A refrigerant is a fluid that is used in air conditioners and refrigerators. The function of a refrigerant is to absorb heat from the contents of the refrigerator or the room (in case of ACs) and throw it out into the atmosphere. A typical refrigerant undergoes a phase change from liquid to gas upon absorption of heat, and back to liquid when a compressor compresses it. There are various types of refrigerants available such as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydro fluro carbons (HFC), and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). The application of an ideal refrigerant is made on the basis of its thermodynamic properties, non-corrosive nature, and properties such as non-toxicity and non-flammability.
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The usage of various refrigerants and their environmental effects causing depletion of the ozone layer have been a constant matter of discussion for the last few decades. Before 1990s, the most common refrigerant used was R-12 (CFC), by Dupont, named Freon. However, in the 1990s and 2000s, CFCs were replaced by HCFCs; the most common being R-22. HCFC refrigerants contain chlorine, which causes the depletion of the ozone layer and hence, are being phased out. The use of R-22 in new units has been outlawed since 2010. The phasing out of HCFC, has been planned, with the U.S. slated to terminate the supply by the year 2020. In emerging economies such as India, 50%to 60% of the ACs operating in the country utilize HCFCs and as per the Government’s plan, it is estimated to be phased out by the year 2030.
Manufacturers created another set of refrigerant called Hydro Fluoro Carbon (HFC) in order to remove the chlorine content from the refrigerant. HFCs have the potential to cause global warming; however, they are still better than HCFCs, as they do not deplete the ozone layer. The most common HFC in use is R-410A, being better in terms of ozone depletion potential and energy efficiency; however, it still causes global warming.
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The primary restraint associated with the R-410A refrigerant is still possesses the potential to cause global warming potential. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added a new rule to their Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP); this new rule was targeted toward the phasing out Hydroflurocarbon refrigerants, including R-410A.