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Hydrocarbon Refrigerant Safety

Hydrocarbon Refrigerants are flammable but are safe to use if handled correctly and installed according to manufacturer’s instructions.

In refrigeration and air conditioning systems which use chemical refrigerants, oil mixes with the refrigerants and travels around the system.  All these chemical refrigerants may also become flammable due to the oil vapour content of the gases when being discharged from the systems.
Most chemical refrigerants may produce toxic by-products and poisonous gases should the leaking gas ignite.

Hydrocarbon Refrigerants do not spontaneously combust on contact with air.


Three elements need to be present.

  1. There needs to be a release of hydrocarbons.
  2. The Hydrocarbon Refrigerant needs to mix with the correct proportion of air, the range of flammability being between 2 and 10%. Outside of these limits combustion cannot occur. 
  3. An ignition source exceeding 440 degrees C must be present.

If one of these three elements is eliminated, combustion should not occur.

The handling and use of hydrocarbons requires adequate safety measures. This is especially true if a system is being considered for retrofitting and replacing a non-flammable fluorocarbon with a hydrocarbon Refrigerant.