowner does not inform the technician that they switched their system over to R-290, or the homeowner did not update the stickers on the outside of the unit, then disastrous consequence can happen. In a tragic example out of Australia two technicians were killed when working on what they thought was an R-22 system. It had been switched over to R-290, a leak occurred, and the techs were smoking cigarettes in an enclosed room. (Story can be found here.) Recipe for disaster.

A few years back in 2016 a company out of my home state, Kansas, was fined one-hundred thousand dollars for marketing and selling unapproved alternative refrigerants. They had alternatives for R-12, R-22, and R-502 labeled as HC-12a, HC-22a, and HC-502a. You can read more about this story by clicking here.

While these poorly done retrofits may not be as much of a problem as they were a few years ago it is best to keep your eyes open when servicing older R-22 systems. You never know what could have been done before you either by the homeowner or a previous technician.

R-290 History

The concept of refrigeration and air conditioning using refrigerants dates back over one-hundred and fifty years ago. In the very beginning stages of invention, innovation, and testing the most common refrigerants used occurred naturally within our environment. These were what’s known as natural refrigerants and within these natural refrigerants existed a subset known as hydrocarbons.

Hydrocarbons were among the very first refrigerants ever used. These included propane, isobutane, ethane, and butane. These hydrocarbons along with the natural refrigerants ammonia and carbon dioxide were the building blocks of modern refrigeration and air conditioning technology that we use today.

While these refrigerants were able to cool to the desired temperatures that we wished there were inherent problems with each one of these natural refrigerants. These ranged from the flammability problem found in hydrocarbons to the toxicity in ammonia and to the extreme operating pressures of carbon dioxide. Whatever the natural refrigerant was there was a problem associated to it.

It was in the 1930’s that the DuPont corporation formed a partnership with General Motors. The goal of this partnership was to synthesize a new type of refrigerant that would be efficient, safe, and affordable to the masses. The end result of this partnership brought into the world some of the most famous refrigerants in the world: R-11, R-12, and R-22. These new refrigerants were known under the classifications Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochloroflurocarbons (HCFCs).

These new refrigerants reigned supreme for nearly sixty years. The thought of hydrocarbons and natural refrigerants was just that, a thought. Nearly everyone had moved to the new and improved CFC and HCFC refrigerants. While there was still some usage of hydrocarbons they were scarce and more often then not replaced by artificial refrigerants.

It was in the 1980’s when it was discovered that when vented or leaked into the atmosphere the chlorine in these refrigerants would damage the Ozone layer. It had gotten so bad that a thinning of the layer was beginning to form in Antarctica. Scientists sounded the alarm to their governments and after some time a world wide treaty was signed to phase down and eventually phase out all CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was known as the Montreal Protocol.

To take the place of the phasing out CFC and HCFC refrigerants a new synthesized classification was introduced known as Hydroflourocarbons (HFCs). These refrigerants were very similar to their predecessors except that they did not contain chlorine, so they did not affect the Ozone layer. While there was a rise in natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons usage during this time it was still mostly eclipsed by the newer HFC refrigerants.

The reign of HFCs was much shorter lived then previous refrigerants. It was only about fifteen to twenty years before the world decided to start phasing down HFC refrigerants as well. This time instead of the Ozone it was due to the Global Warming Potential (GWP). The higher the GWP the more damage the product does to the environment and it was found that HFCs have extremely high GWPs. A new solution needed to be found.

While HFCs are still majorly used in today’s world there is a large market for alternative refrigerants such as hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) and now natural refrigerants including hydrocarbons. The attraction of natural refrigerants is that they are just that, natural. They are environmentally neutral which is exactly what the world is looking for today. On top of that, technology has improved leaps and bounds from where it was over a hundred years ago. In today’s world natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons are much safer.

R-290 Present & Future

Over the past few years there has been a big push to use more and more hydrocarbon refrigerants such as propane and isobutane. One of the biggest hurdles though in using these refrigerants is the various charge limits that have been suggested and implemented by different governments and agencies.

In the early summer of 2018 the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) released a drafted proposal that outlined increasing the charge limits on hydrocarbon refrigerants, such as R-2190, from one-hundred and fifty grams upwards to five-hundred grams. The current standard known as IEC60335-2-89 is seen as the worldwide guideline for what charges to use in hydrocarbon based systems.

This proposed changes goes hand in hand with the lobbying efforts of Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC). The aim is to increase the charge limits for a variety of hydrocarbon applications to five-hundred grams. This change would allow R-290 and R-600a (Isobutane) to be deployed to larger systems such as supermarkets and eventually air conditioners. While this change has not yet been approved, most people expect it will be sometime in 2019.

IEC addresses the safety concerns of dealing with a larger R-290 charge in the following manners. The first precaution they give is that the system should be completely air tight… but shouldn’t this already be the case when dealing with a refrigerant cycle? The second precaution is that any construction in or around the system cannot cause excessive vibrations. If these vibrations occur damage to the pipes could happen which could cause the propane to leak out causing an ignition risk. The last safety precaution that they mention is that if a leak does occur that there is enough room for air to flow and for the refrigerant to dissipate. According to IEC If these precautions are followed then there should be no safety difference between a one-hundred and fifty gram system and a five-hundred gram system.

Please note that IEC does not represent the United States of Americas. Their suggestions are just that, suggestions. It is up to individual governments and regulatory agencies to determine the exact amount of hydrocarbon charge that they are comfortable with. Here in the United States the EPA has approved R-290 for use in various applications as long as the charge does not exceed one-hundred and fifty grams.

New Systems

Regardless of charge limits there are innovations being done every year on R-290 systems. Some of the most recent that I have seen are the stand alone R-290 supermarket systems. These units are just that, stand alone. They are NOT cooled by a control room or centralized unit. Instead, the charge is kept in the unit itself and the freezer/refrigerator can be moved as needed. It also eliminates risk to business owners as if there is a problem with their system it does not bring down the whole row of refrigerators but just one small section.

Something I just read about the other day was that the European Union is working on a double ducted air conditioner that would be designed to replace R-410A systems. This system would use, you guessed it, propane. The proposed system would not be split so there would be no need for refrigerant piping going between parts. This alone would reduce the risk of leakage and make installation much easier. The project is still very much in it’s infancy but it is exciting to see the types of innovations that are being done. For more information on this story please click here.

Conclusion

The number of R-290 applications are rising exponentially with each passing year. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world. If you maintenance other equipment besides your standard home/commercial air conditioners then you will run into a propane system. It will only be a matter of time when we begin to see propane home air conditioners as well just as I mentioned above.

Don’t let the flammability risk scare you away though. Remember, at least in America, the charges on these systems are quite small and as long as you take the proper precautions and follow standard safety practices then you will be fine. Even if the whole world goes for the five-hundred gram charge we’re still only looking at just over a pound of propane for a charge.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Owner

Sources

 

facts

R-125 is one of the most common refrigerants across the world yet so many people have never heard of it. While it is rare to find a direct R-125 refrigerant application, it is very common to find some of the blended refrigerants that R-125 contributes to.

The ever popular R-410A and R-404A are blended HFC refrigerants and one of the ingredients in both of these blends is R-125. Along with these there are a variety of other refrigerants comprised of R-125. So, while you may not actually see R-125 in a direct use application you will see it’s blended version of 410A, 404A, and other refrigerants in nearly every modern application.

In this article we’re going to take a deep dive on this refrigerant looking at the facts, points of note, the past, present, and what we can expect in the future for R-125.

The Facts

Name:R-125
Name - Scientific:Pentafluoroethane
Name (2):Freon™ 125
Name (3):HFC-125
Name (4)Genetron HFC 125
Name (5)Khladon 125
Name (6)Suva 125
Name (7)FC-125
Classification:HFC Refrigerant
Chemistry:C2HF5
Status:Phasing Down Across The World
Future:Will Most Likely Be Phased Out in 10-20 Years
Application:Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Vending/Ice Machines
Application (2):Refrigerated Transport, Industrial Refrigeration, and Much More
Replacement For:Mainly R-22 and R-502 Through Blends
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:3,500
Global Warming Risk:VERY HIGH
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Lubricant Required:Synthetic Oil - Polyol Ester Oil or POE
Boiling Point:-48.5°C (-55.4°F)
Critical Temperature:66.18°C (151.124°F)
Critical Pressure:3,629 kpa
Auto ignition Temperature:Unknown
Molar Mass:120.02 g/mol
Density:1.53 g/cm3 (liquid at -48.5 °C)[1]
Melting Point:−103.0 °C (−153.4 °F; 170.2 K)
Vapor Pressure:1414.05 kPa (at 25 °C)
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:Faint Ethereal Odor
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Packaging:Bought in Bulk for Mixing - Cylinders are Rare
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-125 Pros & Cons

As we all know there are no perfect refrigerants out there. Across all of the various refrigerant classifications and types there are always going to be pros and cons. Look at ammonia (R-717) for example. It is widely accepted as one of the best refrigerants out there, but it has a safety rating of B2L. That rating means that ammonia is not only slightly flammable but is also toxic. So, while you have an amazingly efficient refrigerant you also have a extraordinary safety concern when using ammonia.

