Refrigerants Used in HVAC Equipment

Let us start by defining what a refrigerant is. A refrigerant is a substance that in many cases is a fluid that is used to cool a space in the refrigeration cycle. The main purpose of refrigerants is to absorb heat and then use phase change thermodynamic phenomena to release it into another space. In other words, the fluid will change into a gas when it absorbs the heat and turn back into a fluid once it has released it. Air conditioner refrigerant access ports Before looking at specific refrigerants, let us look at how they are classified: Refrigerants are broken down into four main classifications, that is;
  • Chlorofluorocarbons
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Natural refrigerants
Chlorofluorocarbons Technician fixing refrigerant They are also known as CFCs and have a low boiling point. In addition, they are unreactive, inexpensive, have low toxicity, easy to store and are not associated with risk of fire. Unfortunately, they are highly detrimental to the environment as they deplete Ozone. A common CFC brand is known as Freon. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) Many manufacturers are currently switching to HCFCs from CFCs. Even though they are better than HCFCs, they are still capable of depleting the Ozone and will be phased out in time. Unfortunately, HCFCs are a potent greenhouse gas, in fact stronger than carbon dioxide that contributes to the buildup of chlorine gas in the air. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) Refrigeration manufacturers favor HFCs over CFCs as they do not deplete ozone as much. They are a powerful source of greenhouse gases so they have global warming potential. Natural Refrigerants These refer to naturally occurring hydrocarbons such as carbon dioxide, ammonia, water, and isobutene – R-600A. They are the most environmentally friendly option that is currently available. There are different types of hydro-fluorocarbon refrigerants. They include:
  • R-410A
  • R-407C
  • R-134a
These refrigerants are used for commercial air conditioning units. If you are the owner or facility manager of such a commercial space, it is important that you understand the variously available refrigerants in order for you to take a decision regarding the best air conditioning system for you. We have outlined the differences between HFC refrigerants as well as why the right refrigerant matters below. R – 22 Refrigerant
  • Often referred to as Freon, which is its brand name
  • R-22 was no longer used in air conditioning units manufactured from 2010
  • By 2015, Freon had to be completely phased out
  • The reason for the phasing out was because it was discovered that R-22 is an HCFC, that is, a hydro-chlorofluorocarbon that contributed to the depletion of the Ozone layer
R-410A Refrigerant Refrigerant line
  • Also known by other brand names such as Genetron® AZ-20®, Puron®, Suva® 9100 etc
  • R-410A has been approved for use in new air conditioner units
  • It is a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) that does not deplete the Ozone layer
  • R-410A is the most preferred refrigerant in unitary, lightweight air conditioning units
  • R-410A operates at high pressures that are 50% higher than in R-22. They also need components that can operate at these high pressures
R – 134a Refrigerant
  • Used in many refrigeration and air conditioning units worldwide
  • Is a single component refrigerant that has no glide
  • Use of R – 134a does not result in the depletion of Ozone
  • The first fluorocarbon refrigerant to be commercialized that does not negatively affect the Ozone
Industry leaders such as Emerson Climate Technologies see R-410A as a long-term solution for light commercial and residential air conditioning due to its high-efficiency performance that is almost the same as that of R-22. Many air conditioner manufacturers have reported success with R-410A due to its energy efficiency in addition to being easy to use in their systems. There are now components that make it easy to design efficient R-410A systems. For greater efficiency and reliability, new air conditioning models are designed to be compatible with the use of R-410A. Because R-410A is capable of absorbing and releasing more heat than R-22, air conditioner compressors are able to operate at a much lower temperature. This reduces the chance of the compressor burning out due to overheating. R-410A requires air conditioner components such as compressors to tolerate a great amount of stress since the refrigerant operates at pressures greater than those required by R-22. The compressor’s high-pressure tolerance reduces the risk of a crack. If R-410A was used in a unit that was meant for R-22, the pressure exerted would be too much for the unit and it would break. For efficient operation, all compressors are lubricated using an oil. However, the type of lubrication oil used from one compressor to another differs. For instance, R-410A units use Polyol Ester Oil or POE while R-22 units use mineral oil. POE is more soluble with R-410 than R-22 is with mineral oil. This means that air conditioner compressors that use R-410A run more efficiently and consequently there is less wear and tear on the unit.                  
4 years ago
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