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What Are Hydrofluorocarbons?

HFCs: Super Greenhouse Gases

HFCs or hydrofluorocarbons, are super greenhouse gases, manufactured for use in refrigeration, air conditioning, foam blowing, aerosols, fire protection and solvents. HFCs unlike most other greenhouse gases are not waste products but are intentionally produced. HFCs were developed as alternatives to ozone depleting substances that are being phased-out under the Montreal Protocol. Unfortunately, HFCs have a global warming potential 1000 to 3000 times that of CO2, and their use has increased from almost nothing in 1990 to 1,100 million tonnes of CO2e in 2010. HFC emissions (excluding HFC-23 by-product) currently account for around 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions and as much as 3% in many developed countries. If left unchecked, these emissions will increase to 7-19% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and off-set most if not all mitigation actions pledged by countries to date.

Do We Have to Use These Climate-Destroying Gases?

No! HFC-free technologies are currently available, and more are coming on-line every year so that most uses could be phased-out by 2020 and the remaining uses by 2030. Some of the currently available climate-friendly alternatives include hydrocarbons, ammonia (R- 717), water and carbon dioxide (CO2 or R-744). Other alternatives refrigerants, such as isobutane (R-600a) propylene (R-1270); and not-in-kind alternatives, such as solar, are also likely to be commercialized and enter the market in the next few years. EIA works to encourage transitions by working with supermarkets, breaking down barriers to change in all industries, and by encouraging domestic actions.

Recent Posts

Update on North American Safety Standards for Climate-Friendly Refrigerants
03/25/2020
This month a new standards proposal under ASHRAE-15, represents some progress for uptake of climate-friendly hydrocarbon refrigerants to replace super pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The proposal allows hydrocarbons to be used in corridors and lobbies of commercial buildings like hotels. It allows up to 114 grams of propane where previously none was allowed at all. This will enable vending machines and most other light commercial refrigeration equipment like small one door beverage coolers containing hydrocarbons to be used in these spaces.
California’s New Plan to Reduce HFCs in Supermarkets
02/03/2020
Part one in a series on policy trends on eliminating HFCs, emerging from California.

Recent Reports

EIA Comments on ASHRAE-15 Standards Proposal
03/25/2020
EIA comments on a proposed revision to a major U.S. safety standards, ASHRAE-15, calling for important revisions.
Search, Reuse and Destroy: Initiating Global Discussion to Act on a 100 Billion Ton Climate Problem
11/06/2019
Search, Reuse and Destroy: Initiating Global Discussion to Act on a 100 Billion Ton Climate Problem

Recent Press Releases

EIA Response to New Nature Paper on Urgent Need to Recover and Destroy CFC Banks
03/17/2020
Washington DC – A new paper published in Nature today warns that emissions from ‘banks’ of ozone-destroying CFCs, could potentially delay the Antarctic ozone hole recovery by about six years. The new paper, Quantifying contributions of chlorofluorocarbon banks to emissions and impacts on the ozone layer and climate, also estimates that future emissions from current CFC banks could lead to an additional 9 billion metric tonnes CO2e between 2020 and 2100.
EPA Rescinds Requirements on Super-Pollutant HFCs, Reversing Basic Safeguards on Leaks
02/27/2020
EPA Rescinds Requirements on Super-Pollutant HFCs, Reversing Basic Safeguards on Leaks

Recent Videos

Blowing It
07/08/2018
Information obtained by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) demonstrates conclusively that the use of CFC-11 in China’s rigid polyurethane (PU) foam insulation sector, in particular in the building and construction subsector, is widespread and pervasive. CFC-11 is used as a foam blowing agent for the manufacture of molded foam panels and spray foam used for insulation purposes
What are the HFC-free Technologies?
Widespread adoption of HFC-free technologies is cost-effective, energy efficient, and climate-friendly. Read EIA’s report Putting the Freeze on HFCs for hundreds of examples of HFC-free technologies available and in use today.
A Global HFC Phase-down
The October 2016 Montreal Protocol meeting in Kigali, Rwanda yielded a global agreement to phase down HFCs. Now countries must ratify and implement the Kigali Amendment! Read and share EIA's briefing on this great opportunity and obligation to avert climate catastrophe.
Help us mitigate climate destroying gases
Where are HFCs used?
What are HFCs?
How to Recycle Your Fridge