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What is Refrigerant?

Updated: Apr 26

Chances are, a lot of the air conditioner and HVAC jargon can be a little bit much to keep up with: condensate, ducts, refrigerant. Luckily enough, we’re here to make these terms more accessible and understandable so that you know what your HVAC tech is talking about during your maintenance appointment! Read on to find out all about what refrigerant is and how it aids your HVAC system.


The refrigeration cycle
The refrigeration cycle

What is refrigerant?


Simply put, refrigerant is a fluid (that can be found in a liquid or a gaseous state) that can absorb and release heat. This is the substance that is absolutely crucial to your air conditioner to be able to absorb the heat in your home, and combined with other parts of the HVAC system (compressors and evaporators), you enjoy cool, conditioned air as a result.


How does refrigerant work?


Air conditioners are complex machines that are (basically) capable of magic (or alchemy?). Refrigerant works wonders in conjunction with the help of many different components inside of an air conditioner. Inside of air conditioners, you can find copper coils, where the refrigerant is housed. As the refrigerant absorbs the heat in your home, it converts itself from a low-pressure gas into a high-pressure liquid. Then, this high-pressure liquid is sent out to the fan where the hot air is sent over a fan to expel it.


Once this process is finished, the refrigerant cools and turns itself back into a low-pressure gas. This cools the copper coils, where a different fan then blows the cold air resulting from the copper coils out into your home. This is the completion of the cycle that will repeat itself over and over!


What are the types of refrigerants?


There are many types of refrigerants that are and have been on the market. Let’s look at a few:


R12–CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons). You may know this more specifically as Freon. In quick terms, a CFC is a non-toxic chemical that contains atoms of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. Although CFCs are safe to use for humans, they undergo an adverse reaction in the upper atmosphere that essentially destroys ozone and have been proven to contribute to the greenhouse gas effect. Thus, CFCs are no longer being produced and cannot be used.


R22–HCFCs (Hydrochlorofluorocarbons). HCFCs are compounds comprised of carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine. Although less reactive in the upper atmosphere than CFCs, HCFCs still don’t have a positive effect on the ozone and have since been completely phased out in the United States per the Clean Air Act of 2010.


R410A and R143–HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons). HFCs are comprised of carbon, hydrogen, and fluorine atoms. Unlike their predecessors, HFCs do not contain chlorine, which makes them a bit safer for the ozone and the environment as it contributes fewer greenhouse gasses than the refrigerants that came before them. It also tends to be a more efficient and reliable refrigerant which even boasts better air quality as a product.


Should you upgrade?


Now that you know a little more about refrigerant, maybe it’s time to check your air conditioner's exterior component to see what kind of refrigerant it uses R22 (HCFCs). If this is the case, you may be cooling your home using environmentally hazardous, outdated refrigeration. Although you’re not required by the EPA to upgrade your air conditioner immediately, it may be time to thoroughly consider it. If a repair needs to happen or you experience a leak in the refrigerant, it’s very possible that your technician may not be able to get their hands on the refrigerant, as R22 has been completely phased out since 2020. Additionally, different refrigerants cannot be simply changed out.


Call us


Interested in upgrading your air conditioner to something more environmentally friendly, reliable, and efficient? Interested in a tune-up and want to take advantage of our offer of 15% off all preventative maintenance? Give us a call! Any one of our experienced technicians would love to chat with you about all the benefits and what we can do to help you every step of the way.


For a direct line to any of our employees ready on the line to help you, please call…(512) 651-4565 for our Austin, Texas community (806) 686-0050 for our Lubbock, Texas community. Or check out our website at https://www.tripointrefrigeration.com


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