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EPA Approves Latest Refrigerant Substitutes

Written by Anne Vazquez. Posted in Environment, Facility Management, Technology

Tagged: , , ,

Published on January 13, 2012 with 2 Comments

The three substitutes, for use in small commercial and refrigerators and freezers (and their household counterparts), mark the first time hydrocarbon replacements might be widely used in the U.S. The refrigerants approved as acceptable substitutes, with use conditions, are propane, isobutane, and a chemical known as R-441A.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month added three hydrocarbons as acceptable alternatives in household and small commercial refrigerators and freezers through the agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program.

EPA took action after requests from Ben and Jerry’s and General Electric, as well as A.S. Trust & Holdings, and True Manufacturing, a family owned small business. SNAP is globally recognized as the only program designed specifically to evaluate substitutes for ODS and to focus on the industrial sectors that use them.

“[This] is a great example of how businesses and EPA can work together to protect our planet and drive innovation,” said Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “This action increases the options for effective, climate friendly refrigerants in the U.S.”

Under the Clean Air Act, the SNAP program evaluates substitute chemicals and technologies for ozone depleting substances (ODS). The newly approved refrigerants (propane, isobutane, and R-441A) can be used to replace ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-12 and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-22 in household refrigerators, freezers, combination refrigerator-freezers, and commercial standalone units.

Replacing older refrigerants will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 600,000 metric tons by 2020, equal to the emissions from the annual electricity use of nearly 75,000 homes, and will help protect people’s health and the environment.

At the recent 23rd Meeting of the Montreal Protocol Parties, EPA and the U.S. Department of State announced that 108 countries signed a declaration to address hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). While HFCs are ODS substitutes, they are increasingly contributing to climate change. The approval of hydrocarbons in the U.S. is significant because hydrocarbons are more environmentally friendly substitutes than HFCs.

About Anne Vazquez

Anne Vazquez

Vazquez has been writing about facility management since 1996 when she began working at Today's Facility Manager (TFM) as the magazine's Editorial Assistant. From 2000 to 2005, she continued to work in publishing in another subject field until rejoining TFM's editorial team as Managing Editor in February 2005. In September 2012, she was promoted to Editor of TFM, where she continues to seek out solutions and trends for the magazine's facility management audience. Vazquez can be reached at

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There are currently 2 Comments on EPA Approves Latest Refrigerant Substitutes. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. The SNAP approval for hydrocarbons in the US is a great step towards making the refrigeration sector more sustainable.

    In 2011, natural refrigerants have made some important progress namely in commercial refirgeration ( and market trends such as HillPhoenix buying Advansor seem to indicate that CO2 is also finding its way into the US market (

    A good trend that will benefit us all in the fight against climate change!

  2. EPA approves Propane for use in refrigeration? R-290 (Propane)as well as R-600 (Butane) have been listed refrigerants long before the EPA existed. Why did it take until 2012 for them to “approve”?

    Germany has been using propane in their domestics and propane and isobutane have been used globally (US too) in the commercial/industrial applications.

    Glad to see the EPA has finally grabbed onto the coat tails of the private sector Refrigeration Industry.

    I hope this means we will soon see mini-diesels coming to the US soon so we can scrap that GM Volt (battery pack on wheels).

    I expect better from the EPA.

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