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Pros & Cons of Hydrocarbon Refrigerants

Russell Huebsch

Refrigeration is an essential part of every day life for people. We need our cars cooled and our food stored in cold environments for freshness. You may have heard about some of the benefits of substituting your current refrigerant for a hydrocarbon refrigerant. Although a hydrocarbon refrigerant may offer some benefits, chances are you will not lawfully be allowed to use one.

Hydocarbon refrigerants are only used in an industrial capacity.


Hydrocarbon refrigerants use fossil fuels such as butane and propane to keep products cold, claims the Environmental Protection Agency. Refrigerants work by taking advantage of the phenomenon of "heat transition". When water turns from a solid to a liquid, it gains heat to facilitate "melting", according to ChemHeritage.com. A refrigerant comes in the form of pressurized liquid and turns to a gas when pressure is released. The gas soaks up heat from the surround environment, hence refrigeration.

Health Risks

Hydrocarbon refrigerants use fossil fuels, and despite the characteristic cold, can still cause flammability, especially in air conditioners, reports the EPA. Refrigerant leaks in cars are especially dangerous, reports AA1Car.com. As little as 4 ounces of hydrocarbon refrigerants inside a vehicle can ignite due to sparks from lighting a cigarette.

Reduce Energy Costs

Hydrocarbon refrigerants use up to 15 percent less energy than traditional hydro-fluorocarbon refrigerants reports refrigerator seller Foster Refrigerator. They also put less stress on compressors and reduce maintenance costs. You can reduce the noise of a compressor by using an HC refrigerant and lower the heat level in a kitchen, according to Foster.


Under current regulations by the EPA, industry may use hydrocarbon refrigerants, but consumers may not use them. The flammability risks and design of products for a non-flammable refrigerant necessitate this precaution, reports the EPA. Industrial use of hydrocarbon refrigerants tend not to include the air conditioning systems which cause most of the complications found in consumer use.


Refrigerants are regulated under the EPA's SNAP program, part of the Clean Air Act, which calls for research and testing on all chemicals that could cause a depletion of the ozone layers. If you need an alternative refrigerant, the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) Program has a listing of all acceptable alternatives on the EPA website linked in the resources section below.