When determining a refrigerant to use there are a variety of factors that are considered. These can be efficiency, safety flammability/toxicity, climate Ozone/Global Warming Potential, and operating pressures. Whatever refrigerant  that checks the most boxes will usually end up on top.

With those factors in mind let’s look at the pros and cons of R-125:

Pros

  • The big reason R-125 took off in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was due to it NOT having any Ozone Depletion Potential. Remember folks, that the R-125 blends replaced the Ozone damaging HCFC and CFC refrigerants such as R-22 and R-502.
  • R-125 is very versatile and it can be found in nearly twenty different blends including R-410A, R-404A, and R-407C. Even today engineers are trying new blends of R-125.
  • The other big Pro with R-125 is it’s safety rating. It is rated as an A1 from ASHRAE. The A1 rating signifies that R-125 is not toxic and is not flammable. Please note though, that while R-125 is non-toxic if enough vapor is leaked into an enclosed area it can displace oxygen which can eventually lead to asphyxiation.

Cons

  • The only con that I know for R-125 is a big one. In the last decade or so there has been a lot of focus on Greenhouse Gases and the overall Global Warming Potential (GWP) of those gases. R-125 is a Greenhouse Gas and has a GWP of thirty-five hundred. It is known as a ‘Super-Pollutant.’ R-125 has one of the higher GWPs of any modern refrigerant. For a comparison the HFC R-32 refrigerant has a GWP of only six-hundred and seventy-five.

Notes on R-125

Alright folks so we’ve got the pros and cons out of the way now let’s take a look at some points of note on R-125.

R-125 came about in the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s when the world was looking for replacements to the popular CFC and HCFC refrigerants R-502 and R-22. These previous refrigerants were found to be harming the Ozone layer and were phased out by the Montreal Protocol. R-125 was safe, it was cheap, and it was efficient. R-125, and it’s many blends, were the solution to the phasing out of CFCs and HCFCs.

As I had mentioned before, R-125 is the building block of many refrigerants that we see and use throughout the world today. We’ve mentioned some of the more popular blends like 410A and 404A but now let’s take a look at all of the other blends that are out there:

  • R-402A HCFC R-125/290/22 (60±2/2±1/38±2)
  • R-402B HCFC R-125/290/22 (38±2/2±1/60±2)
  • R-408A HCFC R-125/143a/22 (7±2/46±1/47±2)
  • R-417A HFC R-125/134a/600 (46.6±1.1/50±1/3.4+.1,–.4)
  • R-417B HFC R-125/134a/600 (79±1/18.3±1/2.7+.1,–.5)
  • R-419A HFC R-125/134a/E170 (77±1/19±1/4±1)
  • R-421A HFC R-125/134a (58±1/42±1)
  • R-421B HFC R-125/134a (85±1/15±1)
  • R-422A HFC R-125/134a/600a (85.1±1/11.5±1/3.4+.1,–.4)
  • R-422B HFC R-125/134a/600a (55±1/42±1/3+.1,–.5)
  • R-422C HFC R-125/134a/600a (82±1/15±1/3+.1,–.5)
  • R-422D HFC R-125/134a/600a (65.1+.9,–1.1/31.5±1/3.4+.1,–.4)
  • R-424A HFC R-125/134a/600a/600/601a (50.5±1/47±1/.9+.1,–.2/1+.1,+.2/.6+.1,–.2)
  • R-426A HFC R-125/134a/600/601a (5.1±1/93±1/1.3+.1,–.2/.6+.1,–.2)
  • R-428A HFC R-125/143a/290/600a (77.5±1/20±1/.6+.1,–.2/1.9+.1,–.2)
  • R-434A HFC R-125/143a/134a/600a (63.2±1/18±1/16±1/2.8+.1,–.2)
  • R-437A HFC R-125/134a/600/601 (19.5+.5,–1.8/78.5+1.5,–.7/1.4+.1,–.2/.6+.1,–.2)
  • R-507[A] HFC R-125/143a (50/50)
  • R-404A HFC R-125/143a/134a (44±2/52±1/4±2)
  • R-410A HFC R-32/125 (50+.5,–1.5/50+1.5,–.5)

As you can see from the listing above there are a variety of blends and applications that can be used within these blends. R-125 is by far one of the most versatile refrigerants out there today. This is why this refrigerant can be found in nearly every home and building that utilizes air conditioning or refrigeration.Along with being used as a refrigerant R-125 is also used in fire suppression systems. This is mainly used when water is not advised as fire extinguisher option. This could be in laboratories with expensive equipment, in museums, or banks.

There was a worldwide shortage of R-125 during the summer of 2017. The majority of R-125 is sourced from China and something happened over the spring and summer of 2017 that caused the shortage to ripple across the marketplace. The most common explanation that I found was that the chemical Flurospar experienced a forty percent price increase towards the beginning of 2017. (Flurospar is a main ingredient in the R-125 refrigerant.) This price increase caused a direct effect on the price of R-125 raising it by one-hundred and thirty percent. The price increase on Flurospar was blamed on China’s strengthening of environmental laws that directly affect the mining industry. Depending on where you were in the world when this shortage hit you could have seen your prices raise by forty or fifty percent on 125 blends. In some cases though, especially over in the European Union, prices shot up hundreds of percents.

While R-125 doesn’t deplete the Ozone it does have an extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP). The GWP’s zeroing scale is Carbon Dioxide (R-744). Carbon Dioxide has a GWP of one whereas R-125 has a GWP of thirty-five hundred. Obviously, the higher the GWP number the more damage the refrigerant does to the environment.

It is due to high GWP number that we are beginning to see various R-125 blends being phased down and in some cases completely phased out. While most countries and municipalities have focused on R-404A it is only a matter of time before everyone sets their sights on R-410A.

R-125 Past, Present, & Future

I won’t get into all of the details here, instead I will give a brief overview of what happened, where we are today, and what will be happening in the future. Firstly, let’s look at the rise of CFCs and HCFCs. These refrigerants rose to prominence in the 1950’s and 60’s. They were safe, cheap, and efficient. It was in the 1980’s that it was discovered that these refrigerants were also harming the Ozone layer. To put a stop to this the world introduced the Montreal Protocol. This signed treaty aimed at phasing out Ozone damaging refrigerants as well as other chemicals.

With the CFCs and HCFCs refrigerants going away an alternative, non Ozone depleting, refrigerant was needed. This is where the HFCs came into play. In the mid 1990’s R-12 was phased out and replaced with the HFC R-134a. A few years later is when we began to see the blended refrigerants (Made of R-125) start to replace R-22 and R-502 applications.

Ever since then HFCs and R-125 have been the standard bearer for a variety of applications including home and commercial air conditioners, supermarket refrigerators/freezers, vending machines, ice machines, refrigerated transport, and so much more.

While the Ozone was fixed the new HFC refrigerants were found to have a large effect on Global Warming due to their high Global Warming Potential (GWP). The higher the GWP the more damage the refrigerant did to the atmosphere. Pressure began to mount in Europe, Asia, and in America to slow the use of HFCs and to begin looking for alternatives.

In the European Union there are regulations in place already that are phasing down and eventually completely out HFC refrigerants such as R-134a, R-404A, and eventually R-410A. While here in America there isn’t an exact plan on when HFCs will be phased down. At one time there was through the Environmental Protection Agency, but their proposed rules were overturned by a Federal Court. There is hope though. A select few states have begun moving forward with their own HFC phase down regulations. Some of these states include California, New York, and Washington.

It doesn’t matter if we have a federally backed phase down program through the EPA or if we have a patchwork of policies and regulations that vary state to state. Whatever happens we can be assured that HFCs will be a thing of the past very soon.

Conclusion

While R-125 may be in nearly every household and commercial building it’s future is anything but bright. With each passing year more and more pressure is put on the use of R-125 and it’s blends. The Global Warming Potential is just too high, especially when there are alternative refrigerants coming out every year.

We may be stuck with R-125 for another decade or so but it’s time is limited and the countdown has begun. R-404A is the first target and then once that has been phased down the world will set it’s sights on R-410A.

For now, in 2019, we will stay the course of R-125 usage.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

facts

Today the HFC R-404A is one of the most commonly used refrigerants in the United States and in the world. You can find it most commercial refrigerators/freezers, in vending and ice machines, in refrigerated transport, and in specific industrial applications.

404A was originally implemented as a replacement option for the now banned CFC R-502. R-502 was widely used throughout all of the applications we mentioned above until 1995/1996 when it was phased out entirely due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP). While 404A has been around for decades it’s future may be short lived due to it’s high Global Warming Potential (GWP).

In this post we are going to take an in-depth look at R-404A. In our first section we’ll cover all of the facts, then the pros/cons, points of note, and the history of R-404A.

