For air conditioners, refrigerants are like…the air we breathe! Technically, without them, there would be neither air conditioning nor any other freezing technology. But are they all safe and efficient? Read more here and find out more about refrigerants. Freeze! Read on!

 Refrigerants – what’s their role?

Air conditioners contain refrigerant inside copper coils. As refrigerant absorbs heat from indoor air, it transitions from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid. Then, the air conditioning components send the refrigerant outside, where a fan blows hot air over the coils and exhausts it to the exterior.

The refrigerant gradually cools down and turns back into a low-pressure gas. Another fan located inside the house blows air over the cool coils to distribute the resulting cold air throughout the room. The cycle repeats over and over again.

 

Classification of refrigerants

In Australia, according to the refrigeration safety and environmental standards AS/NZS 817:2016, there are four categories of refrigerants, considering their flammability:

  • Not flammable (Class 1) does not burn at the pressure and temperature conditions used for testing (60°C).

Examples: R134a, R404A, R449A, R744

  • Lower flammability (Class 2L) manifest very slight flammability. They are poor fuels, require large leaks to become flammable and have a very slow burn velocity. These gases are very unlikely to explode.

Examples: R32, R1234yf, R717

  • Flammable (Class 2) is flammable. These gases tend to be poor fuels but have faster burning velocities and are therefore more likely to explode.

Examples: R152a

  • Higher flammability (Class 3) is highly flammable. They are used as fuels and produce large amounts of heat when they burn. They only require a small leak to form a flammable mixture and are likely to cause explosions due to high burning velocity.

Examples: R290, R600a, R1270

 

Old and modern refrigerants

How would an air conditioner impact the ozone layer? Well, it was discovered in the mid-1980s that the commonly used air conditioner refrigerants, like CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons and HCFCs – Hydrochlorofluorocarbons, had chemical substances that significantly damaged the ozone layer.

Nowadays, most refrigerants used in air conditioners are HFCs – Hydrofluorocarbons, as well as refrigerant blends, known to be more environmentally friendly compared to its ancestors.

In summary, there are four types of refrigerants:

  • CFCs, such as R12 – known to contribute to the greenhouse gas effect
  • HCFCs, such as R22 – less destructive to the ozone layer than CFCs. However, HCFCs are being phased out globally under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer by 2030.
  • HFCs, such as R134a – used in commercial air conditioning. These gases are not destructive to the ozone layer though they have a slight effect on global warming, also known as GWP (Global Warming Potential). Australia started to phase-down HFCs starting January 2018.
  • Refrigerant blends, such as R410A – are non-flammable, being used in residential air conditioning. However, due to a higher GWP, they’re slowly being replaced by R32 with far less environmental impact compared to other refrigerants.

 

Refrigerant leaks – a call to your AC specialist!

Whenever you notice a refrigerant leak, all affected parts must be repaired or replaced before the unit can be refilled with refrigerant.

If your air conditioner is not cool, it’s probably out of refrigerant. Leaking air conditioners directly emit environmentally harmful gasses into the atmosphere and run less efficiently, which unfortunately have an impact on your funds, as well as over the life expectancy of the units.

Remember that refrigerants should only be handled by a professional due to the health risks it poses. At Jaric’s, all our specialists have the ARC “tick” and can carefully locate the source of the leak. We will let you know whether repairing or replacing the unit is the most cost-effective solution.

Until next time, stay cool and comfortable!

Your friend and AC expert,

John Ricca

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