CFCs, or Chlorofluorocarbons, are the original refrigerant. They consist of Carbon, Chlorine, and Fluorine. When you hear someone say ‘Refrigerant,’ they are referring to CFCs. HCFCs, or Hydrochloroflourocarbons, are the close neighbor of CFCs. The main difference between the two types of refrigerant is that HCFCs contain one additional hydrogen atom compared to CFCs.
Both CFCs and HCFCs were widely used in the twentieth century as refrigerants, propellants, and solvents. CFCs were invented through a joint venture of DuPont and General Motors in the early twentieth century and HCFCs were developed shortly afterwards. For more information on both of these types of refrigerants I recommend reading my in-depth article on Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) and Hydrochloroflurocarbons. (HCFCs)
The two most common CFCs and HCFCs are R-12 and R-22 Refrigerant. R-12 was the first type of mainstream refrigerant on the market. It took place of other more difficult to use refrigerants such as Carbon Dioxide. In the 1950s R-22 became popular and eventually became the main refrigerant to use in home and commercial air conditioning units. R-12 was primarily used for automobiles and other mobile air conditioning.
R-12’s reign ended after nearly eighty years as a mainstream refrigerant. In 1994 R-12 was phased out across the United States. R-22 soon followed suit and in 2010 R-22 was no longer allowed to be used in any new machines. In 2015 production and imports of R-22 was cut drastically, and in 2020 R-22 will be completely phased out in the United States.
CFCs and HCFCs were phased out due to the Chlorine that they contained. In the 1970s it was found out that the Chlorine was damaging the O-Zone layer and due to the excessive use and venting of CFCs/HCFCs into the atmosphere a hole in the O-Zone had formed. In an effort to solve the issue the Montreal Protocol was formed. Numerous countries signed the treaty and all pledged to phase out CFCs/HCFCs entirely.
Today CFCS and HCFCs may be history but they provided the building blocks to modern refrigeration.