What is a refrigerant?

A refrigerant is a heat transfer medium specifically utilized because of its property characteristics.

A refrigerant is a fluid that changes state between a liquid and a gas because of increases or decreases in temperature and/or pressure. In the process of changing state from a liquid to a gas, refrigerant absorbs heat which is a key action in the cooling process. This heat can then be released when the refrigerant transitions back to a liquid from a vapor at a higher pressure and temperature.

Sometimes refrigerant is referred to as Freon, which is actually the brand name for certain refrigerants. There are many different types of refrigerants still in use today. Charts for R-12, R-22, and R134A can be found relatively often in engineering textbooks. Newer refrigerants like R407C, R410A, R1234YF, and R454B are not found in textbooks as often, likely due to the transition to using software models rather than lookup tables to get property information. Each of these refrigerants has slightly different properties for toxicity, flammability, global warming potential, and Ozone depletion potential which affects where they are used. Government regulations also has a large impact on which refrigerants can be used where. Refrigerant is a key element for many functions taken for granted in the developed world. One of those key functions is being utilize in HVAC systems for:

  • Occupants to be comfortable and productive - even in the hottest and most humid climates.
  • Art and artifacts to be safely stored in museums for future generations to experience.
  • Medical procedure rooms that require certain parameters for proper healing.
  • Improved indoor air quality for lower potential for mold growth and decreased bacteria/viral transmission.
  • The housing of the technology in data centers that enable the digital platforms that are integral to our daily lives.

Refrigerants also provide the opportunity for food preservation, the storage of medication, the production of frozen products, etc. As the world continues to develop, one of the key attributes that distinguish growth and progress is access to refrigeration to support both the necessities and luxuries desired by a population.