Refrigerant or the gas in AC is what gives it the cooling capability. In its absence, your air conditioner will work just like a regular heavy duty fan closed in a big box.
Most homeowners pay no attention to the kind of refrigerant used in their ACs. The fault is not theirs. A customers attention automatically draws towards those factors which either have a price attached to it or lead to energy efficiency. Ignorance of the importance of refrigerant makes us overlook it time and again.
The refrigerant used in AC nowadays plays a crucial role in the working and efficiency of the unit. Therefore, overlooking it is not a smart move. Through the medium of this article, we shall enlighten you about what is refrigerant, the importance of refrigerant, and also the kind of refrigerant used in AC nowadays. When you make your next purchase, you will not make the same mistake twice.
What Is A Refrigerant?
A refrigerant is a chemical used in the cooling mechanism of an appliance like an air conditioner or refrigerator. It acts as the heat carrier which undergoes a phase transformation from liquid to gas and then back to liquid again in the refrigeration cycle.
How Does Refrigerant Work?
Inside the AC there are copper coils which hold the refrigerant. When air at room temperature passes over these coils the refrigerant, with the help of the compressor, changes from liquid to gas and becomes extremely cold.
This cold refrigerant absorbs the heat from the air and cools it down. When the compressor switches off, the phase transformation reverses, and the refrigerant once again comes back to its original liquid state.
Importance Of The Refrigerant
From the above discussion, it is evident that without the refrigerant, there can be no cooling. And therein lies the importance of the refrigerant. Other than that, a majority of us already know that the refrigerants until recently consisted mostly of the CFCs or the Chlorofluorocarbons. CFCs are known to cause global warming and also deplete the ozone layer.
Therefore, having knowledge about the type of refrigerant used in your AC is to your benefit. You can kill two birds with a single stone –
- Take care of your family by using a safe refrigerant.
- Fulfill your environmental duty.
Types Of Refrigerants Used in AC Nowadays
The types of refrigerants used in AC nowadays can be broadly categorized under 4 main heads.
1. CFCs or Chlorofluorocarbons – Due to the environmental nuisance (greenhouse effect) caused by CFCs and as per the directives of the government air conditioner manufacturers in most countries have phased out these refrigerants. However, that does not mean they are completely out of circulation.
The production of CFCs was completely stopped in 1994. R12 by DuPont was the most commonly used CFC in the past. It was produced under the brand name “Freon”.
2. HCFCs (Hydrochlorofluorocarbons) – Towards the end of 1990s HCFCs replaced the CFCs. If the choice was between better of the two evils, HCFCs had a slight edge. They are slightly better than the CFCs but contain chlorine, which is again harmful to the environment. In most countries, even today HCFCs are used.
The most commonly used HCFC is R-22. Plans are underway to phase them out, but there is still a long way to go before that happens. According to the EPA’s phaseout schedule and the Montreal Protocol, in the United States of America, the importing and production of R-22 will stop entirely by 2020. This is a progressive step in the right direction.
3. HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons) – HFCs is a set of refrigerants which does not contain chlorine. Not that these are perfectly safe and completely environment-friendly, but at least they do not cause depletion of the ozone layer. Another thing that works in their favor is that these are more energy efficient.
R-410A is the most commonly available HFC these days. Another prominently used HFC in air conditioners is R-32. It is considered better than R-410A as it causes slightly less global warming. However, wheels have started churning in phasing out these as well. The idea is to discover a refrigerant which causes no harm to the environment.
4. HCs or Hydrocarbons – The most environmentally safe refrigerants that exist in the market today are “R-290” and “R-600A”. These hydrocarbons, are also known by their chemical names “Propane” for R-290 and “Iso-Butane” for R-600A. These are totally halogen-free, cause no ozone layer depletion, and are minimal in terms of global warming potential.
The good thing is that they have high-energy efficiency. What works against them is the fact that they are highly flammable. Nonetheless, they are the greenest refrigerants available in the market today.
Manufacturers claim that the safety standard in the appliances is so high that it is safe to use these hydrocarbons as refrigerants.
What Is The Refrigerant In My Home AC?
All reputed companies mention the kind of refrigerant used in their air conditioners. This information is usually printed on a sticker which can be seen either on the evaporator or the compressor. Additionally, you can find this information in the AC manual as well. If for some reason you still cannot find it, you can visit the company website and find the information.
What To Do When Your Refrigerant Is Banned?
If the refrigerant in your AC is banned, the best option is to replace your AC. Although you can still find the same refrigerant, the chances are that in the near future its supply will cease altogether. Moreover what is bad is everyone is bad for your family as well. There is no point in taking chances with their well-being.
Next time when you purchase a new AC. Don’t just blindly follow others. Be vigilant and use the above knowledge to make the right decision. Refrigerant is an important part of your AC, and hence it demands your complete attention. Your right and informed decision will make this world a better place for the coming generations. The future is yours to shape.