Which Gas is Used in a Refrigerator For Cooling Things?

A refrigerator is an essential household appliance. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to survive without it.

The freezing temperature inside a refrigerator slows down the growth of harmful bacteria and helps food stay fresh for a longer time.

But have you ever thought about what makes your refrigerator’s air chilling? The answer is, it is gas or refrigerant that makes your refrigerator ‘cool’.

Now, if you’re confused about what exactly a refrigerant is, then don’t worry! In this article, we’ll tell you about the different types of gases used in refrigerators.


What Are Refrigerant Gases?

Refrigerant Gases

In simple words, refrigerants are liquid gases contained within refrigerators. Their purpose is to cool the temperature of refrigerators and preserve the food stored inside.

They are commonly used in refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners. Without them, the air cannot be conditioned, chilled, or frozen.

Refrigerants have very low evaporation points. They are compressed at high pressure to cool the surrounding air.

These gases are condensed several times. This means, all the heat gets absorbed, and the surrounding air gets cold.


History Of Refrigerant Gases: Hit And Trial

Do you know, the first refrigerants were discovered in the 19th Century?

Yes, you heard it right! We can trace the history of refrigerant gases back to the 1800s. Between 1800 and 1920, toxic gases such as ammonia, sulfur dioxide, chlorine, fluoride, and carbonate, etc, were used in refrigerators.

However, it was later in 1970 that scientists discovered the harmful effect of these gases on the environment. These toxic gases, when released into the atmosphere, destroy the ozone molecules and cause ozone layer depletion.

As a result, various measures have been taken to find refrigerants that will not pose a significant threat to the environment.

Today, there is increasing political pressure to eliminate harmful refrigerants and develop low-risk refrigeration technology gradually. Hence, the search for better refrigerants continues!


Types Of Refrigerator Gases

Now that you know what are refrigerants and their history, let’s also take a quick look at the different types of refrigerant gases:

Early Refrigerant Gases

The first refrigerants were toxic and not environmentally friendly, we will be discussing that in detail in this section.

1. R22 Chlorofluorocarbons

R22 Chlorofluorocarbons, commonly known as Freon, was an earlier gas used in fridges. However, it is not used in modern refrigerators due to the high risk it poses to the atmosphere.  According to studies, R22 chlorofluorocarbons lead to significant ozone layer depletion.


2. R134A Tetrafluoroethane

R134A is a transparent, colourless, relatively non-toxic, and non-flammable fluid or gas.

It belongs to the family of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC). However, studies have shown that it is not ozone friendly and, therefore, expected to be phased out soon.


3. R438A Freon

R438A Freon was a replacement for R22 gas. According to studies, It is proved to be relatively less ozone-depleting. R438A Freon is cost-effective, reliable, and one of the most popular gases in refrigerators.


4. R600A IsoButane

R600A IsoButane is a flammable gas. It has a high density and poses a risk of leakage, which can lead to serious  implications. R600A IsoButane is increasingly popular due to its low global warming potential in small modern refrigerators.


Modern-Day Refrigerants

Now that you know the different types of early refrigerants, let’s also take a look at modern refrigerants:

1. Tetrafluoroethane

HFC-134a (1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane) is a refrigerant that has been used since the early 1900s. It is a non-inflammable gas.

Nowadays, it is one of the most commonly used refrigerant gases in many developed  countries. It does not cause the problem of ozone depletion, which makes it a popular choice for modern refrigerators.

2. Chlorofluorocarbons

We assume that you have been hearing about this world since your schooling days. Chlorofluorocarbons are another common refrigerant used in modern refrigerators.

It is an expensive refrigerant and can be used in the form of pressurized liquid. The liquid expands into gas to absorb heat inside the refrigerator and cool the temperature within the fridge.

Although chlorofluorocarbons have been used since the 1970s, many brands continue to use chlorofluorocarbons in their refrigerators.


3. Polystyrene

When it comes to modern refrigerants, polystyrene is comparatively less expensive. It serves as an efficient barrier between the surrounding heat and the temperature inside the fridge.

Polystyrene is used as internal padding to keep the heat off the device. This improves the machine’s internal temperature and provides efficient cooling.


4. Acrylonitrile

Modern-day refrigerators use this gas as an effective insulator that acts as an ideal barrier between the surrounding heat and the appliance inside. The use of Acrylonitrile started in the 19th century and is still relevant today.



How can I tell if my refrigerator is running out of gas?

If your refrigerator runs out of gas, it will emit a strange odor. Moreover, the food stored within will be moist and show signs of mold growth.


Would a refrigerant leak make you ill?

Yes, it can cause breathing difficulties, headaches, nausea, heartburn, skin and eye irritation, etc. If not treated, poisoning can lead to life-threatening illnesses.


What is the lifespan of refrigerant in the fridge?

The average lifespan for a refrigerant is between 12 and 16 years.


You May Also Like To Read:

How Refrigerator Works | Principles, Cycles, Modes

How To Check The Refrigerator Compressor



Although none of the refrigerant gases is entirely eco-friendly, they have certainly evolved. Modern-day refrigerant gases pose less threat to the environment.

With technological advancement and rising environmental concerns, we assume that we will have more eco-friendly refrigerant gases soon.

We hope this article provided you with some helpful information about the different types of refrigerant gases and how they help keep your fridge’s temperature cool.

If you have any questions, you can type them in the comment section below.

Founder at Best Indian | Website | + posts

I am tech writer who is passionate about technology and spearheads the core writing team on tech news

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