Have you ever pondered which gas is used in a refrigerator? And are now looking on the internet to find some answers? If that sounded like you then—you are the right place.
Refrigerator gases are a type of coolants more like chemical coolants that have low evaporation point and are responsible for all the cooling in your refrigerator. Some of the gases became obsolete as they proved to be harmful to the environment and depleted the ozone layer.
Read along to find out more about the gas and their history.
What is a Refrigerator?
To keep the food intact and to lessen the proliferation rate of bacterias a low temperature should be kept up. That is exactly what a refrigerator does. It transfers the heat from the refrigerator to the atmosphere and this is achieved by a substance called refrigerant—which we will discuss in a bit.
Since it takes away the heat and passes out in the atmosphere, you’ll feel warm near the backside of the refrigerator. This process keeps on repeating till the desired cooling effect is achieved. Do you know which are the best refrigerator?
What is Refrigerant?
Before we understand the gases that are used in a refrigerator, it is imperative to get acclimatized with the term “Refrigerant”. In simple words, refrigerants are the reason why any freezing technology exists. This substance is used in a heat cycle that transfers heat from one part to another till the cooling effect is achieved. A refrigerant is pretty much used in every cooling or freezing technologies such as ACs, freezers, fridges, and vehicle ACs.
The refrigerant comprises a fluid that is utilized to keep the food or different things cool in a compelling manner. This fluid has the capability to convert into gas and the other way around, this is the heat cycle it undergoes for cooling effect. There are a variety of different gases used in a refrigerant depending on the usage and environment.
Ideally, a refrigerant has great thermodynamics properties and so it is chemically unreactive and safe. These great thermodynamic properties are high-heat (for vaporization), boiling point (which is generally below the objective temperature), high-temperature (critical temperature), and more density in gaseous form.
Gases used in a Refrigerant
There are different gases or liquids used in a refrigerant based on the needs. Traditionally, nowadays most refrigerants use gases that are environmentally friendly so that health, as well as the environment, are not disturbed.
Earlier, fluorocarbons, particularly chlorofluorocarbons, were utilized as refrigerants however they were eliminated on the account of their ozone exhaustion impacts or otherwise known as ozone depletion substance (ODS).
Generally, the sort of gas used in the refrigerant doesn’t fluctuate in light of the fact that the functionality stays as before. You can mostly find the type of gas used in the refrigerant on the specification of the refrigerator.
Some other gases that have been used in a refrigerator are as follows
- Carbon dioxide:- Carbon dioxide is kinda safe when compared to other gases as it is odourless, non-flammable & non-explosive, non-toxic, and non-corrosive. Due to its safe nature, it is mostly used in hospitals, refrigerants, and so forth.
- Ammonia:- Ammonia dates back to the earliest use of gases in refrigerants. The gas is still used in different appliances for its amazing thermal properties. The gas is toxic in nature, explosive, and flammable. The gas became obsolete in refrigerants due to its toxic nature, that posed harm to both the environment and health.
- Sulphur dioxide:- During the 20th century, especially early 20, sulphur used to dominate. But just like the ammonia, sulphur dioxide phased out due to the disadvantages that come with it. It is toxic, non-flammable, etc. Furthermore, it works at low pressure.
- Feron:- Ferons are fluorinated compounds that contain different organic compounds like carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, fluorine, bromine, etc. Since they have a low boiling point and surface tension they were used in refrigerators, AC (air conditioners), etc. But later it was found that it had harmful effects on the ozone layers and thus were stopped being used.
- Trichloro fluoromethane:- Otherwise known as Feron-11 or R-11 works better under low pressure. This one is non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-corrosive just the same as CO2. Since it has a high boiling point, displacement, and operates under low pressure the gas was first mainly used in refrigerants. Recently, it is used in air conditioners.
- Dichlorodifluoromethane:- Also known as Feron-12 or R-12 is a colourless gas that was used in refrigerants. However, later it was discontinued to be used as it was found to be damaging the ozone layer. The gas is chemically stable and non-flammable as well as non-toxic. With that said, if the gas comes in contact with flame or heat then it decomposes to a toxic constituent.
- Puron:- Puron or also known as R410a is a mixture of Difluoromethane and Pentafluoroethane. This refrigerant has no effects on the ozone layer so it is widely used in air conditioners. But it is known to have some effects on the environment and thus will eventually phase out in the near future.
