HFC Refrigerants Used in Commercial Air Conditioning

The most popular hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants for new commercial air conditioning systems include R-410A, R-407C and R-134a.  As a facility manager or owner, it’s important that you understand these different refrigerants so that you can make informed decisions for your facility’s air conditioning system. Outlined below are the main differences between HFC refrigerants and additional context on why having the right refrigerant matters.

R-22 Refrigerant

  • Often referred to by a brand name, such as Freon®
  • As of 2010, R-22 was discontinued for use in new air conditioning systems
  • By 2015, the use of R-22 must be discontinued across the board
  • R-22 is a hydro-chlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) that contributes to ozone depletion

R-410A Refrigerant

  • Often referred to by a brand name such as Puron®, Suva® 9100, or Genetron® AZ-20®
  • Has been approved for use in new systems
  • It is a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) that does not contribute to ozone depletion
  • R-410A operating pressures are more than 50% higher than R-22 and R-410A systems require components capable of working at these higher pressures
  • R-410A is the most common refrigerant for new light commercial unitary air conditioning systems

R-407C Refrigerant

  • Often referred to by a brand name such as Suva® 407C or Genetron® 407C
  • R-407C is a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) that does not contribute to ozone depletion
  • Of the higher temperature HFC options, R-407C most closely matches the operating characteristics of R-22
  • It is a high-glide refrigerant with lower efficiency, but provides the simplest conversion from R-22 due to its similar pressures

R-134a Refrigerant

  • Widely used in many air conditioning and refrigeration systems globally
  • It is a hydro-fluorocarbon (HFC) that does not contribute to ozone depletion; also the first non-ozone-depleting fluorocarbon refrigerant to be commercialized
  • It is a single-component refrigerant with no glide, featured in many large commercial screw chillers

Emerson Climate Technologies and other industry partners have identified R-410A as an excellent long-term solution for residential and light commercial air-conditioning, due to its combination of high-efficiency performance and direct GWP value, which is close to that of R-22. System manufacturers have had great success with R-410A because of its energy efficient properties and ease of use in their systems.  In addition, components are now widely available for designing efficient R-410A systems.

Newer air conditioning models are designed to be used with R-410A for reliable and more efficient operation. Because R-410A can absorb and release more heat than R-22, an air conditioning compressor can run at a cooler temperature, reducing the risk of compressor burnout due to overheating.

R-410A also functions at a higher pressure than R-22, so new compressors are built to withstand greater stresses, reducing the chance for cracking. If someone were to put R-410A refrigerant into a system designed for R-22, the pressure would be too much and the unit would break.

All air conditioners use an oil to keep the compressor lubricated during operation. R-22 air conditioners use mineral oil and R-410A systems use Polyol Ester oil (POE).  POE oil is generally more soluble with R-410A than mineral oil is with R-22. This means the R-410A system operates more efficiently, reducing wear and tear on the compressor.

In addition, temperature glide is a property of some HFC refrigerant blends or mixtures and is generally undesirable.  Because the composition alters during a phase change, there is a slight change in evaporating and condensing temperature at constant pressure.  Commercial air conditioning systems that use higher glide refrigerants are usually designed to work around the problems associated with glide, with little or no effect on system performance.

Some states and local utilities offer tax incentives or rebates for buildings and systems that meet green codes.  The most popular rating system, LEED, was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in conjunction with the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and many state organizations.  The sustainable design goals of the LEED program include many economic benefits for facility managers and building owners.  Climate control systems play a big part in LEED design. Efficient and environmentally-friendly equipment not only score LEED points, but can also earn rebates and have a quick payback period.

What else have you heard about these refrigerant alternatives?

Here are a few links to other articles on the topic of refrigerants:

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36 thoughts on “HFC Refrigerants Used in Commercial Air Conditioning

  1. Homeowners with R -22 AC’s have to upgrade their system to a new one. R -22 refrigerant is not environment-friendly and now banned in the USA. There are some new EPA approved refrigerants such as R 410A, R -134A and TDX 20 that are both energy efficient and environment-friendly. Check out more information about new refrigerants at http://www.devhelper.net/r20-and-tdx-20-a-comparison-of-refrigerants/

  2. Under the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) the EPA has recently issued a final rule on the de-listing of certain refrigerants in certain applications. You can find that ruling at the link below and a summary of some of the de-listing dates around pages 8-13: https://www.epa.gov/snap/final-rule-signed-september-26-2016

  3. Hi there, I operate a facility with two small ice training rinks. We are currently using three old rebuilt chillers with R-22. Due to the phase out, we are looking to replace. My first quote is for one 30 ton unit that will use HFC 410A. My concern is that this refrigerant will be phased in in the near future as well. Can you recommend an alternative to using another GWP refrigerant? Perhaps ammonia or is there something else? Thanks for your time and expertise!

    • That is a good question and on the minds of many that face similar replacement opportunities. Although the industry is discussing and working towards refrigerant transitions, there will be a period of time where currently available refrigerants and equipment would be acceptable and serviceable, similar to the R12 and R22 phase outs many years ago. There is still much to be worked out regarding the timing of the regulations, delisting of refrigerants, and new equipment availability. I would encourage you to reference the chart (slide 21) provided at the link listed below for our current understanding of the timing.

      http://www.emersonclimate.com/en-us/About_Us/industry_stewardship/E360/Documents/Tucson/E360-Tucson-Energy-Regulations-Commercial-AC-Zellmer-101216.pdf

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