Air Conditioner Refrigerant - Today's Homeowner (2023)

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

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

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

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

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

  • CFCs
  • HCFCs
  • HFCs
  • Refrigerant blends

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

TheMontreal Protocolhas undergone six Amendments:

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

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

TheMontreal Protocolhas undergone six Amendments:

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

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

The latest country to ratify this amendment is Indonesia on Dec 14, 2022. A total of 146 countries have ratified or accepted it as of this date. List of countries that have ratified it with the latest on top and date ratified.

  • 146. Indonesia 2022-12-14
  • 145. Venezuela 2022-12-05
  • 144. St. Vincent and the Grenadines 2022-11-07
  • 143. Nauru 2022-11-03
  • 142. Belarus 2022-11-03
  • 141. Philippines 2022-11-03
  • 140. United States of America 2022-10-31
  • 139. Brazil 2022-10-19
  • 138. Zimbabwe 2022-10-18
  • 137. Mongolia 2022-07-27
  • 136. Tajikistan 2022-06-29
  • 135. Congo 2022-06-16
  • 134. Singapore 2022-06-1
  • 133. Italy 2022-05-25
  • 132. Solomon Islands 2022-05-23
  • 131. Morocco 2022-04-22
  • 130. United Republic of Tanzania 2022-03-25
  • 129. Turkey 2021-11-10
  • 128. St. Lucia 2021-11-2
  • 127. Serbia 2021-10-08
  • 126. India 2021-09-27
  • 125. El Salvador 2021-09-13
  • 124. Tunisia 2021-08-27
  • 123. Cameroon 2021-08-24
  • 122. China 2021-06-17
  • 121. Bosnia and Herzegovina 2021-05-26
  • 120. Gambia 2021-05-05
  • 119. Dominican Republic 2021-04-14
  • 118. Cambodia 2021-04-08
  • 117. Syrian Arab Republic 2021-04-05
  • 116. Burundi 2021-03-26
  • 115. Zambia 2021-03-15
  • 114. Colombia 2021-02-25
  • 113. Iceland 2021-01-25
  • 112. Eswatini 2020-11-24
  • 111. Angola 2020-11-16
  • 110. Cabo Verde 2020-10-28
  • 109. Malaysia 2020-10-21
  • 108. San Marino 2020-10-20
  • 107. Bolivia (Plurinational State of) 2020-10-09
  • 106. Russian Federation 2020-10-03
  • 105. Nicaragua 2020-09-30
  • 104. Botswana 2020-09-19
  • 103. Liechtenstein 2020-09-16
  • 102. Kyrgyzstan 2020-09-08
  • 101. Turkmenistan 2020-08-31
  • 100. Liberia 2020-07-12
  • 99. Romania 2020-07-01
  • 98. Holy See 2020-06-17
  • 97. Fiji 2020-06-16
  • 96. Sierra Leone 2020-06-15
  • 95. Bangladesh 2020-06-08
  • 94. North Macedonia 2020-03-12
  • 93. Lebanon 2020-02-05
  • 92. Mozambique 2020-01-16
  • 91. Guinea 2019-12-05
  • 90. Somalia 2019-11-27
  • 89. Argentina 2019-11-22
  • 88. Jordan 2019-10-16
  • 87. Lesotho 2019-10-07
  • 86. Sao Tome and Principe 2019-10-04
  • 85. New Zealand 2019-10-03
  • 84. Mauritius 2019-10-01
  • 83. Bhutan 2019-09-27
  • 82. Vietnam 2019-09-27
  • 81. Cook Islands 2019-08-22
  • 80. Seychelles 2019-08-20
  • 79. Peru 2019-08-07
  • 78. Ghana 2019-08-02
  • 77. South Africa 2019-08-01
  • 76. Cyprus 2019-07-22
  • 75. Ethiopia 2019-07-05
  • 74. Cuba 2019-06-20
  • 73. Namibia 2019-05-16
  • 72. Armenia 2019-05-02
  • 71. Montenegro 2019-04-23
  • 70. Chad 2019-03-26
  • 69. Honduras 2019-01-28
  • 68. Andorra 2019-01-23
  • 67. Albania 2019-01-18
  • 66. Poland 2019-01-07
  • 65. Nigeria 2018-12-20
  • 64. Japan 2018-12-18
  • 63. Slovenia 2018-12-07
  • 62. Croatia 2018-12-06
  • 61. Denmark 2018-12-06
  • 60. Switzerland 2018-11-07
  • 59. Paraguay 2018-11-01
  • 58. Kiribati 2018-10-26
  • 57. Guinea-Bissau 2018-10-22
  • 56. Greece 2018-10-05
  • 55. Panama 2018-09-28
  • 54. Sri Lanka 2018-09-28
  • 53. Austria 2018-09-27
  • 52. Czech Republic 2018-09-27
  • 51. Estonia 2018-09-27
  • 50. European Union 2018-09-27
  • 49. Mexico 2018-09-25
  • 48. Tonga 2018-09-17
  • 47. Hungary 2018-09-14
  • 46. Uruguay 2018-09-12
  • 45. Senegal 2018-08-31
  • 44. Niger 2018-08-29
  • 43. Latvia 2018-08-17
  • 42. Burkina Faso 2018-07-26
  • 41. Lithuania 2018-07-24
  • 40. Portugal 2018-07-17
  • 39. Uganda 2018-06-21
  • 38. Belgium 2018-06-04
  • 37. Grenada 2018-05-29
  • 36. Costa Rica 2018-05-23
  • 35. Bulgaria 2018-05-01
  • 34. Niue 2018-04-24
  • 33. Vanuatu 2018-04-20
  • 32. Barbados 2018-04-19
  • 31. France 2018-03-29
  • 30. Samoa 2018-03-23
  • 29. Benin 2018-03-19
  • 28. Ireland 2018-03-12
  • 27. Togo 2018-03-08
  • 26. Gabon 2018-02-28
  • 25. Netherlands 2018-02-08
  • 24. Ecuador 2018-01-22
  • 23. Côte d’Ivoire 2017-11-29
  • 22. Malawi 2017-11-21
  • 21. Sweden 2017-11-17
  • 20. Trinidad and Tobago 2017-11-17
  • 19. Comoros 2017-11-16
  • 18. Lao People’s Democratic Republic 2017-11-16
  • 17. Luxembourg 2017-11-16
  • 16. Slovakia 2017-11-16
  • 15. Finland 2017-11-14
  • 14. Germany 2017-11-14
  • 13. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 2017-11-14
  • 12. Maldives 2017-11-13
  • 11. Canada 2017-11-03
  • 10. Australia 2017-10-27
  • 9. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea 2017-09-21
  • 8. Tuvalu 2017-09-21
  • 7. Chile 2017-09-19
  • 6. Norway 2017-09-06
  • 5. Palau 2017-08-29
  • 4. Rwanda 2017-05-23
  • 3. Marshall Islands 2017-05-15
  • 2. Micronesia (Federated States of) 2017-05-12
  • 1. Mali 2017-03-31