The Facts

Name:R-404A
Name - Scientific:Blend of R-125, R-143a, & R-134a
Name (2):404A
Name (3):HFC-404A
Classification:HFC Refrigerant - Blend
Chemistry:Pesudo-Azeotropic Blend
Chemistry (2):R-125 Pentafluroethane (44%)
Chemistry (3):R-143a 1,1,1-Trifluoroethane (52%)
Chemistry (4):R-134a 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane (4%)
R-125 Chemistry:44±2% C2HF5
R-1143a Chemistry:52±1% C2H3F3
R-134a Chemistry:4±2% C2H2F4
Status:Phasing Down Across The World
Future:Will Be Phased Out in 10 Years
Application:Low to Medium Temperature Systems
Application (2):Supermarkets, Gas Stations, Vending/Ice Machines
Application (3):Refrigerated Transport & Industrial Refrigeration
Replacement For:CFC R-502, R-12, & R-22
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:3,922
Global Warming Risk:VERY HIGH
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Lubricant Required:Synthetic Oil - Polyol Ester Oil or POE
Boiling Point:-46.6° Celsius or -51.88° Fahrenheit
Temperature Glide:0.8
Critical Temperature:72.14° Celsius or 161.852° Fahrenheit
Critical Pressure:3.735 MPA or 541.716 PSI
Auto ignition Temperature:Not Determiend
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:Faint Ethereal Odor
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Cylinder Color:Orange
Cylinder Design:
R-404A 24 pound jug cylinder
R-404A 24 pound jug cylinder
Cylinder Design (2):Twenty-four pound cylinder
Price Point:Medium - $70-$160 a cylinder.
Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?Click Here to Purchase Cylinders
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-404A Pressure Chart

Knowing the pressure and the temperatures associated to the machine you are working on is essential to being able to diagnose any possible issues. Without knowing the temperatures you are more or less walking blind. These pressure checks give you the facts so that you can move onto the next step of your diagnosis. Instead of pasting a large table of information here I will instead direct you to our specific R-404A refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.

R-404A Pros & Cons

Regardless of what refrigerant you are looking at they all have their own pros and cons. There is no perfect refrigerant. There may never be. Ammonia for example is deemed one of the best refrigerants in the world… but it’s extremely toxic and can be deadly in high amounts.

R-404A has it’s own pros and cons. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Pros:

  • R-404A provided an immediate replacement product for both R-12, R-22 and R-502. This allowed the world to stop using Ozone depleting refrigerants. R-404A operated at comparable physical and thermodynamic properties that R-502 did which made transitioning to new systems or retrofitting older systems a much easier task.
  • 404A is rated as an A1 from ASHRAE. That means that it is non-toxic and non-flammable. While this may not seem like a big deal for HFC refrigerants, this rating is becoming more and more important when it comes to looking for a more environmentally friendly replacement refrigerant.

Cons:

  • The biggest con with R-404A is it’s extremely high Global Warming Potential (GWP). It’s GWP rating is three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty. This number makes it one of the absolute highest GWP refrigerant that is widely used in the world today.
  • In some applications 404A is not the most efficient. There are other refrigerants that can save five to ten percent efficiency. (R-134a for example.) The lost efficiency with 404A can translate into more energy and more money spent when compared to other refrigerants. Refer to our ‘R-404A Potential Replacements’ section for some of these more efficient refrigerants.

Notes on R-404A

Just like with our other facts sheets I’d like to take some time in this section and go over some facts and other points of note on R-404A refrigerants:

  • R-404A began seeing usage in 1996 after the phase out of CFC R-502 due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential.
  • R-404A is a ternary refrigerant blend consisting of the HFC R-125 (forty-four percent), HFC R-143a (fifty-two percent), and HFC R-134a (four percent).
  • R-404A is used across a variety of low and medium temperature applications including super market freezers/refrigerators, vending machines, ice machines, refrigerated transport, and industrial refrigerant systems.
  • Starting in 1996, 404A was the primary refrigerant for the above mentioned applications for over twenty years.
  • R-404A is non toxic and non flammable and has an A1 rating from ASHRAE. Note that if 404A is pressurized after being mixed with air the chance of flammability increases. You should never mix 404A with air under.
  • R-404A is heavier then air and will displace oxygen in a room if a large enough quantity is leaked. This can be said for various types of refrigerants though and is not unique to 404A.
  • When charging systems with R-404A the refrigerant must be in a liquid state. If done in a gaseous state you risk damaging the entire system.
  • In some cases R-404A can replace R-22 systems when the proper retrofitting is done, but this may not make sense in the long run due to my next point.
  • R-404A is being phased down and in some cases completely phased out due to it’s high Global Warming Potential and it’s detrimental effect on the climate.
  • In many cases R-404A is the first HFC refrigerant targeted for phasing down HFCs due to it’s extremely high GWP of nearly four-thousand.
  • Some refrigerant manufacturers and distributors have already announced they will no longer be making or selling R-404A.
  • Europe will input a ban on any new stationary 404A systems in the year 2020. (Along with any other refrigerants that have a GWP higher then twenty-five hundred.) 
  • Along with the ban on new systems the European Union has also issued import and production limits on R-404A.
  • Due to these production/import limits Europe has seen crazy prices come on R-404A. At some points in the past few years it rose over seven-hundred percent in one season.
  • Prices in the United States have remained relatively stable the past year or so, but in 2017 there was a large increase due to a shortage of flurospar in China.

R-404A Possible Replacements

In the initial switch from CFC/HCFCs over to HFCs in the 1990’s there was a rush to find a quick and fast alternative refrigerant. Before HFCs a lot of supermarkets were using both R-12 and R-502 for their systems. (R-12 was used for the refrigerators and R-502 was used for freezers.)

At the time the world switched over to R-404A there was little other choice and most business owners and contractors consolidated their refrigerators and freezers over to one refrigerant to simplify things. That is why you see 404A nearly everywhere in these types of applications.

When we do completely phase out R-404A it will not be like it was in the 1990’s again. No folks, this time we are going to go about it smarter. (This is me being optimistic.) Instead of superseding every machines and application to a new specified refrigerant we will be looking at each application specifically an determining the best refrigerant for it’s needs. This is why we’ll see R-290 propane used in some 404A applications and an HFO refrigerant used in a different 404A application. When it’s all said and done we should see a diversified refrigerant market in place of the standard 404A that we see today.

At this time it’s impossible to list every 404A alternative or option out there. Things are always changing and evolving. The ‘perfect’ replacement may be discovered one month from now.

All that being said, let’s take a look at some of the possible R-404A replacements listed below. Just keep in mind that none of these are a ‘fix all’ solution. These refrigerants range from natural refrigerants, to HFOs, and the occasional HFC.

  • R-448A
  • R-449B
  • R-449A
  • R-448A
  • R-452A
  • R-455A
  • R-407A
  • R-407F
  • R-442A
  • R-290
  • R-744

R-404A History

The Past

To understand the history of R-404 we first have to travel back to the 1960’s. It was then that the CFC refrigerant R-502 was invented. R-502 was a blended refrigerant using HCFCs and CFCs. It was comprised of of R-22 (48.8%) and R-115 (51.2%). This new refrigerant R-502 offered a lower discharge temperature and improved capacity when compared to R-22.

Once invented R-502’s usage exploded across low and medium temperature applications. Over the next thirty years R-502 was the dominant refrigerant for a variety of applications including super market refrigerators/freezers, industrial refrigeration, vending machines, and in refrigerated transport.

For thirty-five years R-502 reigned supreme, but like all good things it had to come to an end. In 1995 and 1996 R-502 was phased out for all new machines. 502 was just another one of the many CFC and HCFC refrigerants that have been phased out over the past twenty to thirty years.

These refrigerants were phased out due to the chlorine that they contained. When the refrigerant was vented or leaked it would move into the atmosphere where the chlorine would damage the Ozone Layer. While there wasn’t an official ‘hole’ in the Ozone there was a thinning of the layer above Antarctica. The Ozone layer protects us from radiation and a thinning of said layer can result in a whole host of problems including various cancers.

Scientists noticed this thinning in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Once the seriousness of the problem was revealed world leaders got together in Montreal and signed a treaty that most all of us know by now, The Montreal Protocol. This treaty aimed at phasing down and eventually completely out Ozone damaging chemicals. This included insulation, pesticides, refrigerants, and many other applications.

When R-502’s turn for phase down came in 1995 a new alternative refrigerant needed to be chosen. At this time the world turned towards HFC refrigerants. One of the very first phase outs was R-12 for automotive applications. It’s replacement was the HFC R-134a. It was a logical move to use R-404A as R-502’s replacement as 404A was an HFC and it partly blended from R-134a.

Once R-404A was implemented in the 1990’s it was the standard bearer for the next thirty years. But now, just like R-502, it’s time has come.

Present Day

Today, as I write this article in 2019, R-404A is being phased down and in some cases completely out across the world. The European Union has import and production limits set on R-404A and have plans to completely phase it out over the next few years.

This time though folks the phase out has nothing to do with the Ozone Layer. This time it has to deal what’s known as Global Warming Potential (GWP). GWP is a measurement of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps within the atmosphere. The higher the number the worse the product is for the environment. Like with every scale there has to be a zeroing measurement. In this case it is Carbon Dioxide (R-744). The GWP on R-744 is one. The GWP on R-404A is nearly four-thousand.

That number alone is why the world is pushing to get rid of R-404A as fast we can. Out of all of the HFCs R-404A is one of the absolute highest when it comes to GWP. While the European Union has already begun taking steps of a complete phase out the United States is quite a bit behind.

Originally, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a rule in 2015. This new rule was under the EPA’s SNAP and was titled, ‘Rule 20.’ This new rule aimed at phasing down HFCs across the country. They did this by deeming certain refrigerants would no longer be acceptable in specific applications. As an example, one of the stipulations was that R-134a would no longer be acceptable in 2021 model year vehicles. R-404A, along with R-134a, was one of the prime targets in these new regulations.

