What are the different types of AC refrigerants?

Do you know what makes the air coming from your air conditioner cool? It’s the refrigerant that runs through the system. Do you know what a refrigerant is? It is a chemical compound or mixture used in the air conditioner, responsible for absorbing heat from the surrounding air and then providing cool air inside the house. It is usually in a liquid form and is transitioned in gaseous form after it’s passed through compressors and evaporators. Besides air conditioners, the refrigerant is used in almost every appliance that cools such as refrigerators, freezers, and vehicle AC. There are different types of AC refrigerants that are commonly used. 

Since refrigerant is a vital component of your AC, let us know more about their types in detail.

How does a refrigerant work?

refrigeration system
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Your air conditioner will not be able to provide you with cool air if it does not has a refrigerant. The refrigerant runs through the entire system inside copper refrigerant lines. The refrigerant absorbs and releases heat, during its circulation, while changing its form from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid and then back to low-pressure gas at the end. Any shortage or leakage of refrigerant can lead to increased energy usage, higher bills, and sometimes damage to the air conditioner system.

Different types of AC refrigerants

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some common types of AC refrigerants used in air conditioners are:

  1. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) like R-12: Chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs such as R-12 are one type of refrigerant used in air conditioners for cooling. But, these are shown to add to a dangerous environmental phenomenon known as the Greenhouse gas effect. Due to this reason, the use of CFCs as a refrigerant was stopped by the manufacturers. The production of new stocks of R-12 ceased in the year 1994.
  2. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) like R-22: Hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs include R-22, which is a type of refrigerant commonly used in air conditioners. R-22 is also known as Freon. However, R-22 has also been found to be dangerous for the environment as, just like the R-12, they also contribute to ozone depletion. As a result of its connection to the greenhouse gas effect, the production, and import of R-22 have been stopped since 1st January 2020, under the Clean Air Act, 2010. This can still be used in the air conditioners as the recovered, recycled, and/or reclaimed supplies of R-22 are still available. Only the production of R-22 has been phased out. 
  3. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) like R-410A: The R-22 has been replaced by R-410A, also known as Puron, as an AC refrigerant. Besides providing higher refrigeration capacity and improved energy efficiency, these are also safe for the environment. R-410A doesn’t add to ozone depletion due to the lack of chlorine in its mixture. This refrigerant improves the performance of the air conditioners by offering better air quality, comfort, and reliability. But, R-410A can not be used in the old air conditioners that run on R-22, due to the requirement of higher pressure. To use the new refrigerant, an upgrade or replacement will be required. 

Why is refrigerant recovery important?

Refrigerant recovery means transferring the refrigerant from the system into a refillable refrigerant cylinder. If the refrigerant is not contaminated and is of adequate quality, it can be charged back into the system once the system repairs are complete. In case the refrigerant is contaminated, it may need further processing like on-site recycling or off-site reclaiming, before returning it into the system.

As per the Clean Air Act, 2010, it is mandatory to recover refrigerants having CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs. Venting of the refrigerants knowingly or intentionally is strictly prohibited. Besides the law, recovering the refrigerants is also beneficial for the environment as it prevents harmful refrigerants from entering the environment.  

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These are some of the best air conditioner tools and equipment that you might need:

  1. Kozyvacu AUTO AC Repair Complete Tool Kit with 1-Stage 4.5 CFM Vacuum Pump, Manifold Gauge Set, Hoses and its Acccessories … (KZTA35011)
  2. XtremepowerUS 3CFM 1/4HP Air Vacuum Pump HVAC R134a R12 R22 R410a A/C Refrigeration Kit AC Manifold Gauge R134 Can Tap Included Carrying Tote
  3. Mofeez Pro AC A/C Diagnostic Manifold Freon Gauge Set For R134A R12 R22 Refrigerants, with Couplers | ACME Adapter | Instructions
  4. ZENY 3,5CFM Single-Stage 5 Pa Rotary Vane Economy Vacuum Pump 3 CFM 1/4HP Air Conditioner Refrigerant HVAC Air Tool R410a 1/4″ Flare Inlet Port, Blue
  5. Elitech WJL-6000 Freon Leak Detector Halogen Leak Detector Refrigerant Gas HVAC R22 R410A R134A R1234YF CFCs HCFCs HFCs Detector High Accuracy
  6. Leak Saver: Direct Inject – Refrigerant Leak Sealer – For Systems Up to 5 Tons – Compatible With Most Air Conditioner and Refrigeration Systems – Proudly Made in the USA

Which AC refrigerant to use?

The type of AC refrigerant to be used depends on the air conditioner you are using. Usually, there is a sticker or plate on the evaporator or compressor of the air conditioner, that mentions the type of refrigerant suitable for the system. Using the wrong refrigerant can cause severe damage to your system as every refrigerant has different pressure. As we discussed above, R-410A is a better refrigerant than R-22 as it is not harmful to the environment. Also, the R-22 has been phased out, so getting it now will be a bit expensive. So, using R-410A is preferable to R-22. But if your system runs on R-22, you can not replace the refrigerant with R-410A. The only solution for this issue is a replacement of the system. 

However, you do not need to immediately replace your system, as R-22 is still available and usable. But, the next time you notice any issues with your system, especially refrigerant related, it will be better to upgrade or replace your system with the one running on R-410A. Though it will be a bit expensive at that moment, it will offer you better air quality, improved system efficiency, and comfort, which will be worth the investment. 

One important thing to remember is that if you are even a little bit hesitant, you should always contact a professional in case of any issues regarding your air conditioner refrigerant. The professionals are experienced in handling these things and know the requirements of the system.

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