The following types of hydrocarbons are commonly used as refrigerants:
A number of other hydrocarbons, such as blends containing ethane, propane or butane, are also used as refrigerants.
Propane has been discussed since the late 1980s as a replacement for CFCs and HCFCs. It has a long history in refrigeration and is thus an interesting candidate. However, its flammability has limited its use. While isobutane (R600a) was introduced in household appliances in some parts of the world from the start of CFC phase out, R290 was introduced later and replaced R134a, R22 or R404A in some appliances.
Hydrocarbons are highly flammable and must be handled with care. If they are used responsibly, hydrocarbons can be employed in a variety of refrigeration and air conditioning applications. In order to ensure safety, hydrocarbon applications are governed by various international, regional and national standards and regulation. Hydrocarbons can only pose an explosion risk if the concentration is between the lower and upper flammability limits. When following the safety standards the concentration of leaked refrigerant will not get above LFL where ignition sources can ignite it, even in extreme situations. The necessary safety precautions and system design depend on the refrigerant charge. In general ignition sources inside the application must be avoided. Most hydrocarbons are non-toxic, with the main safety risk coming from their flammability, although gaseous hydrocarbons are heavier than air and will displace air in lungs.
Lower flammability limit (LFL)
Upper flammability limit (UFL)
Lower and upper flammability limits
Only authorized persons certified for the installation and maintenance of refrigeration systems containing flammable refrigerants should engage in installation and maintenance.
Typical applications for hydrocarbons are:
HCFCs and CFCs as refrigerants are continuing their phase out as a result of the Montreal Protocol.
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Find relevant brochures about applications and hydrocarbons in general
Practical Application of R 600a Isobutane and R 290 Propane in Small Hermetic Systems