Over the next few years the industry moved on expecting these changes laid out in Rule 20 to take effect. It was in the summer of 2017 that a surprise ruling by a federal judge overturned all of the EPA’s SNAP Rule 20. The judge ruled in favor of Mexichem and Arkema (Two refrigerant manufacturers). While other companies, such as Chemours and Honeywell, appealed the ruling they eventually got nowhere and the judge’s ruling stood. It went as far as going to the Supreme Court but the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

Now, as of 2019, there is no set phase down schedule of R-404A or other HFC refrigerants. The only bright spot is what’s known as the ‘United States Climate Alliance.’ This alliance formed after Trump pulled the US out of the Paris Climate Accord. Their goal is to have a gathering of states that will enforce their own climate policy.

Future

Regardless of the politics across the United States and the world we can all be assured of one thing: R-404A is going away. When exactly it goes away is a different story though. Within the United States I predict us having a patchwork of different laws and regulations across the various states. While this is disorganized and confusing it does have some positive effects as well.

With the lack of a central federal policy on HFCs we have states taking matters into their own hands. If enough states get on board with these HFC phase down changes then air conditioning and refrigerator manufacturers will eventually throw in the towel on HFCs and began transitioning over to lesser GWP refrigerants. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to make a system that could only be sold in half of the country. Instead these companies will start manufacturing based on the states that have HFC phase down policies. This will allow them to still sell into all fifty states and prevent them from doing double work.

As we mentioned in our potential replacements section, there is not yet a perfect R-404A replacement option. Instead, we are having a variety of refrigerants show up as replacements for specific R-404A applications. As an example, instead of 404A in vending machines we will start using propane or isobutane. But, these refrigerants will not work for refrigerated transport or in larger charged systems.

Among these alternatives to 404A a war is brewing between natural refrigerants and HFO refrigerants. While HFOs have significantly lower GWP then HFC refrigerants they are still not perfect and still do have a GWP that is higher then the neutral carbon dioxide point. It is this reason why groups are pushing to skip HFOs and go with natural refrigerants entirely. At this time there is no saying what refrigerant will win the ‘war,’ but the predicted outcome I see is a good mix between the two. We’ll see all of the smaller to medium charged systems start using natural refrigerants and the larger systems still using fluorinated refrigerants such as HFCs and HFOs.

There may come a time in the not too distant future that a ‘perfect’ 404A alternative is discovered. But, for now, we are all stuck with our patchwork of alternative refrigerants. If you haven’t run into some of these already it’ll only be a matter of time.

Conclusion

Well folks, that about covers it for R-404A. I tried to cover absolutely everything that I could when it came to this refrigerant. If you find that I missed something or that if something is inaccurate please reach out to me and let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

facts

As most of you know we here at RefrigerantHQ are taking the time to put together what’s known as our fact and information sheets on each specific refrigerant that is out there. So far we have touched on quite a few HFC and even HFO refrigerants. But are good friends from days past, CFCs, have been neglected. I would be amiss if we forgot one of the most influential refrigerants out there, R-12. There may be some debate to this statement, but I believe that R-12 was and is the mother of all refrigerants. It was the foundation refrigerant and gave us the building blocks to other refrigerants that we see used every day around us.

But, what is R-12? What is the history behind this influential refrigerant? What is the significance of the Freon brand name? In this article we will answer these questions and more. Like with our previous fact sheets we will start this out with a table that goes over all of the upfront facts about R-12 Freon refrigerant. Let’s dive in and take a look!

The Facts

Name:R-12
Name - Scientific:Dichlorodifluoromethane
Name (2):CFC-12
Name (3):Freon-12
Name (4):Genetron 12
Name (5):Fluorocarbon 12
Name (6):Arcton-12
Classification:CFC Refrigerant
Chemistry:CCl2F2
Status:Phased Out Across The World Due to Montreal Protocol
Why Phased Out?Due To R-12 Damaging Ozone Layer
Future:Is Already Phased Out
Application:Very Wide Range of Applications - Can't Cover Them All!
Application (2):Refrigerators, Freezers, Ice Makers, Water Coolers
Application (3):Mobile Refrigeration Including Automotive & Refrigerated Transport
Application (4): Large Centrifugal Chillers, Open Drive AC, & Process
Cooling
Application (5):Misc High, Medium, or Low Temp Refrigerant Systems
Replacement For:Previous Hydrocarbons and Natural Refrigerants
Replaced By:Various Refrigerants, But Mainly R-22 and R-134a
Ozone Depletion Potential:1.0
Global Warming Potential:10,900
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Flash PointN/A - Not Flammable
Lubricant Required:Mineral Oil, also known as Alkyl Benzene.
Boiling Point:-29.8° Celsius or -21.64° Fahrenheit or 243.3° Kelvin
Critical Temperature:111.97° Celsius or 233.55° Fahrenheit or 385.12° Kelvin
Critical Pressure (Absolute):4,136 (KPA)
Atmospheric Lifetime (Years)100
Molecular Mass120.90 g·mol−1
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Shut Down Due to Phase Out (Maybe in China Still!)
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:Ether Like At Very High Concentrations
EPA Certification Required:Yes, Section 608 Certification Required To Use
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, Section 608 Certification Required To Purchase
Cylinder Color:White
Cylinder Design:Thirty Pound Cylinder
Cylinder Design (2):
Price Point:VERY HIGH - $600 Upwards to $1,000 Per Cylinder
Future Price Prediction:Price Has Been Stable Due To Phase Out
Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?EBay.com Is Your Best Bet - Click Here To View Available Product
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

Thoughts on R-12

I mentioned at the beginning of this article that R-12 is the ‘mother’ of all refrigerants. This is because R-12 was the very first mainstream refrigerant that saw usage and development around the world. Before the arrival of R-12 there was a mish-mash of natural refrigerants being used with hit and miss results. Either the refrigerant being used was toxic like R-717 (Ammonia), the refrigerant operated at too high of a pressure like R-744 (Carbon Dioxide), the refrigerant had a high flammability rating like R-290 (Propane), or the refrigerant was just too expensive for widespread usage. The invention of R-12 provided an answer to the price question as well as the safety question. Because of this, it’s usage exploded. I won’t get into all of the details here, but will save the more in-depth discussion about R-12’s history in our next section.

For now folks, let’s take a look at some of the most notable facts about R-12:

  • First and foremost, you should know that R-12 has been completely phased out in the United States and across the world. This refrigerant was phased out due to it’s Ozone Depletion Potential or ODP. The short version of what happened here is that when R-12 was vented or released into the atmosphere it would not break down as it made it’s way up to the stratosphere. Instead, the Chlorine in the chemical composition would stay intact and eventually cause damage to what’s known as the Ozone layer. This layer acts as a shield from ultraviolet rays from the sun. If this layer was gone or severely weakened then the radiation would begin to come through and cases of skin cancer and other diseases would begin to surface much more frequently. That’s the tamest of the scenarios of a damaged Ozone. R-12 along with other CFC and HCFC refrigerants were banned to prevent any further damage to the Ozone and to allow the Ozone layer to heal.
  • I mentioned this earlier but R-12 was the first refrigerant that was actually safe to use. It can be traced back to the 1930’s and back then there just wasn’t a ‘good’ refrigerant to use. Sure, there were some refrigerant and air conditioning applications that could be found, but they were rare and they had a high risk of failure. In some cases this risk of failure was also a risk to your safety. R-12 came around and provided consumers and businesses with a safe and cheaper alternative refrigerant.
  • R-12 has a relatively low boiling point at only -29.8° Celsius or -21.64° Fahrenheit. If you compare this to some of the other refrigerants out there such as R-22 (-40.7° C), R-744 (-78.0° C), or R-410A (-48.5° C). You can begin to see the significant difference here between R-12’s boiling point and other refrigerants. This low boiling point was also a key factor in the varying applications that R-12 was used for. Due to the wide range of applications, the low boiling point, the low price, and the safety features R-12 exploded in growth across the globe.
  • The end of R-12’s reign began in the 1980’s and went into the early 1990’s. I mentioned the Ozone layer problem above. Well, all of this started in the early 1980’s and came to it’s conclusion in the early 1990’s when the last step of phasing out R-12 began. This last step was in automotive applications. If you were to have bought a car in 1991 or 1992 you would have most likely had R-12 refrigerant. However, if you were to purchase a vehicle in 1994 or 1995 then your vehicle would have been using the new HFC R-134a refrigerant.
  • Today, in 2019 R-12 is very difficult to find. If you do find it the chances are it is a rusted out cylinder that may have been damaged. Any R-12 cylinders left in circulation today are products that someone squirreled away twenty or thirty years ago. Now, if the refrigerant was stored properly in a climate controlled warehouse without exposure to moisture then it most likely still has virgin pure R-12 refrigerant in it. However, if it has been exposed or damaged then the quality may be compromised. Most of the time these cylinders can be found on EBay.com, but make sure that you are section 608 certified with the EPA before you purchase. You will have to provide your certification number.
  • Along with the increased rarity of R-12 you will also notice that price has gone through the roof. A thirty pound virgin cylinder in good condition may be closer to one-thousand dollars. Some of the damaged cylinders we mentioned above may be around five-hundred to six-hundred dollars. Be sure to pay attention when purchasing some of these as in most cases the cylinder has been opened and some of it has already been used. So, you may end up only getting twenty or twenty-five pounds out of your thirty pound cylinder.