Find out more about Montreal Protocol from UN Environment Programme.

More discovery on the causes ofglobal warminghad prompted many countries to sign theKyoto Protocol in 1997. The main reason this was being done was to reduce the greenhouse effect caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gases include:

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

In the field of HVACR, refrigerant such asR32has been widely publicized as a replacement for R-410A and R-407C as this gas has a lower Global Warming Potential. Lower GWP will reduce the greenhouse effect hence reducing the global warming effect. Many manufacturers are beginning to design and develop HVAC equipment using this refrigerant.

Do your part to preserve mother nature…

CFC Refrigerants

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

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

HCFC Refrigerants

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

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

  • R-22 CHClF2
  • R-123 CHCl2CF3

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

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


HFC Refrigerants

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

  • R-134a CH2FCF3
  • R-125 CHF2CF3

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


Refrigerant Blends

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

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

  • R-410A CH2F2/CHF2-CF3
  • R-407c

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

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

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Hazard Classification

Air Conditioner Refrigerant - Today's Homeowner (1)

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

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

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

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

Example ofA2 refrigerant is R-152A.

Example ofA3 refrigerant is R-290.

Example of B1 refrigerant is R-123.

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

Recovery, Recycling and Reclaiming of Refrigerants

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


Recovery

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


Recycling

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


Reclaiming

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


Consumer Role

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

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

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

Air Conditioner Refrigerant Manufacturers

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

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