Chlorofluorocarbons(CFC) were created approximately sixty years ago and are the first halogen-based compounds to be introduced to the HVAC industry. They are made up of fluorine, carbon, and chlorine.
CFCs are low in toxicity and are noncorrosive. They are not flammable and do not explode. It is not recommended they be released in great volume near a source of heat as they will break down and cause harm to skin. It is important to note that CFCs can be harmful to the human respiratory system and therefore should not be released in non-ventilated atmospheres.
It has been determined that CFCs are harmful to the ozone layer of earth. Because of their environmental impact, chlorofluorocarbons have not been produced since 1995. They are still used in systems however.
New technologies and procedures have been created to collect and transfer chlorofluorocarbons. These technologies help recycle and reclaim those refrigerants that contain CFCs.
The most common CFCs are R-11, R-12, R-113, R-114, R-115, R-500, R-502, R-503.
This classification of refrigerant is composed of methane or ethane and is combined with a halogen. The molecule produced by this combination results in a partially halogenated one. This, in turn causes less damage to the ozone layer of earth.
HCFCs have a shorter life than other types and deteriorate faster. In this category, R-22 and R-23 are used. They are viewed as temporary refrigerants and must be phased out of usage by the year 2030.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency the process of phasing out this category of refrigerants looks like this in the following years.
January 1, 2010: Ban of production, import and usage of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b. Companies are only allowed to provide maintenance and service to existing systems.
January 1, 2015: Ban on production, import and usage of all HCFCs. Companies are only allowed to provide maintenance and service to existing systems.
January 1, 2020: Ban on remaining production and import of HCFC-22 and HCFC-142b. After the year 2020, only the servicing of systems with R-22 will depend on recycled or stockpiled inventories.
January 1, 2030: Ban on remaining production and import of all HCFCs.
This category of refrigerants are seen in the field as R-134a and R-23. This compound contains one or more hydrogen atoms than a chlorofluorocarbon and no chlorine. This refrigerant does not seriously impact the ozone layer, but recent evidence indicates they may increase global warming.
It is important to note that even though HFCs have broadly replaced CFCs, the EU took steps to completely ban HFCs in 2011 in all cars. They are replacing HFC-134a with HFO-1234yf.
According to research data, HFC-123a has a Global Warming Potential(GWP) of 1400 times more than CO2. The goal is to keep all refrigerants below GWP4. This will encourage HVAC manufacturers around the world to begin thinking of technologies that will use HFO-123yf instead of HFCs.
All of this changing of refrigerants has caused an increase in creative technologies and changing out systems to accommodate recent trends and laws in HVAC. The updating of an HVAC system to newer standards costs money and mistakes can be made. Just changing the refrigerant can also mean changing hardware, existing materials, lubrication greases and oils, and may call for new compressors.