    1981 Ford-F150
    1981 Ford-F150
  • The good news is that today very little people actually need R-12 Freon. Most of the applications have been retired and scrapped. The only exception that I know of in today’s world (2019) is automotive restorers. My father as an example restores classic cars as a hobby. Most of the models he works on are from 1950’s and air conditioning wasn’t as prevalent then. But, let’s pretend you’re working on my dream restoration car, a 1981 F-150. In this case you would have to make a decision on rather to use the original air conditioning system and get your hands on a few cans of R-12. Or, you could install or retrofit over to an R-134a system. Besides these exceptions, I don’t see another need for R-12 being used in the world today.
  • The last point that I want to make is that in recent years (2018-2019) we have had reports of R-11 and other CFC refrigerants being found again in the atmosphere. This is odd as all of these were phased out twenty years ago. How are they being found again? In one specific instance the R-11 traces were able to be traced to a province in China. A company in China was actively producing R-11 foam and refrigerants for use throughout the country and for exports. The Chinese Government denied any affiliation with this company and have since gone after the company.

R-12 Refrigerant History

In the early 1900’s the world was looking for a solution for refrigeration and air conditioning. There had been numerous experiments and trials on differing refrigerants ranging from Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, Propane, Sulfur Dioxide, and Methyl Chloride. Each one of these refrigerants were able to provide cooling and refrigeration but they all had potential downsides. It could have been safety concerns through toxicity or flammability, high pressure, or an inflated price point. There needed to be a more viable refrigerant introduced into the marketplace.

It was in the 1930’s that a partnership was formed between two companies: General Motors and DuPont. This partnership organized by Charles Kettering of General Motors was geared towards solving this problem. Over the new few years Thomas Midgley Jr, along with a few other team members, pushed forward with the invention of ChloroFluroCarbons (CFCs) and HydroChloroFluroCarbons (HCFCs). Out of these inventions two primary refrigerants came: R-12 and R-22. The introduction of R-12 showed the world that a refrigerant was possible that was safe, economical, and easily adapted to various applications.

In just a few decades R-12 and R-22 were found in nearly every home and business across the world. The explosive growth of refrigerant and air conditioning continued to propel forwards for decades and decades. All of this came to a head in the 1980’s when a team of scientists based out of California realized that the Chlorine found in these ever popular refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. What would happen is a machine would either develop a leak, or the refrigerant would be vented, or the machine would be scrapped entirely and refrigerant would leak out. This leaked refrigerant would work it’s way up into the atmosphere and stagnate in the Stratosphere. There the Chlorine found in R-12 would degrade and harm the Ozone layer. All of this got so bad over the decades of CFC and HCFC use that a thinning of the Ozone layer began to form over the Arctic. The scientists noticing this sounded the alarm and the world’s governments took action by creating the Montreal Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed in the late 1980’s by more then one-hundred countries. It’s goal was to rid the world of using Ozone depleting substances like CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was enacted in countries all over the world. The first target was CFC refrigerants such as R-12. In 1992 R-12 was phased out of the automotive market in the United States and was replaced with the newer HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. R-134a had the benefit of not containing Chlorine so with its usage there would be no danger to the Ozone layer. The next refrigerant to go was the CFC refrigerant known as R-502 in the mid 1990’s. As time went by there were other CFC and HCFC refrigerants phased out but the big change didn’t happen until 2010.

In today’s world R-12 is a very rare occurrence. Most machines and systems that were using it have since been retired. Like I mentioned in a previous section, the only use cases that I know of in the year 2019 are those folks who are restoring classic automobiles. Even in these cases though I believe most people are going the retrofit route and changing their systems over to R-134a. The cost of R-12 is just too expensive and we all know that a fully restored classic car is never entirely original. There are always aftermarket parts that find their way in.

Conclusion

While R-12 Freon refrigerant is a thing of the past we should always remember where we came from. In today’s world HFC refrigerants are being phased out just like their CFC and HCFC cousins. The refrigerant industry is constantly evolving and changing. In another twenty years the world may be using something completely different then we are today. The thing to keep in mind though is that we approach 2030 we should take the time and honor the R-12 invention from a one-hundred years ago that got us to this point.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

 

facts

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. Today we will be taking an in-depth look at the newer HFO refrigerant from Chemours known as R-454B or XL41. This Opteon HFO refrigerant was created as an alternative to the ever commonly used R-410A Puron. While we have only been using 410A for around ten years or so there is already a push to phase down 410A usage and replace it with a refrigerant with much lesser Global Warming Potential.

One of the top contenders to replace R-410A is this new HFO refrigerant known as R-454B. In this article we’re going to take a look at all of the facts about this refrigerant and also share our thoughts about the refrigerant. If you see anything that is missing or if anything is inaccurate please reach out to me and I will correct as soon as possible.

The Facts

Name:R-454B
Name (2):XL41 (Opteon)
BrandOpteon (Chemours)
Classification:HFOs
Chemistry:HFO Blend: R-32 (68.9%) & R-1234yf (31.1%)
Chemistry (2):Click Here for R-32 Fact Sheet
Chemistry (3):Click Here for R-1234yf Fact Sheet
Status:Active & Growing Market.
Future:Set to Replace R-410A Applications
Application:Residential & Commercial Air-Conditioning.
Application (2):Heat Pumps & Chillers
Replacement For:R-410A Puron
Retrofitting From R-410A?No, New Machines Only.
Why Can't I Retrofit?Due to 2L Flammability Rating.
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:467 (78% Less Then R-410A)
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 2L - Lower Flammability
Lubricant Required:POE
Boiling Point (101.3 kpa):-50.9° Celsius or -59.62° Fahrenheit.
Temperature Glide-1.5 K or -462.37 Fahrenheit
Critical Temperature:77.11 Celsius or 170.60° Fahrenheit
Liquid Density (21.1 °C)996.5 kg/m3 (62.2 lb/ft3)
Auto ignition Temperature:Unknown ( Couldn't Find)
Burning Velocity (23 °C)5.2 cm/s (2.0 in/s)
Molar Mass111.8
Molecular Weight62.6 g/mol
Manufacturers:Chemours
Manufacturing Facilities:United States (Texas)
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:Slight, ether-like
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Cylinder Color:Undefined by ASHRAE
Safety Data Sheet (SDS)Click here (Sourced from Climalife.co.uk)
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

Thoughts on R-454B

R-454B, or XL41, was invented and designed by the Chemours company as an alternative to R-410A applications. These applications include your traditional home air conditioners, your commercial air conditioners, heat pumps, and the occasional chiller. XL41 is a blended HFO refrigerant is comprised of sixty-eight point nine percent R-32 and thirty-one point one percent R-1234yf.

One of the biggest attractions of R-454B is the savings in whats known as Global Warming Potential, or GWP. Every refrigerant out there rather it is a hundred years old or it was just invented yesterday has a GWP rating. GWP is a measurement on how potent a certain chemical is to the environment. The higher the GWP number the worse it is. Like with all scales, there needs to be a zeroing point. In this case the zero scale is Carbon Dioxide, or R-744. CO2 has a GWP number of one. As a comparison the commonly used R-410A refrigerant has a GWP of two-thousand and eighty-eight.

Looking at that number we can begin to see the problem with R-410A. It is directly contributing to Global Warming and Climate Change. The reason R-454B is being selected for newer applications is due to it’s much lower Global Warming Potential. 454B’s GWP is four-hundred and sixty-seven. That is nearly an eighty percent decrease when compared to Puron. This impressive number puts it at the lowest GWP alternative to R-410A. To give you some perspective, the other contender as an R-410A replacement, R-32, has a GWP of six-hundred and seventy-five. R-454B is an additional thirty percent lower. Along with that, 454B has a zero Ozone Depletion Potential rating so there is no risk there either. It is a very healthy refrigerant for the environment.

R-454B, or XL41, is classified as an HydroFluroOlefin refrigerant. These types of refrigerants, known as HFOs, are known for a few things. The first is that they have significantly lower Global Warming Potential then the commonly used HFC refrigerants of today. This fact right here checks a lot of boxes for business owners and manufacturers and may be enough to get them on board. However, like with any refrigerant, there is always a downside. HFO refrigerants are also known for their flammability. It seems we never can truly ‘win’ with refrigerants. There are always Pros and Cons.

In the case of R-454B it is rated by ASHRAE as an A2L. The A rating is great as it indicates that the refrigerant is not toxic. Other refrigerants with this same ratings are R-22, R-134a, and R-410A. The problem though lies in the 2L rating. This indicates a lower flammability rating for R-454B. Most of the common HFC refrigerants that we handle today are rated as a 1 by ASHRAE. A 1 rated refrigerant indicates that there is no risk of flame propagation. A 2 rated refrigerant has a lower flammability rating. Now, a 2L rated refrigerant means that along with the lower flammability we also have a lower burning velocity. This 2L sits R-454B right in the middle of the flammability refrigerant scale. While HFCs are rated as a 1 other very flammable refrigerants like Propane (R-290) are rated at a 3.

