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Refrigerant is a chemical cooling compound that absorbs and releases heat at different points in the heat exchange cycle as it runs throughout an HVAC system.

What is refrigerant?

Refrigerant is a chemical cooling agent used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems to transfer heat from one area to another. Different types of refrigerants have different properties and capabilities, and it’s important to be aware of any applicable regulations before using them. Refrigerant runs through several components in an HVAC system, collecting and transferring heat energy as it goes. 

During your HVAC system’s heat exchange cycle, refrigerant changes state from liquid to gas and back again. This allows refrigerants to absorb heat energy and transfer it away from the refrigerated space, cooling it down in the process. Refrigerants can be divided into three main categories: CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons). HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons), and Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs)

How does refrigerant work?

In an HVAC system, refrigerant is found inside the copper coils and runs through several components such as the condenser, compressor, evaporator, and expansion valve. During the refrigeration cycle, the refrigerant absorbs heat energy from the refrigerated space and then transfers it outside through a condenser coil.

It then passes through the compressor, where it is compressed into a high-pressure, high-temperature vapor before being passed through an evaporator, which cools the refrigerant down again. Finally, it is passed through an expansion valve to reduce its pressure before being sent back into the refrigerated space to start the cycle over again.

Watch this video on how HVAC systems work to learn more details on heating and cooling systems and refrigerant’s role in the process.

Which refrigerants are banned?

CFCs like R-22 have been phased out due to their ozone-depleting effects. Similarly, new regulations call for the phasing out of HFCs such as R-410A because of their high global warming potential (GWP).

The newest refrigerants are HFOs. These refrigerants were developed due to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) phase-out of higher GWP refrigerants. HFOs have a lower GWP and zero ozone depletion potential (ODP) than HFCs or HCFCs.

After months of research, Trane and other HVAC companies are transitioning to using a new refrigerant for our residential products called R-454B. R-454B is a blend of R-32, an HFC, and R-1234yf, an HFO. We’ll be using a phased-in approach, starting with introducing new heat pumps which will use the new refrigerant. Check out this article for the full story behind Trane’s refrigerant transition.

Questions about your HVAC system? Contact your local Trane Comfort Specialist for expert service, advice, and product recommendations.

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