Sneak Peek into the Evolution of the Gases in Refrigerants Over Time
Over the past years, there have been many gases used in the refrigerants. So the evolution goes like this, during the early 1800s the gases used in the refrigerator were highly-flammable and toxic like ammonia, methyl chloride, and sulphur dioxide. However, after a few lethal mishaps during the 1920s, brought about by the leaks of these gases, the quest for a less risky refrigerant brought about the development of Freon; a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). Thus to supplant them during the 1930s, the CFC showed up on the scene.
Many years after the fact it was found that CFCs were answerable for draining the Ozone layer, making the planet more inclined to environmental change, especially over Antarctica. After that industries made a move and nations signed a 1987 Montreal Protocol prompting the elimination of CFCs.
This led to the ascent of HCFCs or hydrochlorofluorocarbons that contained hydrogen, this made them less stable in the environment so they can break really fast. But since the ozone was already damaged they were phased out so that the layer can recuperate.
After that HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons were found to be the perfect solution. They were non-toxic, non-flammable, and had a great technical performance. They are also known as tetrafluoroethane and HFC-134a. HFCs were excellent refrigerants and were energy-efficient as well as safe. But the only snag that comes with them was, they had a Global Warming Potential (GWP).
Due to some improper handling, the leaks of HFCs led to 1% of global warming and for that reason, HFOs were developed. Hydrofluoroolefins or HFOs had similar properties to HFCs but had very low GWP.
HFOs proved to be excellent gas as it was not only safe and energy efficient but also had low GWP all the key features that a good refrigerant requires.
Which is the Gas used in a Refrigerator?
Well, now you might be aware that there is not just a single gas used in a refrigerator rather it depends on the brand and the manufacturer. Generally, manufactures are using gases that have a minimum effect on both the environment and health.
CFC and HFC are replaced by R600A Isobutane or hydrocarbons and they are the choices of most of the domestic refrigerators in China, Japan, Latin America, and Europe. These fridges are labelled as HFC free and CFC free. This is an initiative taken by Greenpeace to reduce the use of HFC and CFC, they’ve called it a hydrocarbon initiative.
Some industrial-scale refrigerators use ammonia or R-717 that is energy efficient coolant, in addition to this, some are even opting for Propane which is another coolant that gained popularity for replacing R44 or otherwise known as Feron.
As for India, the main gases used are R134A, CFC, R-438A, and R-600A. These gases are generally used depending upon the situation and usage. Some may be present in the older fridges and some may not.
This gas is also known as Tetrafluoroethane and it is almost present in most of the refrigerators these days. Since the gas is not only energy efficient but also environmentally friendly it is surging in popularity. That said, the gas has no harmful effects on the ozone layers and has a low global warming potential. The amalgamation of these features makes it more common in both residential and industrial use.
This is another gas that is used in small scale refrigerators. The use of this gas is very seldom as it is notorious for depleting ozone layers. So this type of gas is mostly used in commercial use. With that being said, you will still come across with some brands that still use this gas.
HFC are hydrocarbons from which R134 originates, so basically HFC and R134a are the same thing. Some manufacturers mention HFC gas in their specification but it means the same as R134A or HFC-134A.
R-438A or otherwise known as ISCEON® MO99 is also a popular gas present in the refrigerator nowadays. It does not deplete our ozone layer and was founded for a replacement of R22. The gas can also be found on repaired or replaced refrigerators that previously used to run on R22 gas.
R-600A is also known as Isobutane and is used in a replacement of HFC and CFC refrigerators. Due to its ability to be energy efficient, safe, and low GWP it is popular in modern domestic refrigerators as well as small scale commercial refrigerators.
Are Gases used in Refrigerators safe?
Yes, just like many other things in life, gases used in refrigerators have evolved by the aid of innovation and research. While during the development of refrigerators there were some harmful gases used that not only were damaging the environment but also the ozone layer.
That said, new refrigerators have gases that are energy efficient and safe. These are selected so that the refrigerator can perform at its peak while not disturbing the environmental balance.
The perfect gas for the refrigerator is yet to be developed. With ammonia being toxic and propane with explosive properties, hydrocarbons are the best possible choice right now. Having said that, hydrocarbons rely on oil so that could possibly be a problem in the foreseeable future but that’s the story for another day.
Currently, gases such as R-134A and Isobutane along with others are the best ones when it comes to gas in a refrigerator. They do minimal damage to the environment and ozone as well as are energy efficient. They are a great alternative till a worry-free gas is introduced.