Which Refrigerants Are Environmentally Friendly and Why?

By: JADE Learning | Dec 03, 2020

Refrigerants do an efficient job at cooling air inside an HVAC system that is then distributed throughout a home or building. But refrigerants can also do a number on the climate by releasing pollutants and contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer.  

Freon in particular has been found to be especially harmful to the environment, and it’s a refrigerant we’ve been dependent upon for years. However, freon is now on the way out, with the Environmental Protection Agency EPA phasing out its use before an outright ban in 2030.  

Fortunately, there are some alternative refrigerants that are more eco-friendly and others continue to be discovered, tested, and developed all the time. This article will discuss environmentally friendly refrigerants and the properties that make them climate-friendly. 

What Makes a Refrigerant Environmentally Friendly? 

The eco-friendliness of a refrigerant can be measured by its ODP (ozone depletion potential) and GWP (global warming potential).  

The most environmentally friendly refrigerants are hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) and hydrofluoro-olefins (HFO).  

HFCs are comprised of fluorinated hydrocarbons. While HFCs can contribute to global warming, they do not affect the ozone layer directly.  

HFOs are made up of hydrogen, fluorine, and carbon and have zero ODP, along with a very low GWP, and therefore are considered to be the currently most environmentally friendly type of refrigerant. 

List of Environmentally Friendly Refrigerants 

The following refrigerants have been designated as environmentally friendly by the EPA.  

HFOs 

These HFO refrigerants are found in commercial and industrial air conditioning and refrigeration systems, water chillers, automobiles, portable air conditioners, and heat pumps.  

  • R449A 
  • R454C  
  • R513A  
  • R1234yf 
  • R1234ze 
  • R1233zd 
  • R1336mzz 

HFCs 

These HFC refrigerants are used in industrial refrigerators, residential and commercial air conditioners, automobiles, and centrifugal chillers. 

  • R32 
  • R134a 
  • R426A 
  • R428A 
  • R434A 
  • R442A 
  • R453A 

HFO/HFC Blends  

There are also refrigerants made up of a blend of HFOs and HFCs that are often found in supermarket refrigeration systems, vending machines, heat pumps, and air and water chillers. These include: 

  • R448A 
  • R450A 
  • R455A 
  • R464A 

Learn More About Refrigerants 

Learn more about refrigerants by enrolling in HVAC Continuing Education with JADE Learning. We help thousands of HVAC professionals renew their licenses every year and how we can help you, too. 

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