While a flammable refrigerant may sound intimidating and dangerous we should mention that they are perfectly safe and are used everyday throughout various Asian countries such as Japan and Korea. They do this daily and prevent accidents due to two major factors. The first is that they take the proper precautions when installing and handling flammable refrigerants. The second is routine maintenance. If you follow your training and ensure that everything is done by the book you’ll be fine.

Regardless though, the thought of working with flammable refrigerant deters a lot of technicians and contractors from using these newer HFO refrigerants. Lastly, since R-454B has an increased flammability rating then R-410A you are NOT able to retrofit existing 410A machines over to take R-454B. This is due to the specialized parts and components that a flammable refrigerant needs for it to work safely. If you wish to go with R-454B refrigerant you will need to purchase a whole new machine.

A few other notes worth sharing on R-454B:

  • XL41/454B is rated as five percent more efficient then R-410A Puron.
  • 454B offers the lowest GWP alternative to R-410A all without compromising on system performance.
  • While retrofitting isn’t possible, R-454B will not require major equipment modifications.

Conclusion

It is far too early to say rather or not R-454B will be the fabled R-410A killer or not. There are numerous alternatives out there that are all gaining traction. The question now though is will one of these began to gain speed over the others? Will companies around the globe began to pick one over the other? It may already be happening with R-454B. There are numerous articles and stories out there about companies moving away from R-410A and over to R-454B. Just a few of these companies are Carrier, York, and Johnson Controls. These are all huge names in the industry and may indicate a turning point.

But, as I said before folks, at this point it is still a guessing game. The true alternative for R-410A may have not even made it’s debut yet. Time will only tell.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

facts

In an effort to build our refrigerant fact and information sheets further we have taken the time today to put together some details on the HFC R-32 refrigerant. Like in our previous fact sheets we will first go over all of the details about this refrigerant and then we will touch on some of the most notable points. Without further ado, let’s take a look:

The Facts

Name:R-32
Name - Scientific:Difluoromethane
Name (2):HFC-32
Classification:HFC Refrigerant
Chemistry:CH2F2
Chemistry (2):Carbon fluoride hydride
Chemistry (3):Methylene difluoride
Chemistry (4):Methylene fluoride
Status:Active & Growing Market.
Future:May be Phased Out in Next Ten-Twenty Years Due to GWP.
Application:Residential & Commercial Air-Conditioning.
Application (2):Industrial Refrigeration
Application (3):Key Ingredient in the R-410A Puron Blend.
Application (4):Key Ingredient to other refrigerant blends such as R-407A, R-407B, etc.
Replacement For:R-22 Freon & R-410A Puron
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:675
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 2 - Lower Flammability
Lubricant Required:POE
Boiling Point:-52.5° Celsius or -62.0° Fahrenheit.
Critical Temperature:78.11 Celsius or 172.60° Fahrenheit
Critical Pressure:5.72 MPA or 829.62 pound-force per square inch.
Auto ignition Temperature:648° Celsius or 1,198° Fahrenheit
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas
Color:Colorless Liquid & Vapor
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 608 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Cylinder Color:Undefined by ASHRAE
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-32 Pressure Chart

Knowing the pressure and the temperatures associated to the machine you are working on is essential to being able to diagnose any possible issues. Without knowing the temperatures you are more or less walking blind. These pressure checks give you the facts so that you can move onto the next step of your diagnosis. Instead of pasting a large table of information here I will instead direct you to our specific R-32 refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.

Thoughts on R-32

You may not know this but R-32 is one of the most popular refrigerants in the world. While you may not physically see it everyday I can assure you that it is riding in the back of your service van as you travel from customer to customer. Not sure what I mean? Well R-32 is one of the key ingredients to form R-410A Puron. So, while you may not be carrying around a cylinder of R-32 you are carrying around Puron that was made from R-32. In fact, R-32 is used in quite a bit of blends in today’s world. It is used to create various refrigerants such as: R-410A, R-407A, R-407B, R-407C, R-407D, R-407E, R-407F and R-410B. R-32 along with R-125 are some of the most versatile refrigerants used today.

While we are used to using R-32 as a blend it is also seeing a rise of usage in residential and commercial air conditioners. This rise started in the eastern countries like Japan, Korea, India, and now Australia. Japan alone has over ten million R-32 units installed and running. These countries are using R-32 as an alternative to the higher Global Warming Potential (GWP) R-410A Puron. In fact some of them just skipped right from R-22 over to R-32 and didn’t even bother with R-410A. While R-32 isn’t perfect with it’s six-hundred and seventy-five GWP it is significantly better then R-410A’s GWP of two-thousand and eighty-eight. That’s a nearly seventy percent decrease in GWP just by using R-32 over R-410A. This switch from R-410A over to R-32 has also begun to pick up speed over in the European Union. 

Over here in America though the move from 410A to 32 has been much slower. In fact you would be hard pressed to find a full residential or commercial R-32 air conditioning unit. This is mainly due to R-32 not being SNAP approved for larger air conditioning units. (SNAP approval list can be found by clicking here.) Now, I’ll be honest with you folks here. I was a bit confused when writing this article. When I looked through the EPA’s listing of refrigerants approved for home and light commercial air conditioning I didn’t find R-32 listed. However, I did find articles where R-32 units are being manufactured and used right here in the United States. The only difference that I could find was that these units being manufactured here are very small air conditioning units mainly for hotel rooms. The story from the CoolingPost can be found by clicking here. The distinction I can see here is that the smaller air conditioners used for hotels were approved by SNAP under a different application category.

While R-32 may not be listed in the EPA’s SNAP approved refrigerant it’s usage is spreading across the world. I have read many articles stating that R-32 is expected to be the standard refrigerant for home and commercial traditional split air conditioners. There are a lot of benefits to R-32, number one being reducing the carbon footprint and Global Warming Potential. Another point is that R-32 doesn’t require as high as a charge as 410A does. (Twenty percent less) So, you save money on efficiency and also when replacing the refrigerant in case of a leak or repair down the road. Another big pro on R-32 that not a lot of folks realize is that 32 is a single refrigerant. It is NOT a blended refrigerant. That simple fact can make a big difference when you go to recover, recycle, or even try to reclaim a blended refrigerant. I’ve been told by a few reclaimers that R-410A is nearly impossible to reclaim as a recovered cylinder may only contain eighty percent of one refrigerant. The reclaimer then has to tap into a virgin bottle of the missing refrigerant to get the blend back to the proper ratios. You will not have this problem with R-32.

It’s not all a bed of roses though folks. As with any refrigerant there are always upsides and downsides. In the case of R-32 the big downside is it’s safety rating. Unlike Ammonia R-717, it is not the toxicity that we need to worry about. No, in the case of R-32 it’s the flammability. Depending on where you look R-32 is either rated as a 2 or a 2L on the refrigerant flammability scale. (Our official ‘Refrigerant Toxicity & Flammability,’ article can be found by clicking here.) What this means folks is that there is risk of ignition when working with or using R-32. I’m not going to sugarcoat it here and try to sell you the refrigerant. If the refrigerant is handled improperly or if it is in too enclosed of a space then there is risk of ignition. It’s as simple as that. Obviously the larger the load of refrigerant you are dealing with the greater the risk there is. For more information on the risk of R-32 igniting click here to be taken to AirAH.org.au’s R-32 common questions page. The excerpt we’re looking for here is on page 2 under, ‘How easy is R-32 To Ignite?’

Tests carried out by Daikin and Suwa ,Tokyo University of Science show that even if combustion of R32 occurs (at concentrations of more than 320g/m3), it is not explosive and the possibility of fire spreading is extremely low. – Source

Over in the Asian countries this risk doesn’t seem to bother them and they more or less do just fine with R-32. Sure, there are always accidents but even these accidents can be non-events if everything is done properly and safely. Over here in America though there seems to be an aversion to dealing with flammable refrigerants such as R-32 and R-290. I’m not sure if this is just a fear of the unknown, resistance to change, or if there just no market for it. Perhaps in the future, the EPA will lift some restrictions on R-32 and techs will begin to get a feel for these flammable refrigerants.

I may have mentioned this before, but it should be brought up again. While R-32 is being marketed as a great alternative to R-410A you should know that R-32 cannot be dropped in as a replacement in an existing R-410A system. If you or your customer wants to go the R-32 route then they will need to purchase a new system specifically designed to run R-32. If you do not then you risk damaging your entire system by putting the wrong refrigerant in it. You wouldn’t put diesel in a Ford Focus would you? The same principle applies. Your 410A air conditioner is specifically made to handle 410A and your 32 system is specifically designed to handle 32. It is also worth mentioning that you should NOT attempt to retrofit a 410A unit over to 32. It is simply not safe. This is because of the 2L flammability rating. The components of an 410A machine were simply not built to safely handle flammable refrigerants. You can read more about reasons NOT to retrofit by clicking here.

The last thing I want to mention on R-32 is that it is not a miracle refrigerant. As we all know each refrigerants has it’s ups and downs. The only reason R-32 looks so sexy right now is it’s lower Global Warming Potential when compared to R-410A. But, when we are done with 410A, or when something sexier comes along, the world will drop R-32 just like it is beginning to drop R-410A. I don’t see 410A lasting another fifteen years with the ways thing are going. R-32 will be close behind it as well. While everyone is pushing for R-32 right now I am stand back from the crowd with skepticism. I predict R-32 will be gone in another twenty years. Is it worth it to the climate, the business owners, and the consumers to purchase a whole new generation of R-32 machines just to see them phased out in another ten or fifteen years?

