R32 refrigerant, also known as difluoromethane, is an hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. When compared to other refrigerants, it has higher energy efficiency, lower environmental impact, and other benefits. As a result, R32 has become a popular option for air conditioners, especially as older refrigerants are phased out.

In this article, I cover everything you need to know about R32, where it’s used, and how homeowners and the environment can benefit.

What is R32 Refrigerant?

R32 is a refrigerant used in air conditioners and HVAC units, and it’s a gas at room temperature. Also known as difluoromethane, it’s a hydrofluorocarbon and its chemical formula is CH₂F₂. When compared to other types of refrigerant, R32 has a higher energy efficiency ratio (EER) and a lower Global Warming Potential (GWP). These benefits have made it a common choice in residential and commercial HVAC systems.

Here’s a quick look at some key properties of R32 refrigerant:

  • Boiling Point: -51.7°C / -61.1°F
  • Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP): 0
  • Solubility in Water: 0.44 g/L at 25°C / 77°F
  • Critical Temperature: 78.1°C / 172.6°F
  • Global Warming Potential (GWP): 675

Where is R32 Used?

Many countries have banned or restricted the use of older refrigerants, including the widely used R134a refrigerant and the older R-22 refrigerant, due to high ODP and GWP. As a result, new energy-efficient refrigerants have hit the market. This includes R32. Today, it’s found in several different types of modern HVAC systems, such as:

  • Residential air conditioners, including split and window units.
  • Commercial air conditioners, like central AC units, packaged AC, and rooftop systems.
  • Heat pump systems.
  • Chillers in some industrial and commercial applications.

Although it isn’t common, R32 has also been found to be safe to use in refrigerators

To determine if your air conditioner uses R32 refrigerant, you can check your unit’s manual from the manufacturer. Some systems may also have a label or nameplate that details the type of refrigerant the unit requires. If your HVAC unit doesn’t have a label or you can’t find the manual, reach out to an HVAC professional or the manufacturer. Using the wrong type of refrigerant can result in unwanted chemical reactions, poor efficiency, and damage to the system.

What Are the Benefits of R32?

While your older system may not use R32, there are several benefits of upgrading to a new HVAC unit that does use this type of refrigerant. These include:

Low Global Warming Potential

In the past decades, several regulations have been put in place to lower refrigerants’ impact on the environment. The Montreal Protocol in 1987 was an international treaty that phased out production of substances that were depleting the earth’s ozone layer, including refrigerants known as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty signed in Japan in 1997, outlined plans for reducing emissions from greenhouse gasses, including HFCs.

Today, due to the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), HFCs that have a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of over 700 will be phased out and banned. R32 has a significantly lower GWP compared to older refrigerants at just 675. R32 is a common replacement for R410a, as R410A has a GWP of 2088.

R410A previously replaced R22. Although R22 has a lower GWP (1810) compared to R410A, R410A has an Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) of zero. R22 was banned due to its 0.055 ODP. 

The good news about R32, then, is that it has a lower GWP than both R22 and R410A with an ODP of 0, making it a solid choice for air conditioners while fitting into the EPA’s latest perimeters.

Higher Energy Efficiency

The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) measures the efficiency of an HVAC unit, including air conditioners and heat pumps. When compared to other types of refrigerants, R32 has the higher EER. This means a system that uses R32 can offer better cooling performance with less energy consumption than units that use R22 or R410A.

In addition, R32A has favorable thermodynamic properties to enhance an HVAC system’s efficiency and performance.

Compatibility with Existing Technology

R32A operates at similar pressure levels when compared to R410A. Since most previous AC units used R410A refrigerant, manufacturers can easily transition to the new substance. It will require minimal design changes. Since the manufacturers won’t have to pay to rehaul their design, this could translate to lower system costs for homeowners.

However, keep in mind that you should never mix refrigerants or use the wrong refrigerant in your HVAC system. Even though R32A and R410A are similar in some ways, they aren’t interchangeable. Mixing them can result in dangerous chemical processes and damage to the HVAC system.

The HVAC industry and related sectors have been moving towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in the past few decades. R32 is one of the latest developments to help tackle the threats of global warming, climate change, and ozone depletion. Thanks to its high efficiency, low environmental impact, and compatibility with existing technologies, R32 is a preferred refrigerant in modern air conditioners.

Frequently Asked Questions About R32 Refrigerant

Is R32 more environmentally friendly than older refrigerants?

Yes, R32 is more environmentally friendly compared to many older refrigerants. Previously used R22 had a 1088 Global Warming Potential (GWP) and a 0.055 Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP). R410A replaced R22, and while it has a zero ODP, it has a 2088 GWP. In comparison, R32 has a zero ODP and a 675 GWP.

Is R32 safe to use?

R32 is generally safe to use as it has a low toxicity. R32 is classified as an A2L refrigerant by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), which means it’s mildly flammable. As with all refrigerants, safety precautions should be taken when handling R32.

Can R32 be mixed with other refrigerants?

No, R32 shouldn’t be mixed with other refrigerants. Different types of refrigerant should never be mixed as it can cause damage to the HVAC, ineffective cooling, and unwanted chemical reactions.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Hilary Cairns

Hilary Cairns

Hilary Cairns is a writer with 12 years of professional writing experience. She has covered a diverse set of topics such as custom home building, plumbing, HVAC, energy efficiency, and others. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz with a bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing, she discovered her passion for helping businesses and organizations deliver impactful content that changed lives. Originally from New York, Hilary now calls Florida home (along with 2 cats). When not immersed in her writing work, she enjoys playing video games, reading Stephen King, and researching her (and her friends') genealogy.

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