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What is R290 Refrigerant?

R290 is a refrigerant-grade propane used on a wide range of commercial refrigeration and air conditioning units. A highly pure propane, it has a low environmental impact and nominal global warming potential (GWP), meaning it possesses no qualities that can destroy the ozone layer. R290 also is the preferred hydrocarbon alternative of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), substituting more harmful fluorocarbon refrigerants like R22, R134a, R404a and R502. 

Units with R290 can only be maintained and repaired by authorized technicians who are properly trained and certified.
 

Hydrocarbon Refrigerants

Aside from R290, there are other natural hydrocarbon refrigerants used for a wide variety of commercial refrigerators, freezers and AC units. These also don't have ozone-depleting properties and have a low GWP.

  • R1270 – Propylene refrigerant that substitutes R22 and R502.
  • R600a – Isobutane refrigerant that substitutes R12 and R134a.

R290 vs. R600a

Both R290 and R600a possess many of the same qualities. Both are not only preferred alternatives to fluorocarbon refrigerants, but they're also natural, environmentally friendly and flammable. So what's the difference between the two? Below are some key variations to know.

 

R290

R600a

Refrigerant Charge Reduction

~40%

~45%

Global Warming Potential

3

3

Common Fluorocarbon Replacement

R22

R12

Ignition Temperature

878°F (470°C)

860°F (460°C)

Lower Flammability Limit

2.1% by volume

1.5% by Volume

Upper Flammability Limit

9.5% by volume

8.5% by volume


Hydrocarbon Refrigerant Safety Tips

What is R290 Refrigerant

 

WARNING: Any handling of R290 refrigerant requires certified training and authorization. The tips and procedures outlined in this article are only for authorized service agents with proper certification. Performing these steps or any associated repairs on equipment without proper authorization, training or certification can be dangerous and void the manufacturer warranty. Authorized technicians should refer to manufacturer instructions for further information. Parts Town disclaims any liability for property damage, injury or death as a result of using these tips and procedures.

Unlike fluorocarbon refrigerants, hydrocarbon refrigerants are highly flammable. As a result, technicians must undergo proper training and certification and exercise extreme precautions when handling them. 

  • NEVER use propane as a substitute on equipment already outfitted for non-flammable fluorocarbon refrigerant.
  • Equip yourself with protective gloves, eyewear, safety shoes and antistatic workwear when handling propane refrigerant.
  • Always make sure the space you're in is properly ventilated. The unit should be away from any heat sources, electric devices or areas where sparks might be present.
  • Don't eat, drink or smoke while working close to propane refrigerant.  

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