An HVAC system is an astounding invention that changed the world, and it’s a luxury that slowly became a necessity. In the minute HVAC tubes flow the blood of an HVAC system, the refrigerant. Like any other invention, the refrigerant is the subject of ongoing evolution, making its history fascinating. So where did it all begin, and where is it all heading? In this article, we will share a brief and fascinating history of HVAC refrigerants.
The First Step Of A Long Journey:
In the 1750s, Benjamin Franklin experimented with the evaporation of liquid ether, noticing a drop in the temperature of the remaining liquid. About 100 years later, using the phenomenon of evaporation and then compression of fluid to carry heat away, James Harrison patented a device to make ice.
This device is an ancestor of our beloved HVAC unit, as it operated on the same principle. Variations of this device hit the market in upcoming centuries to ease industrial cooling. With such a rise in demand, many were trying their hands at liquids that could be compressed. Essentially, they tried out any liquid in a race to produce an effective refrigerant. However, whatever liquid you name, one problem existed: it was either flammable or toxic or even both.
An Important Milestone:
Industries then rallied up great minds and resources to counter the toxicity problem and produce something safe. In the 1920s, the efforts were fruitful, and a new promising liquid seemed the perfect fit. It was CFC, and this was neither toxic nor flammable. It was so inert that it didn’t react with anything except UV rays. Well, that’s the reason why CFC was eventually phased out. CFC leaking from old cooling units rose to the stratosphere, where it confronted UV rays. The result was a molecular breakdown releasing free chlorine atoms. The free chlorine atoms wouldn’t sit idle, so they started meddling with ozone and breaking it down into oxygen. This was bad news for the earth and its inhabitants.
The Montreal Protocol
Many nations signed this treaty in 1987 that called for governments to phase out the production and use of CFCs. This UN agreement marked a shift away from CFCs’ service and a beginning of a new era for refrigerants. During this time, HFC emerged as an alternative for HFC, providing similar benefits without harming the ozone.
The Way Forward:
HFC is still in use but will eventually be phased out due to its high GWP. GWP stands for global warming potential. Researchers are on the tail of new refrigerants with low GWP. Thus, a new alternative is in sight: HFO, or R-32. However, will the world stop here? Most likely not; with the rolling wheel of evolution moving forward, we will most likely meet new and better refrigerants in the future.
We don’t know what the future has in store for us, but Crump A/C and Heating can keep you updated with current market trends. You can call us at 281-533-9200 for inquiries and assistance.