As to what R-32 will be replaced with, I have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps we will see a natural refrigerant come to rise. There is always new technology being developed to accommodate these natural refrigerants and with these new technologies we are able to easily apply natural refrigerants where it was once impossible. One example off the top of my head is Daimler using R-744 Carbon Dioxide in automotive applications. Rewind ten years ago and no one had heard of such a thing. Now it is in quite a few Daimler model vehicles. Maybe instead of natural refrigerants the next generation of home and commercial air conditioners will see a refrigerant that just hasn’t been invented yet. Perhaps it is a new HFO refrigerant being developed in a lab right now by Chemours or Honeywell. Time will only tell.

Conclusion

Well folks that about covers it for R-32 refrigerant. No matter where you are in the world the chances are you or someone near you are using R-32 or they areusing an R-32 origin based blend. While it does have a much less Global Warming number then 410A I still do not see it standing the test of time. Six-hundred and seventy-five GWP is still just too much. For the foreseeable future though folks we should get used to seeing R-32.

Thanks for reading and if you found anything that was inaccurate or that was simply not stated please contact me and I will update this article.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources

R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a is the most commonly used refrigerant for automotive applications rather it be your twenty year old Toyota Camry or your Kenworth T-200 semi-truck. Ever since 1993 R-134a has been the staple refrigerant for automotive applications. Before 93 we used R-12 for our vehicles and now, as I write this article in 2018, there is a push to phase down R-134a and replace it with the new HFO refrigerant known as R-1234yf.

This article is going to into the facts of R-134a, some of the most common questions asked about this refrigerant, and some of the most important points of note on the refrigerant, as well as the history of the refrigerant. Let’s dive in and take a look:

The Facts

Name:R-134a
Name - Scientific:Tetrafluoroethane
Name (2):Norflurane
Name (3):Freon 134a
Name (4):Forane 134a
Name (5):Genetron 134a
Name (6):Florasol 134a
Name (7)HFC-R134a
Name (8)Suva 134a
Classification:HFC Refrigerant
Chemistry:Haloalkane Refrigerant
Chemistry (2):
Chemistry (3):The lower case 'a' indicates an Isomer, or different composition from R-134.
Chemistry:Production by reacting Trichloroethylene with Hydrogen Fluoride.
Status:Shrinking & Phasing Out
Future:Will be phased out across the world soon. (Prediction of 2030)
Application:Automotive: Light duty, medium duty and heavy duty.
Application (2):Heat Pumps, Chillers, Transport Refrigeration, and Commercial Cooling
Replacement For:CFC R-12 Freon
Ozone Depletion Potential:0
Global Warming Potential:1,430
Toxicity Levels:A (No Toxicity Identified.)
Flammability Levels:Class 1 -No Flame Propagation.
Lubricant Required:POE & PAG Oil Lubricants
Boiling Point:-26.3° Celsius or -15.3° Fahrenheit.
Critical Temperature:101.06° Celsius or 213.91° Fahrenheit
Critical Pressure:4059 KPA or 588.71 pound-force per square inch.
Auto ignition Temperature:770° Celsius or 1,418° Fahrenheit
Manufacturers:Various Including: Honeywell, Chemours, Arkema, Mexichem, Chinese, etc.
Manufacturing Facilities:All Over Including: USA, Mexico, EU, China, and others.
Form:Gas/Liquid
Color: Colorless Liquid & Vapor
Odor:None, if you do smell something it is most likely the oil.
EPA Certification Required:Yes, 609 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Require Certification to Purchase?Yes, 609 certification required by January 1st, 2018.
Cylinder Color:Light Sky Blue
Cylinder Design:
R-134a Refrigerant
R-134a Refrigerant
Cylinder Design (2):Thirty Pound Tank
Price Point:Medium $-90-$160 a Cylinder Depending on Conditions.
Where to Buy Can or Cylinder?From Our Amazon Partner
Bulk Purchasing:CLICK FOR A QUOTE!

R-134a Pressure & Temperature Chart

Knowing the pressure and the temperatures associated to the machine you are working on is essential to being able to diagnose any possible issues. Without knowing the temperatures you are more or less walking blind. These pressure checks give you the facts so that you can move onto the next step of your diagnosis. Instead of pasting a large table of information here I will instead direct you to our specific refrigerant temperature page. This can be found by clicking here.

Points of Note

Alright folks so we’ve gone over some of the basic facts about R-134a but now let’s take a look at some of the more interesting points about this refrigerant:

  • I mentioned this briefly above but R-134a was designed and began to see use as an alternative product to R-12 Freon, or Dichlorodifluoromethane. R-12 has been around since the 1930’s and was being used in automotive applications for decades until it was discovered that it harmed the Ozone layer. As a replacement product R-134a was introduced into the automotive market in 1993.
  • Like it’s predecessor, R-12, R-134a was and is used across a wide array of applications in the automotive world. You can find R-134a in your Ford Focus or you could find it in your gigantic Semi-Trucks or in your Gray-hound Bus. Back in the early 2000’s one of my responsibilities was to purchase R-134 by the pallet or the trailerload and co-ordinate delivery to the company’s various dealerships. It is amazing  just how much R-134a a dealership  can go through.
  • Along with the automotive industry you can find R-134a in various heat pump applications and other commercial refrigeration needs.
  • R-134a is also used in quite a few refrigerant blends as well as a key ingredient. Some of these include: R-416A, R-420A, R-423A.
  • While R-134a does not have an Ozone Depletion Potential it does have a high Global Warming Potential. (GWP) The higher a GWP number the more damage the  product can do towards Global Warming. These high GWP chemicals are known as Greenhouse Gases. Across the world there has been a push to phase down our phase out entirely these high GWP HFC refrigerants.
  • Most refrigerants and refrigerant applications are left to professionals. Sure, there are some do-it-yourselfers out there, but for the most part technicians handle the repairs. The exception to this is R-134a and automotive applications. Many people enjoy working on their vehicle and buying a few cans of R-134a and repairing your air conditioning system is no big deal to them. This is a rare exception within the refrigerant industry.
  • Building off of my point above, this is why we saw such resistance and upset from the Environmental Protection Agency’s new law  that started in 2018. This regulation prevented R-134a cylinder sales to people who are NOT 609 certified. Do-it-yourselfers can still buy individual pound cans but they are restricted are larger purchases. So, they can still do their own repairs, they just can’t hoard cylinders of R-134a in their garage. You can go down to the local auto parts store today or on Amazon.com and purchase some cans without any issues.
  • The European Union has already phased out R-134a on any new vehicle models. Most car manufacturers have switched to the alternative HFO refrigerant known as 1234yf. The plan for the United States was to phase out 134a on new vehicles by  the year 2021, but this regulation was delayed due to Federal court rulings. Don’t let this fool you though. R-134a is ending and ending soon even here in the United States.
  • A few years back a law-suit was started with the International Trade Commission. The suit claimed that China was dumping low-priced R-134a into the US market which locally based companies were not able to compete with. In order to resolve this issue anti-dumping tariffs were issued against Chinese R-134a. The issuing of these tariffs caused the national price of R-134a to jump nearly twenty dollars for a thirty pound cylinder.
  • Since these tariffs were issued the  price point for R-134a has stayed relatively stable over the past few years. (I write this in summer of 2018.)
  • In another ten or fifteen years R-134a applications will be a rarity  or seen as an antique. While the new HFO-12134yf may  not be the perfect solution it IS the refrigerant that all  of the vehicle manufacturers are running to.  Another possible alternative to look at is Daimler’s experiments with CO2 or R-744 in their vehicles.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What Happened to R-12?
    • As you know, R-12 was the default for automotive air conditioning for decades but in the 1980s it was discovered that R-12 was harming the Ozone layer. Because of this, R-12 was phased out across the world and was replaced by R-134a.
  • What is R-134a?
    • R-134a is an HFC refrigerant that is intended to be used in automotive applications. It was designed to replace R-12. It has no Ozone Depletion Potential but has a high Global Warming Potential.
  • Can I Buy R-134a Without a EPA 609 License?
    • No, as of January 1st, 2018 you can no longer purchase cylinders of R-134a without a proper 609 Environmental Protection License. This is due to what’s called the ‘Refrigerant Sales Restriction.’ The good news here though is that without a license you are still able to purchase cans of refrigerant that contain less then two pounds of product.
  • What Kind of Certification Do I Need to Work With R-134?
    • As I mentioned above,  you will need what’s called a 609 certification. 609 comes into play when you are working on an automotive air conditioning application and ONLY when you are working on an automotive application. If you wish to work on other AC units you will need to obtain your 608 certification as well. Once you have 609 certification you can purchase, handle, and install refrigerants into automotive applications.
  • Is R-134a Toxic or Flammable?
    • No, R-134a is rated as an A1 on the ASHRAE ‘s safety rating scale. The A stands for the product not being toxic or harmful. The 1 stands for no hint of flame propagation. This is a very safe refrigerant.
  • What Kind of Oil do I Use for R-134a Systems?
    • In most cases you are going to be using what’s known as PAG Oil. PAG oil, or Polyalkylene Glycol, is a fully synthetic hygroscopic oil specifically designed for automotive air conditioner compressors. It is used in R-134a air conditioning systems to lubricate the compressor. When looking at PAG oil you will notice various numbers such as PAG46 or PAG100. These numbers refer to the viscosity of the oil, similar to 10W30 oil. In order to determine the correct PAG viscosity for your vehicle you will need to look up the specifications of your make and model of your vehicle either online or in the instruction manual.
  • Is R-134a Being Phased Out in the United States?
    • Well, at one time it was. Way back in the summer of 2015 the EPA announced that R-134a was NOT to be used in new vehicles starting with the model year 2021. Since this regulation came out though there was a court ruling that overturned the proposed rules. Since then the EPA has retracted it’s regulations and as of today there is not a set phase out date.
  • What Countries Are Using R-134a?
    • Nearly every country in the world today is using R-134a. Yes, some countries have phased it out on newer vehicles, but there are still very many cars out there that are still  using 134a. We won’t see a total vanishing of R-134a usage for at least another twenty or thirty years. Remember, we have to wait for all of these old vehicles to die.
  • Can I Mix R-134a With  R-12 or 1234yf?
    • No, it is never a good idea to mix refrigerants. Refrigerants are designed to work in specific conditions and specific pressures. Mixing refrigerants together will cause it not to change states and will prevent your system from working correctly.
  • How do I Store R-134a?
    • Storage requirements for R-410A are the same as other refrigerants. Cylinders should be stored in a clean, dry area, and out of direct sunlight. If you have cylinders in the back of your work van ensure that the temperature does not rise above one-hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Keep valves tightly closed and caps in place when cylinders are not in use. This will prevent any damage to your product, to your facility, or to your vehicle.
  • What Sized Containers Does R-134a Come In?
    • R-134a can come in a variety of container sizes. The most common that we see today are your one to two pound cans or your standard thirty pound light-blue cylinder.

