Last Updated on October 8th, 2021 by RefrigeratorPro Team
Refrigerator is one of the most common home appliances. Other than AC, it is the only common home appliance that uses gas for cooling purpose.
Are you aware that there are different types of gases used in refrigerators depending upon the brand and region. For example, 134a is rarely used in Europe, while it is quite common in many countries.
Before we begin, let us see why there are so many different types of refrigerator gases.
Table of Contents
- Why are There Different Refrigerator Gases?
- History of Refrigerator Gases & Their Types
- Common Refrigerator Gases
Why are There Different Refrigerator Gases?
It is important to understand the refrigerator gases have changed over the years due to regulations mainly as a result of Kigali Agreement or Montreal Protocol. Because the agreement has different regulations for different group of countries, the commonly used refrigerator gases are also different.
The countries that signed the Montreal Protocol are bound to phase out environment-harming refrigerator gases in a timely manner. This is because most synthetic refrigerants are bad for the environment as many of them have high GWP (Global Warming Potential). This can lead to an increase in global temperature. Many refrigerants are therefore being phased out.
Montreal Agreement has grouped the member countries into three categories:
- The first group includes rich and developed economies such as the US, the UK and countries in the European Union who will begin the phase out of refrigerator gases with high GWP by 2019 and reduce it to 15% of 2012 levels by 2036.
- The second group includes emerging economies such as Brazil, China and some African countries who will begin phase out of these refrigerants by 2024 and reduce it to 20% of 2021 levels by 2045.
- The third group includes developing countries and some of the hottest countries such as India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc. who will begin the phasing out by 2028 and reduce it to 15% of 2024-2026 levels till 2047.
As you can see the deadlines are different for different group of countries, hence there are different refrigerants that are common in different countries.
History of Refrigerator Gases & Their Types
CFC: Chlorofluorocarbon is a nontoxic and nonflammable refrigerator gas that was used in the early 20th century and remained the most popular refrigerator gas till early 1990s, before being banned for damaging the Ozone layer.
HCFC: HCFC or hydrochlorofluorocarbon was the next refrigerant that was introduced because of lower Ozone Depletion Potential, however, even though it has lower Ozone Depletion Potential, it was still a concern. Its use in refrigerators was always limited.
HFC: Hydroflourcarbon effectively replaced the CFC by becoming the most commonly used type of refrigerator gas in the world. It has low GWP and 0 Ozone Depletion Potential.
However, under the Montreal protocol, even this type of gas will be phased out, giving way for different type of gas. This is because of its global warming potential.
HC: Hydrocarbon or HC is a modern type of refrigerant used in refrigerators that has low GWP and ODP. However, its use is not widespread and it will take years before a clear winner emerges.
Common Refrigerator Gases
Modern Refrigerator Gases
R600a or Isobutane is a type of HC that is one of the most common refrigerator gases in Europe. It is the most efficient refrigerator gas being used in domestic refrigerators today. Even though it is an HC, its GWP is lower than some of the other popular HCs, hence it is popular in some developed countries. However, one drawback of this gas is that it is highly flammable.
R600a is also used by refrigerators in India, however, it is not the most common refrigerant/coolant in the country.
R134a is the most commonly used refrigerator gas in the world. It is also quite common in India.
It is a non-flammable, non-toxic, non-explosive, non-irritating and non-corrosive, refrigerator gas. It is widely used in appliances and refrigeration systems such as home refrigerators, water dispensers, automobile ACs, central ACs, dehumidifiers, cold storage, commercial refrigeration, ice cream machines and freezers.
Since this is also an HFC, it does not harm the Ozone layer but has higher GWP as compared to R600a.
Ammonia is one of the oldest refrigerants which is also used in modern refrigeration systems. It is a naturally occurring gas that is commonly used in large industrial plants. It is inexpensive and is in abundant supply, however, it is not used in commercial refrigerators because it is toxic and flammable.
Old Refrigerator Gases
Sulphur dioxide was one of the most commonly used refrigerants from 1920s to 1930s. It is non explosive and non flammable but it is highly toxic. Hence it was replaced by another refrigerant methyl chloride.
This refrigerant was used in 1920s as an alternative to sulphur dioxide. It was one of the most widely used refrigerants in domestic and commercial refrigeration during this period. However, numerous fatal accidents would occur in case of methyl chloride leakage from refrigerators. This resulted in discovery of the next generation refrigerants such as CFCs.
R12 or Freon 12 was the most popular CFC that was used the world over due to its desirable properties. One of its biggest benefit is that it does not disintegrate even at high temperatures hence it is suitable for wide range of applications.
Since it is a CFC, its production has been banned. However, it is still being used by older refrigeration systems. As far as home refrigerators are concerned, it will be hard to find a working refrigerator with R12 refrigerant today.
Which is the most widely used refrigerator gas in the world?
R134a is the best gas because it has no Ozone Depletion Potential and low global warming potential.
Which is the most common refrigerator gas in India?
R134a is the most common gas refrigerant in India.
Can water be used as a refrigerant?
Yes, in fact, water is the oldest refrigerant to be used.
Is Tetraflouroethane a refrigerator gas?
Yes, Tetrafluoroethane is a refrigerator gas (R134a is a type of Tetrafluoroethane).
R134a and R600 are the two most commonly used refrigerator gases in the world. R134a being an HFC is adapted more by developing countries, while R600a being an HC is used more in developed countries. However, as far as efficiency is concerned, R600a is better than R134a. In near future, both the gases will be replaced by more environment friendly refrigerants, but considering the fact that the timelines for phaseout have been changed in the past, it is likely that countries will get more time to develop and use new alternatives.