What Is R134a Refrigerant? - Today's Homeowner (2024)

by Alora Bopray

R134a, also known as tetrafluoromethane, is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant that replaced R-12 CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerants for many cooling applications. Since the discovery that CFCs damage the ozone layer, HFCs like R134a have become widely used replacements because they have no ozone depletion potential.

R134a is now commonly used to replace R-12 in centrifugal, rotary, scroll, and reciprocating compressors in many industries. It’s nontoxic, nonflammable, and noncorrosive, making it safe for common handling.

Uses of R134a

R134a has become one of the most widely used refrigerants globally thanks to its versatility across applications. It replaced R-12 for automotive AC systems in the 1990s.

The manufacturing industry uses R134a for foam-blowing agents in plastic production. The pharmaceutical industry uses R134a as a propellant in medical inhalers. R134a’s lack of toxicity and flammability make it an excellent refrigerant option for water coolers, vending machines, and commercial refrigeration.

Residential HVAC systems typically don’t contain R134a, but many refrigerant mixtures, such as R410a and R404a, contain R134a.

Properties of R134a

R134a is a gas at room temperature. Other key properties include:

  • Boiling Point: -14.9°F/-26.1°C
  • Auto-Ignition Temperature: 1,418°F/770°C
  • Ozone Depletion Potential: 0
  • Solubility in Water: 0.11% weight at 77°F/25°C
  • Critical Temperature: 252°F/122°C
  • Cylinder Color Code: Light Blue
  • Global Warming Potential: 1,300

Detection of R134a Leaks

Refrigerant leaks can result in the need for an AC system freon recharge. Detecting and locating refrigerant leaks in R134a systems can be done through several methods:

  • Bubble solutions applied to joints, valves, and fittings is the simplest DIY leak check method. Look for bubbles.
  • Electronic leak detectors use sensors to detect refrigerant and can pinpoint leak locations.
  • Fluorescent dye tests involve adding dye to systems. The dye will escape through leaks, and UV light detects the location.
  • Halogen leak detectors detect halogen gases like R134a.
  • Ultrasonic detectors use sound waves to find high-frequency hissing from leaks. Professionals often use this method.

If you’re unsure why your AC is not cooling, an R134a leak could be the cause.

R134a Phase-Out and Replacements

Like other HFC refrigerants, R134a has been scrutinized recently for its global warming potential. Although R134a has no ozone depletion potential, it has a high global warming potential (GWP) of 1,300.

Lower global warming potential HFC alternatives are already replacing R134a across industries. R1234yf is becoming the new automotive AC refrigerant to replace R134a. It has a GWP of just 4. R513A is an HFC/HFO (hydrofluoroolefin) blend for commercial refrigeration designed as a more climate-friendly R134a alternative. R450A is another HFC/HFO refrigerant blend meant to replace R134a while reducing global warming impact.

So, is R134a Still a Viable Refrigerant Option?

R134a remains legal for now in most cooling applications outside of vehicle air conditioning systems in specific global markets. However, its high global warming potential makes R134a unsuitable for new equipment in the long run.

You can’t simply drop new refrigerants into existing R134a systems. Full system retrofits, including adjustments to seals, gaskets, filter driers, oil, and other components, are required to replace refrigerants.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

While still widely used today, equipment owners should plan for a transition away from R134a to future-proof against regulatory changes. Newer HFO and HFO/HFC blended refrigerants are the best options for most applications going forward.

FAQs About R134a

Is R134a flammable?

No, R134a is nonflammable. It does not readily ignite.

What color is R134a refrigerant?

R134a is colorless when in gas form. Some manufacturers add trace amounts of fluorescent dye to detect leaks under UV light.

Is R134a compatible with mineral oil?

No, R134a is not compatible with mineral oils.

Can you mix R134a and R-12?

No, do not mix R134a and R-12. These are entirely different refrigerants.

Is R134a being phased out?

R134a is being phased out globally due to its high global warming potential. It’s been banned for new vehicle AC systems in the United States, and lower-GWP alternatives are taking its place across industries.

What Is R134a Refrigerant? - Today's Homeowner (1)

Alora Bopray

Staff Writer

Alora Bopray is a digital content producer for the home warranty, HVAC, and plumbing categories at Today's Homeowner. She earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of St. Scholastica and her master's degree from the University of Denver. Before becoming a writer for Today's Homeowner, Alora wrote as a freelance writer for dozens of home improvement clients and informed homeowners about the solar industry as a writer for EcoWatch. When she's not writing, Alora can be found planning her next DIY home improvement project or plotting her next novel.

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What Is R134a Refrigerant? - Today's Homeowner (2)

Lee Ann Merrill

Chicago-based Lee Ann Merrill has decades of experience writing and editing across a wide range of technical and scientific subjects. Her love of DIY, gardening, and making led her to the realm of creating and honing quality content for homeowners. When she's not working on her craft, you can find her exploring her city by bike and plotting international adventures.

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What Is R134a Refrigerant? - Today's Homeowner (2024)


Why is 134a not used in residential? ›

HFC-134a: a Potent Greenhouse Gas

It is the most abundant HFC in the atmosphere. The restriction of HFC-134a will occur under a broader prohibition of any substances with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) higher than 150 in the MVAC sector. HFC-134a will no longer be allowed in nonroad vehicles as of January 1, 2028.

Can I use R134a in my home AC? ›

R134a's lack of toxicity and flammability make it an excellent refrigerant option for water coolers, vending machines, and commercial refrigeration. Residential HVAC systems typically don't contain R134a, but many refrigerant mixtures, such as R410a and R404a, contain R134a.

How much R134a refrigerant do I need? ›

All Classic Auto Air “Smart Series” and “Daily Driver” A/C systems use exactly 24oz. of R134a. When can charging most common can sizes are 12oz. each, be certain to check the can sizes before charging.

Is R134a refrigerant still available? ›

What has been decided? The production of refrigerants R134a, R407C, R407F and R410A is being phased out step-by-step. In 2020, the total production of synthetic refrigerants will be reduced by around 40%. In 2030, only 20% of the currently produced synthetic refrigerants may still be marketed.

Is R134a going to be banned? ›

These restrictions mean that all common higher GWP HFCs including R134a, R404A and R410A will be banned in most new refrigeration and air conditioning applications from 2025.

Is R134a harmful to humans? ›

It can act as a simple asphyxiant by diluting the concentration of oxygen in air to below the levels necessary to support life. Adverse Health effects. The inhalation of high concentrations of R134a vapour may cause temporary central nervous system depression, with narcosis, lethargy and anaesthetic effects.

Why is R134 being phased out? ›

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has since added R-134A to its list of greenhouse gases, declaring definitively that this refrigerant is a poor choice for the future of the planet and its inhabitants.

What are the disadvantages of R134a refrigerant? ›

R134a has no ozone depletion potential but it can cause global warming. Having a volume of R134a in atmosphere is the same as about 1500 times that volume of CO2 in atmosphere when it comes to global warming. So, there is a continuos search on for refrigerants that do not have high global warming potential.

When did they stop using R134a? ›

The banning of R134a, along with 27 other refrigerants, in new domestic refrigerators and freezers from January 1, 2021, is expected to open the way for the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants.

How bad is R134a for the environment? ›

The problem is, R134a has a GWP of 1,430: this means that 1kg of R134a has the same impact on the climate as 1.4 metric tonnes of CO2. And you think that's bad… R23, commonly known as Freon, has a GWP of 14,500! That means 70 grams of Freon has the same climate impact as 1 tonne of CO2.

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