A refrigerant is loosely defined as any substance that is used to produce refrigeration. More specifically, it is often a chemical that goes through a number of phases changes to remove heat in a refrigeration system, such as a refrigerator or an air conditioner. A refrigerant comes as either a liquid or gas and changes phases as it absorbs and releases heat.
Refrigerants from bluon are absolutely necessary for the operation of modern refrigeration technology. But that doesn’t mean they don’t come without their consequences. Refrigerants have a history of being toxic to humans and dangerous to the environment. Over time, safer and more efficient refrigerants have been developed. By changing the refrigerant that your air conditioner uses you can actually help save the environment.
How Does A Refrigerant Work?
Refrigeration science is extremely complicated, yet the basics of what a refrigerant does are actually very simple. The refrigerant moves through a set of components inside of an air conditioner including a compressor, a compressor, and an evaporator. The job of the refrigerant is unique when inside each of the different components. It often relies on a change of phase to accomplish the newly designated task.
The refrigerant begins by working in the compressor. Inside the compressor the refrigerant gains pressure. It is then pushed through the valve into the condenser unit. Here it is condensed from a high-pressure vapor to a liquid, which will cause it to give away most of its heat. If you were to touch the condenser you could feel the heat from the refrigerant, but you might burn yourself, so it’s not advised.
The final stage is the evaporator. This is where the refrigerant loses most of its pressure and begins to absorb heat from the surrounding evaporator. This increase in heat causes the refrigerant to convert to a vapor form. The heat absorbed from the evaporator is usually absorbed from the air, thus the air is cooled. Once the refrigerant has cooled the air in the evaporator is sucked back into the compressor to begin the cycle again.
Types Of Refrigerants Over Time
There have been a number of different refrigerants used since the invention of refrigeration technology. Most of the early refrigerants were extremely harmful to the environment and dangerous to people as well. One of the most popular refrigerants used prior to the invention of modern refrigerants was ammonia.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that a few great minds and big companies began to work together to develop safer alternatives. That is when chlorofluorocarbon(CFC) refrigerants were invented. At the time, they were believed to be extremely safe. CFC refrigerants interacted with very few substances. They seemed to be completely neutral and were even utilized in a number of different applications.
Later, at the beginning of the 1980’s, professionals began to question the safety of these refrigerants. The most commonly used refrigerant at the time was R-22, which is more commonly known as Freon. This still remains the most common refrigerant on the planet, but it is no longer believed to be as safe as it once was.
What the experts learned was that the refrigerant wasn’t completely neutral. It was interacting with a ultraviolet light. After the refrigerant was released into the air and reached a certain height it would interact with ultraviolet light in a violent manner. The result was that chlorine would be released into the atmosphere. That chlorine would then cause severe damage to the ozone layer. After the chlorine destroyed part of the ozone layer it would survive and repeat the process. This meant that all of the refrigerant used across the globe was contributing significantly to global warming. This is the same refrigerant that is still in use at many homes in the United States.
The Ban Of R-22
The government in several countries began a phase-out process of R22 and other refrigerants with a similar chemical structure. January 2015 would mark the beginning of the ban on selling R22 except when it is needed to service an existing refrigeration system. Later, in 2020, the production and import of R22 will be completely illegal. Systems that use R22 will need to rely on their existing supply and they cannot be replenished.
Not only is replacing your existing R-22 refrigerant helping the environment, but it will eventually be mandatory. The best option is to begin planning today. You can choose to completely replace your unit with a newer model that relies on an entirely different and safer refrigerant or you can choose a refrigerant that can replace R-22 in the same model.
Choosing An R-22 Replacement
There are several newer refrigerants that you can choose from. The use of these refrigerants will help save the environment and can even save you money in some cases. The first decision you’ll need to make is whether you’re not you want to keep the same unit. The units are designed to work with a specific refrigerant, which means it’s difficult to replace the refrigerant without replacing the unit. However, there have been some refrigerants developed that will work under the same operating conditions as R-22.
RS-44b is known as a “drop-in” replacement. This means that it can be used in the existing R-22 coolant system without any changes to the equipment or operating conditions. It has a much lower global warming potential(GWP) and is considered to be very efficient. It has the same flow rate as R-22 with similar pressure requirements, yet lower energy consumption.
It’s believed that R-410A will be the next leading refrigerant across the globe. It is already becoming extremely popular in the United States, Europe, and Japan. It is not a direct drop-in replacement, but the overall advantages that it offers make it a worthy alternative if you can afford to replace your unit.
R-410A operates at a much higher pressure than R-22 and other refrigerants. However, it also allows for much higher SEER ratings while also having a GWP of less than half of R-22. Whether you choose to switch to R-410a, RS-44b, or some other refrigerant entirely, replacing your existing R-22 will help save the environment.