HFC Refrigerants Used in Commercial Air Conditioning

Having the Right AC Refrigerant Matters

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

    • Hi Sally – The industry has been evaluating the use of R-32 in various AC applications for the past few years but as of now, that refrigerant has not yet been approved for very many applications in the U.S. for various reasons including concerns about flammability. Since this site is mostly focused on air conditioning applications in the U.S., we are waiting for more information on U.S. regulations and flammability guidelines before we update this article for the new, lower GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants like R-32. As this information becomes available we plan to update our site so please check back from time to time as this situation evolves.

    • Hi Reza – R-404A is a refrigerant used in low and medium temperature commercial refrigeration applications. It is not commonly seen in commercial air conditioning. EPA is proposing delisting R-404A in many refrigeration applications due to its high GWP (~twice as high as R-22) so new applications usually explore alternate refrigerants to R404A.

  1. I have been told that Fujitsu and Panasonic split aircon systems use a gas called r 35, which is supposed to be the latest…..are they spinning me a line as I can’t seem o find out much about new gases.

    • Hi Nick. I could not find any info on R-35. Could they be referring to R-32 instead of R-35? If so, depending on where you are in the world you might be seeing new split systems with R-32 but this refrigerant is only available in a few countries/regions currently and is not yet allowed in the US for residential central or mini-split systems. R-32 is just one of a few new refrigerants that are being considered as a potential future replacement for R-410A (and R-22) due to concerns about global warming potential. Basically, R-410A was developed to replace R-22 which was determined to be harmful to the ozone layer. Now the industry is looking for a refrigerant that has lower global warming potential (GWP) in addition to ozone depletion potential (ODP) to replace R-410A. There is some concern in the industry about the flammability ratings for R-32 relative to other alternatives, including the refrigerants used currently which are considered to be nonflammable.

  2. If I evacuate my current R22 system to convert to R134a do I need to do anything special or is R134 a direct replacement.

    • Hi Bernie – R-134a is not a direct replacement for R-22. If you recharged with R-134a you would probably notice a signicant drop in cooling capacity (~20% or more?). You would also need to change the metering device on the indoor coil to get it to work right, and also drain the mineral oil and put POE oil back into the system. R-407C is the refrigerant that is closest to R-22 to use as a replacement but this will also require an oil change to POE. We usually recommend getting several quotes from local contractors before deciding.

  3. If I evacuate my current system with R22 to convert to R134a do I need to do anything special to the system or is R134 a direct replacement.

  4. well, I appreciate the good and knowledgeable information about refrigerants. how long does it take to change the refrigerant like R134a?

  5. Very concise & helpful article. Thanx.
    Is there a color coding convention for the canister containing R410A used by residential HVAC service companies?

  6. Very concise & helpful article. Thanx.

    Is there a color coding convention for the canister containing R410A used by residential HVAC service companies?

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