Which Gas Is Used in Refrigerators?

Refrigerators are crucial, and the most common appliances and they do so much more than make ice. They keep your food fresh and cool, preventing any degradation of food quality. With that being said, we believe you must be curious about which gas is used in refrigerator to maintain the cool temperature? As gas used in refrigerator influences much more than just temperature, it even gives you a fair idea about how safe it is to rely on gas used in the refrigerator for cooling.

The refrigerator gas determines the cooling performance of your refrigerator. And this is why you’ve to replace the gas in case of any leaks.

What Is a Refrigerant Gas?

You must be wondering how engineers determine which gas used in refrigerator would be safe and best performing? The history of coolant used in refrigerator and finding out the best choice for refrigerant used in domestic refrigerator started from the 20th century onwards.

The chlorofluorocarbons were first used as the gas in the refrigerator, but due to their effect on the ozone layer, manufacturers stopped using them as refrigerant used in refrigerator.

The gases used for refrigeration are used to provide a cooling effect, and they can be compressed under high pressure. These gases are stored in a black gas cylinder located at the back of the fridge.

Refrigerant Gases History

Refrigerant Gases History

There has been a lot of discussion around what type of gas used in refrigerator is best for both the environment and good as a coolant. When looking into this, you’ll come across the name of gas-filled in refrigerators in old fridge models that led to this conservation.

These gases belong to the class of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

1. R-22: Chlorofluorocarbons

There was a need for safe alternatives for refrigerants, and this led to the invention of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants. They were created by Thomas Midgley, Albert Henne and Robert McNary in 1928 as “the world’s first non-flammable refrigerating fluids, improving the safety of air conditioners to a great extent.”

One of these compounds was R-22 that started being used as a standard refrigerant for a long time until the damaging effects were discovered. As a result, R22 was no longer the go-to coolant for refrigerators or air conditioners anymore.

2. R-134a : Tetrafluoroethane

In the venture of finding refrigerants that cause less environmental damage, we settled on a so-so agreement on R134a. It is still used in some refrigerators or appliances as a coolant. Even though this gas doesn’t aggravate the deadly ozone gap, it is a powerful greenhouse gas.

3. R-438A: Freon

It is used as a better alternative for R22 as it doesn’t lead to ozone depletion. Freon is also used as a replacement gas for refrigerators that operated on R22 till date.

4. R600A-IsoButane

It is one of the flammable gas used as refrigerants in modern small refrigerators. So, if your fridge operates on isobutane then try making sure of the safety.

Modern Day Refrigerants

After discussing what old refrigerator models used refrigerant used in refrigerator and now it’s time to move on to what brand new models used for cooling purposes.

1. Tetrafluoroethane

It is a non-flammable gas used because of its high-temperature tolerance and used as refrigerants for air conditioners, refrigerators and automobiles. This gas is one of the most common and standard gas refrigerants used in the refrigerator. Tetrafluoroethane is one of the most easily condensed gases so that it cools the interiors of the machine effectively without causing ozone depletion. This gas was used since the 1990s and is still used in many appliances. It is readily available as well as prevents aggravation of ozone depletion.

2. Chlorofluorocarbon

Commonly used as a standard refrigerant in the latest refrigerators and used as a pressurized liquid that absorbs heat to cool down the temperature of the fridge. It circulates as gas in this process of absorption. Heat gas is then passed through compressors to disseminate heat and pressurized to be used in liquid form.

Chlorofluorocarbons are hydrocarbons that have carbon atoms with their hydrogen atoms replaced by chlorine and fluorine. It was used in many appliances as refrigerants in the 1970s, and some brands still use them as the standard refrigerant.

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3. Polystyrene

Polystyrene is popular as an insulator for internal padding of the refrigerator to make sure heat doesn’t enter the machine. It is easily available and cheaper, so it is used as a common inhibitor between internal heat and the outside environment.

Polystyrene helps internal temperature control to provide effective cooling.

4. Acrylonitrile

The chemical formula acrylonitrile is CH₂CHCN, and it is a colourless compound found in liquid form. It has a pungent smell, one that resembles onion or garlic. It is used as a powerful inhibitor that insulates the interiors of the machine from the surroundings. This property makes it a favourable insulator, and it is fairly easy to clean. 

The use of acrylonitrile in refrigerators and air conditioners got popular after the 19th century and continues till now.

Conclusion

Refrigerators are the most common appliances used in the home, and you should be aware of the components and things that go into keeping your food fresh and cool. Awareness is one weapon that can help you understand what is good for you and what is not, and it will help you make a more informed decision before investing in any fridge.

From what we discussed, we believe you should refrain from refrigerator models that use R22 and R600A-IsoButane as refrigerants used in the refrigerator.

Samarth is a Mechanical engineer from IIT Bombay with deep understanding of machines and the overall market. Samarth has been building machine from over 8 years so all his reviews on November Culture are first hand expert review. He co founded November Culture along with few other industry experts to provide reviews of daily products.