Do All Refrigerators Use Freon To Keep Things Cold?

January 2, 2023
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Most people are familiar with the term freon and associate it with keeping things cool in a refrigerator.

As of January 1, 2020, the United States forbade companies to manufacture or produce freon, also called R-12 and R-22.

However, freon use is still legal if you already have an old refrigerator or cooling system that uses it; it's just costly now. Because it's so effective, many people wonder, "do all refrigerators use freon to keep things cold?"

We'll discuss how freon works, what to do if you have a fridge that uses freon and you're experiencing problems, and more.

Is Freon Still in All Refrigerators?

The coolant restrictions in the U.S. began in the early 90s because the Environmental Protection Agency discovered that freon was highly damaging to the ozone layer.

At that time, it was the R-12 freon, primarily used for cooling systems, and it got replaced by the R-22 freon. The problem was that this variant was almost equally as harmful to the environment.

As time passed, the new refrigerant most often used was HFC-134a freon. Most older model household refrigerators still use the R-22 version, but a more modern refrigeration system will not.

So, do all refrigerators use freon to keep things cold?

No, but if you've got an ice maker, double-door fridge, or air conditioning system that still uses this non-combustible gas, you should inform yourself about handling various situations. Ensure you know what to do in cases where you have a freon leak and what you need to get repairs done.

Not All Refrigerators Use Freon

How Does Freon Work To Keep Food and Drinks Cool?

To keep your food and drinks fresh from harmful bacteria proliferating, there has to be a low temperature in the surrounding area.

The refrigerator is supposed to transport heat from inside the unit to outside the unit. That's why it can feel warm when you place your hand behind the fridge on the metal tubes.

Typically, the freon leaves cool air behind after absorbing heat. It converts from a liquid into a gas continually.

Here's how:

Starting with the evaporation process, the refrigerant, in this case, freon, changes from a liquid into a gas. When this happens, it cools the immediate environment, which gives you the cold temperature you need to keep your food fresh.

The way it changes is when the capillary tube provides an outlet. Releasing the freon through this tube into the open space with a lower pressure forces the liquid to become gas, much like when you use hair spray. You can hear the liquid inside, but when you spray it, it becomes gaseous.

Now that the freon is in the gas state, it must turn into liquid again. That requires the gas to get compressed under a higher temperature and pressure.

The compressor circulates the freon throughout the system, takes a low pressure, and adds more pressure to the gas, and the gas becomes hot. Now it needs to get cooled through the condenser coil on the back of the refrigerator.

The contents inside the condenser will gradually cool from the air temperature in the environment.

As it cools off under high pressure, it becomes a liquid again and circulates back into the evaporator, restarting the process.

Refrigerators Like This One From LG do Not Use Freon

Freon is Sometimes Used to Keep Things Cold

How To Tell if My Refrigerator Has Freon?

Was your refrigerator manufactured in the early 90s? Then it likely has freon in it. Therefore, a straightforward way to figure out whether or not your fridge has freon in it is to find the manufacturing date.

Below you'll find a few ways to determine whether or not your refrigerator uses freon:

  • Unplug your fridge and turn off the refrigerator using the temperature control knob, placing your ear close to the unit to listen for gurgling or hissing noise. Such noise is a sign that freon is present.
  • Go to your fridge, locate the condenser, and put your hand on it to check for heat. If your refrigerator has been operating for a while and there is the presence of heat, it may be a sign your fridge is running on freon.

Do I Have a Freon Leak?

In general, freon leaks are very rare because the cooling system of refrigerators is tightly closed. With that said, a freon leak is still possible. However, it seldom results from everyday kitchen use.

Freon leaks usually happen when the fridge is damaged during a move or as the resort of unusual activity in the kitchen.

Air Conditioner

During a slow leak, the ridge contains enough refrigerant in the cooling system allowing it to cool the contents within it to some degree. On the other hand, the refrigerator won't operate properly, and the pressure will dip too low for the evaporator coil inside. Consequently, the coil will freeze eventually, and the cold air will stop blowing.

Symptoms of a Freon Leak

A refrigerator that's leaking freon is a hazard to humans and animals exposed to it. This is because freon is in the class of CFCs or (chlorofluorocarbons); they contain chlorine, a hazardous chemical.

Keep in mind that other refrigerators, such as mini-fridges, may use freon depending on how old it is. However, this is not a problem with other refrigerators.

For instance, an RV refrigerator or commercial refrigeration unit does not use freon. For this reason, you will need an appliance repair for another reason altogether if you find any of the following problems with your commercial or RV fridge.

Here are signs to help you determine whether or not you have a leak from your refrigerator:

Food Stays Warm

The freshness of your food is compromised, and drinks inside are not cool because the fridge cannot stay cold.

Higher Electric Bills

When a refrigerator leaks freon, the motor inside the unit has to run longer to compensate for the decreased amount of refrigerant inside the cooling system.

When this situation arises, the motor is under extreme stress, ultimately leading to an overworked motor. It also creates a greater risk that the fridge breaks down completely.

As a result, the motor will inevitably use more electrical energy as it attempts to do more work than usual. Of course, this will add to your overall energy consumption and increase your electricity bill.

Odd Smell

A refrigerator leaking freon is usually accompanied by a musty smell. The scent is especially noticeable when the fridge is closed.

You Feel Sick or Faint

Freon gas is quite dense, which means that when it leaks, it stays in a higher concentration near the ground. Consequently, children and pets are at a greater risk of being exposed to this gas which is very toxic if inhaled.

Although freon is a carcinogen, you don't feel its effects immediately. It takes time to accumulate within the body system, which is a gradual process. Freon leakage can cause serious medical problems. If you believe you might have been in contact with freon, get medical attention immediately.

While Freon Leaks Are Uncommon, Be aware That it is a Possibility

Can I Add Freon to My Refrigerator?

You shouldn't. Especially since freon isn't even used in refrigerators that have been sold in the last couple of years. Even if you have an older refrigerator that uses freon, adding freon to your refrigerator is a tall task. If you use the wrong kind, don't accurately install the bullet-piercing valve, or even use too much freon, you can possibly damage your fridge permanently. If you manage to damage the internal parts of the refrigerator, it can be pretty expensive to get refrigerator repairs done. Similarly, freon can be costly because it is hard to come by. It can cost anywhere between four to ten dollars per pound. What's more, it can cause a litany of health problems because it is toxic.

When Did They Stop Using Freon in Refrigerators?

According to the EPA, the United States government disallowed companies to manufacture or produce freon in 2020 in order to combat ozone depletion.

What is Refrigerant Poisoning?

Refrigerant poisoning can occur when someone comes in contact with chemical refrigerants usually by inhalation or skin contact. It can be a very serious condition that can cause serious and even life threatening issues. Shortness of breath, coughing, dizziness, loss of consciousness and skin irritation are some of the more common symptoms of refrigerant poisoning. If you believe you might have refrigerant poisoning, seek medical attention immediately.

Frank Salvatore

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!

About Me
Frank Salvatore
I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!
Learn More About Me
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