History of R-134a

In order to understand the full history of R-134a we first have to look at it’s predecessor. Before R-134a there was R-12. R-12 was one of first mainstream refrigerants used throughout the world. In fact, R-12 is where the brand name of Freon comes from. In order to trace back it’s origins we have to go all the way back to the 1930’s and a partnership between General Motors and the DuPont company. Through this partnership the two companies were able to invent a safe, reliable, and cost efficient class of refrigerants known as CFCs and HCFCs.

These new classifications of refrigerants were revolutionary. Before these came to the marketplace the world only had access to basic refrigerants such as Hydrocarbons and Carbon Dioxide. These previous refrigerants were either not very efficient,  operated at too high of pressure (Like CO2), or they were just not safe. One of the most popular refrigerants back then was R-717, or Ammonia. Ammonia is toxic when we are exposed to it and having an Ammonia operated refrigerator was a not something consumers wanted inside their home.

Because of the revolution CFC and HCFC refrigerants caused R-12 along with R-11, R-22, and R-502 were found all over the world in various applications. By the time we got into the 1970’s the product was everywhere ranging from automobiles, refrigerators, freezers, ice machines, vending machines, industrial plants, refrigerated trucks, and on and on. It was in the 1980’s that a team of scientists out of California realized that all of the Chlorine that was in CFC and HCFC refrigerants were causing damage to the Ozone layer. When vented or leaked the refrigerant would drift up and into the atmosphere. It is there where the Chlorine would do it’s damage. Eventually it got so bad that a thinning of the Ozone layer began to form over the Arctic. The scientists noticing this sounded the alarm and the world’s governments took action by creating the Montreal Protocol.

The Montreal Protocol is a treaty that was signed in the late 1980’s by more then one-hundred countries. It’s goal was to rid the world of using Ozone depleting substances like CFC and HCFC refrigerants. This treaty was enacted in countries all over the world. The first target was CFC refrigerants such as R-12. In 1992 R-12 was phased out of the automotive market in the United States and was replaced with the newer HFC refrigerant known as R-134a. R-134a had the benefit of not containing Chlorine so with its usage there would be no danger to the Ozone layer. The next refrigerant to go was the CFC refrigerant known as R-502 in the mid 1990’s. As time went by there were other CFC and HCFC refrigerants phased out but the big change didn’t happen until 2010.

R-134a

As I mentioned above 1993 was the beginning of R-134a usage. Since then it has ballooned and grew so that every vehicle around the globe was using it. It was a rare occurrence to find something other than R-134a or R-12 used in vehicles. The only exceptions that you would find were with refrigerated transport trucks such as ice cream trucks. In these instances you would either see a mixture of R-134a and R-404A or a straight R-404A system. Along with R-134a there were many other HFC refrigerants that began to take root. Some of these were R-404A and R-410A. (404A was used for supermarket freezers, ice machines, vending machines, and refrigerated transport. R-410A was used for home and commercial air conditioning.)

It was in the early 2000’s that a new problem was discovered with the currently used HFC refrigerants. Instead of refrigerants harming the Ozone layer the concern became the refrigerants impact on Global Warming. You see refrigerants are seen as a Greenhouse Gas. A Greenhouse Gas is a gas that can be released and get trapped in the atmosphere. These trapped gases cause Global Warming to accelerate. In order to measure a chemical or products risk for Global Warming a new scale was created called Global Warming Potential. The baseline measurement for this scale was Carbon Dioxide, or R-744. CO2’s GWP is one.

The downside of HFC refrigerants is their very high Global Warming Potential. As an example, R-404A has a GWP of three-thousand nine-hundred and twenty-two times that of Carbon Dioxide. Can you begin to see why these are seen as a problem? It was around 2010 when the push to begin phasing down HFC refrigerants began. Everyone’s first target was R-404A as it had the absolute highest GWP of them all. Depending on the applications 404A was to be replaced with Hydrocarbons, lower GWP HFC refrigerants, or the new HFO refrigerant line from Chemours and Honeywell.

Next in everyone’s sights was R-134a. While 134a didn’t have near as high as a GWP of 404A it still had a large number coming in at one-thousand four-hundred and thirty. At first the push to phase out 134a was stalled as there wasn’t a good substitute out there. After some time the two main refrigerant innovators Honeywell and Chemours came out with a new refrigerant under their HFO line known as R-1234yf. This new refrigerant worked very similar to R-134a but had a GWP of only four. That’s a heck of a difference! The only concern with this new refrigerant was that it was rated as an A2L refrigerant. What that means is that it is slightly flammable. (Remember, R-134a isn’t flammable at all.)

The European Union jumped at the chance for a 134a alternative. They enacted legislation called the ‘MAC Directive,’ to prevent R-134a from being used in new vehicles as of the 2013 model year. While this directive didn’t come out and mention R-134a by name it did state that no refrigerants with a GWP greater then one-hundred and fifty could be used in new automobiles. Europe switched over to 1234yf and the demand for R-134a began to die down. One thing to mention here though is that because 1234yf is slightly flammable there was some debate on rather or not it was a safe product to use. The German car company Daimler ran test after test to ensure it’s safety. In one of these tests Daimler claimed that when the refrigerant tank ruptured during an accident the refrigerant ignited and caused a fire to occur. The video can be seen below. In the video there is a test with 1234yf leaking and then there is a test with R-134a leaking. The video speaks for itself.

There were many disputes from numerous companies and organizations from all over the world to on test. Daimler claimed that the new refrigerant was unsafe for use. For a time it seemed like German Automakers were going to fight HFOs tooth and nail. They had their hearts set on R-744 CO2.  Since these first tests there have been numerous court battles and fines issued by the European Union but still Germany persisted against 1234yf. Here is the neat part, Daimler began to pursue a different alternative refrigerant for their automobiles, R-744. Yes, that’s right CO2 for vehicles. Over the years Daimler has been testing and innovating with CO2 and as I write this article today they even have some vehicles on the road with it.

Here in the United States we began going through the same route as Europe, just a little bit behind schedule. In the summer of 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule to their SNAP program. This rule called ‘Rule 20,‘ was aimed at phasing down and out HFC refrigerants including R-134a. This regulation aimed at preventing vehicle manufacturers from using R-134a in new vehicles as of model year 2021. These regulations were on the books until August of 2017. At that time a court overturned the EPA’s regulations stating that they had overreached their authority. Since then in the United States there is not a formal R-134a phase out date. This has caused a lot of confusion and unknowns within the automotive refrigerant industry.

1234yf is the future and there isn’t much we can do to get away from it. Auto manufacturers all over the world have begun to switch their new models over to 1234yf. In fact since 2015 the pace of vehicles beings switched over has grown and grown. The chances are high that if you buy a new vehicle today that it’s going to contain 1234yf refrigerant. The question now is when will 134a be phased down within the United States?

Conclusion

Regardless of what happens with these phase outs and phase downs I can be sure of one thing. R-134a is going to be around for a long time. Even if we switch over our new vehicles today there will still be vehicles manufactured last year that will be on the road twenty or thirty years from now. After all, there are still R-12 vehicles out there, right? In closing, R-134a has served it’s purpose. Now it’s time has come and gone. We now need to move towards alternative refrigerants like 1234yf or R-744.

Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer all of your questions and concerns.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Sources