The refrigerator is an old invention that has eased life for us. This magical appliance has been preserving and chilling our food and beverages to save them from rotting and spoiling. However, like every other appliance, a refrigerator also has a working mechanism based on its components. One major component that plays a key role in the whole cooling process is Refrigerator gas also known formally as a Refrigerant. This gas or refrigerant comes in various variations, some of which are now obsolete due to their environmental impact. This article will shed light on the basic understanding of a refrigerant, its working, different refrigerants that are disused now and their replacements, and the environmental impact of certain refrigerants.
What is a Refrigerant?
Constituted of gas and chemicals, A refrigerant’s primary function is to absorb heat from the refrigerator. The collected heat is then dissipated leaving behind the chilled storage of the refrigerator. Refrigerant performs its function by cycling between evaporator and condenser consistently. Every air conditioning and refrigeration system is occupied by a refrigerant that is responsible for the cooling.
Some decades ago, Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), HydroFluorocarbons (HFCs), and ChloroFluoroCarbons (CFCs) were used predominantly. But their ozone-depleting properties soon phased them out. Now, more environmentally friendly gases are being used instead such as Hydrocarbons and Hydrofloroolefins.
Working of a Refrigerant:
The refrigerant flows through the evaporator which transforms the refrigerant into vapors and makes it absorb the heat from the refrigerator. The compressor then receives the heat from the refrigerant and cools it down. Now condenser comes into play whose basic role is to turn back the refrigerant into a liquid state by releasing its heat. Now the inside of your refrigerator will cool down and the refrigerant will repeat the cycle by passing through the evaporator.
A refrigerant goes through this complete working cycle in cooling down the temperature of your refrigerator resulting in the cooling of perishable eateries.
In previous centuries around 1800-1920, only toxic refrigerants were used in refrigeration systems whether it be refrigerators or air conditioners. Those gases were causing the depletion of the ozone layer and misbalancing the greenhouse effect. By 1920, scientists started to realize the disastrous effects of using the blend of chlorine, fluorine, and carbons. Different regulations and international agreements were made that banned the use of harmful refrigerants. Montreal Protocol is one of the many agreements that prohibited the use of toxic gases and encouraged environment-friendly gases. European F-gas Regulation has also banned gases having a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of more than 1500. All these steps have created a noticeable difference in maintaining a healthy environment.
Different Types of Refrigerants:
Many types of refrigerants are used in refrigerators; some of which were terminated due to their environment-threatening nature and some of which are encouraged due to their low GWP. Some of the phased-out and modern Refrigerator gases are listed below:
R-12 also known as Dichlorodifluoromethane is a historical refrigerant that was once used in old refrigerators. It was highly disastrous to the ozone layer that’s why it was soon phased out and banned to use.
R-22 Refrigerant also known as Chlorodifluoromethane is also a traditional gas that was once used in refrigerators. It contained highly toxic chemicals and was hazardous to health if inhaled. It was banned mainly due to its ozone-depleting properties. No modern refrigerator uses it now as a refrigerant.
R134a refrigerant gas also goes with the chemical name of 1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane. It is an HFC and a modern refrigerant which is widely used in modern refrigerators. Its optimal cooling performance, environment-friendly nature, and low ozone depletion rate make it likable. However, it has a relatively high Global Warming Potential (GWP).
R-600a or Isobutane is a Hydrocarbon having nominal Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Zero Ozone Depletion Rate (ODP). It has commendable cooling properties and low environmental impact and is also Halogen-free. It is now a common choice of refrigerant for household refrigerators. However, it is highly flammable.
R-290 goes by a common name- Propane. Propane is also a hydrocarbon and is used immensely as a refrigerant gas due to its exceptional specifications. Its up-to-mark cooling qualities and zero ozone depletion rate have made it widely acceptable. It is very environmentally friendly and has very low GWP.
Commonly known as Carbon Dioxide, R-744 is a natural gas used by various high-end households due to its eco-friendly nature. It has a GWP of 1 which makes it environmental-friendly for usage.
This gas is known as Freon and used as an alternative to R-22. Unlike R-22, this gas is safe for the environment as it doesn’t play any role in ozone depletion.
In conclusion, refrigerators are one of those appliances which use gas or refrigerant for their operation. Refrigerator gas cools the refrigerator space which aids in germs prevention near the food. However, not all gases are good for the environment and now that you know the environmental impact of all the gases, you must make an informed decision while purchasing a refrigerator or refilling the gas. Be mindful of your greenhouse footprint and mitigate the impact of Global Warming on the planet.