What Chemicals are Used in Air Conditioners?

There are a number of different chemicals or refrigerants used in air conditioners. Before we go into the details of what each of these are, let’s understand what a refrigerant is.

What Exactly is a Refrigerant?

refrigerant is essentially a fluid that’s utilized in AC systems as well as refrigerators; these fluids take the heat from the indoor spaces and throw out the heat into the outdoor environment. This fluid moves through different phases and moves from a liquid state to a gaseous state when it absorbs heat. When it gets compressed in the compressor, it gets converted back into the liquid state.

The type of refrigerant used is based on what its thermodynamic properties are, its safety aspects and non-corrosive nature. Though there are number of different fluids that are used as refrigerants, CFCs are by far the most popular ones. Listed below is detailed information about what these different refrigerants and how they compare against each other; it will also help you understand why it’s important to have the right refrigerant.

HFCs (hydro-fluorocarbon)

1. R-22/Freon

    • R22 is commonly referred to as Freon, it brand name. It was discontinued as of 2010 in all new ACs.  By 2015, the use of this


    •  has to be discontinued across the board This is a HCFC which contributes to



The most commonly used refrigerants in new commercial AC systems include R-134a, R-410A and R-407C.

2. R-410A

    • This is generally referred to by brand names such as Genetron® AZ-20®, Suva® 9100 or Puron®. It’s been approved by the EPA for use in replacement air-conditioning systems This hydro-fluorocarbon doesn’t contribute to depletion of the earth’s


    •  layer The operating pressures of R-410A are 50% + higher than R-410A R-22. The systems must have components that have the compatibility to operate at these higher pressures. This is the commonest


     used in new light commercial unitary AC systems

3. R-407C

    • This


    •  generally goes by the brand name Genetron® 407C or Suva® 407C. It is a hydro-fluorocarbon that doesn’t contribute to


    •  depletion. When compared to HFC options of higher temperatures; this


    •  very closely-matches all the operating characteristics of Freon or R-22. This is high-glide


    that has lower efficiency levels. However, since its pressures are similar to that of R-22, it becomes the most ideal conversion.

4. R-134a

    R-134a is very commonly used in various AC systems across the globe.
    • It is a hydro-fluorocarbon that doesn’t contribute to


    •  depletion. It’s the 1st non-


    • -depleting HFC


    •  to be commercialized. This is a single-component


     that has no glide; it is used in a number of large-scale commercial screw chillers. It is an excellent long-term solution for light commercial and residential air-conditioning, on account of its combination direct GWP value and high-efficiency performance. It is very close in value to R-22. It is easy to incorporate into systems and AC system manufacturers use it in their products a due to its high efficiency as well. It is also now possible to easily find components that can be used to design efficient and effective R-410A systems.

The latest AC models are specifically designed to be compatible with R-410A for more efficient and reliable operation. Since R-410A has the capability to absorb and release more heat compared to R-22, the air conditioning compressor can also run at a much cooler temperature; this significantly reduces the risk of a compressor burnout due to excessive heating.

R-410A functions at a much higher pressure compared to R-22; thus the latest compressors are also built to endure greater stresses; this reduces the chances of cracking.

HFCs – some facts

    • All AC units use a specific oil to ensure the


    •  is well lubricated during operation. Mineral oil is used in the R-22 air conditioning systems while Polyol Ester oil (POE) is used in the R-410A systems. POE oil is typically far more soluble in R-410A than mineral oil is in R-22. It means the former system operates much more efficiently, reducing


    • -related wear and tear. Aside from this, certain HFC mixtures/blends have temperature glide, which is entirely undesirable. This is because there is an alteration in their composition in the course of the phase change. There is a minor change in the condensing and evaporating temperature at a constant pressure. Commercial AC systems that use these modern and advanced higher glide


    s are generally designed to work around various problems connected with glide, without having very little/no effect on the unit’s performance. Some states within the United States as well as local utilities offer rebates and tax incentives for buildings as well as systems that meet the green codes. U.S. Green Building Council, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and a number of other state organizations developed LEED which is the currently the most popular rating system.

The R-22 Phase-Out

In the U.S, ozone-depleting substances or ODS are all regulated either as Class I/ Class II controlled-substances. The ozone depletion potential of the former are higher and they have now been completely phased out in our country. With very few exceptions, it also means that no one can import or produce Class 1 substances. The Class II substances are essentially HCFCs that have now become the transitional substitutes for a number of Class I substances.

In stages, the U.S. phase-out has now reduced the total amount of Ozone Depleting Substances that may be imported /legally produced the country. The import as well as the production of most of the HFCs is to be completely phased out by 2020. This phase-out has been brought into effect to protect the ozone layer of the earth.

The most common hydro-fluorocarbon in use today is R-22 (Freon). It is still utilized in existing AC systems and refrigeration equipment. As the U.S phases out R-22, consumers will have to make informed choices when they are servicing, repairing, or even getting an AC replacement or when purchasing a new air conditioner. It is recommended that you consult expert AC installation companies for more information on which systems you should now opt for.