Do Refrigerators Use Freon? (How They Use It?)

Image of a refrigerator with freon

Ever wondered how your refrigerator keeps your food cold even on the hottest of days? Freon can help keep things cool. So do refrigerators use freon?

Yes, refrigerators use freon. Home refrigerators, from the mini ones under the counter to the big double-doored refrigerators, use freon to keep the food refrigerated and as fresh as possible. However, the type of freon used in refrigerators nowadays is different from the one used a few decades ago.

In this article, we’ll discuss everything related to how freon works in a refrigerator to give you the complete picture.

What Kind Of Freon Do Refrigerators Use?

When domestic refrigerators were first introduced, R-12 Freon was the refrigerant that was part of their cooling systems.

However, because of its negative impact on the ozone layer, it was soon replaced by its R22 sibling.

Many of today’s refrigerators still use R22 Freon, but this refrigerant has been banned in many European countries since 1994 because it’s not the most eco-friendly choice either.

Now, more and more manufacturers are using Freon R-134a inside refrigerators and freezing systems. Others have entirely replaced freon with hydrocarbons and CO2.

Even though these refrigerants can still affect the Earth’s ozone layer, their impact isn’t as substantial as that of R-12 or R22.

How Does Freon Work Inside a Refrigerator?

The refrigeration process is relatively simple to explain.

Generally, when the freon inside the refrigerator evaporates, it works to cool the surrounding area and keep your food fresh by reducing the reproduction rate of bacteria.

But what really goes on inside your icebox that leads to this result?

First of all, to kick start the refrigeration process, the capillary tube will reduce the pressure on the freon.

This will cause the freon to change from liquid to gas, which is also known as evaporation.

Next, after all the cooling is done, you need to have freon as a liquid again to complete the full circle, right?

This is where the compressor comes into the picture as it increases the pressure on the gaseous freon, turning it into its original liquid state.

But it’s not over yet!

Now in liquid form, the refrigerant is hot, so it has to pass through the condenser mounted on the back of the refrigerator.

As the name suggests, the condenser helps cool down the freon using the kitchen’s ambient air.

After that, the cooled freon goes back to the evaporator, where the cycle can start once again.

Recommended Further Reading:

Can Freon Leak From A Refrigerator?

Freon leaks are very rare because the cooling system of a refrigerator is a tightly closed one.

However, a Freon leak can still occur, but not as a result of everyday kitchen use.

Freon might leak from a refrigerator only if it’s damaged during a move or some unusual activity in the kitchen.

But how can you tell if your refrigerator is low on freon? Let’s find out.

What Are Some Signs Of A Freon Leak?

If you suspect that there’s something wrong with your refrigerator’s cooling cycle, here are a few signs that it might be a freon leak.

1. Your Food Stays Warm

This is the most obvious tell-tale sign that there isn’t enough freon in the refrigerator to complete the cycle.

If you reach to grab a plate of food, an orange, or a drink, and find it warm, then the cooling system isn’t working correctly.

Of course, it might not always mean that it’s a freon leak; it could be a faulty refrigerator part.

In this case, you should call an expert as soon as possible so that your refrigerator doesn’t get damaged further.

2. Your Refrigerator Smells Strange

Refrigerator leaking freon

One characteristic of freon is that it has a musty smell, although it’s not as easily discoverable as that of ammonia or other chemicals.

Still, if it’s a large amount of freon you’re inhaling, you should be able to note the smell.

This odd odor might be all over your refrigerator if there’s a leak.

We’re not saying you’ll be able to identify the weird smell as freon immediately.

On the contrary, you might suspect something has gone bad inside the refrigerator.

Still, if you can’t find the source of the musty odor, chances are it’s freon.

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3. You Get Unusually High Electricity Bills

When a freon leak occurs, the refrigerator’s motor might work double or triple its original runtime to compensate for the wrong amount of freon.

This can put the motor under too much strain, which might eventually lead to a complete breakdown if you don’t detect this problem.

As a result of all the extra work, you might notice that your electricity bill is exceptionally high.

As soon as you see an unexpected and unjustified spike in your bills, it’s a wise idea to check all your appliances.

If it’s not a freon leak, it could be a faulty part or mechanism.

4. You Feel Faint

Prolonged exposure to freon might leave people feeling nauseous or with headaches.

If you find yourself unwell or faint after spending a while in the kitchen, it might be because you’ve inhaled a good amount of freon.

Still, it’s a relief to know that breathing in freon has no adverse effects on an average healthy human in the long run.

However, it’s important to note that people who have a history of heart disease might be prone to health risks after inhaling it in high concentrations.

Those risks can include arrhythmia and palpitations.

With all this in mind, it’s a must to have your refrigerator checked as soon as you suspect there’s something wrong with its freon levels.

How Can You Test Your Refrigerator For A Freon Leak?

Here’s a neat trick that you can use to know for sure if there’s a freon leak in your refrigerator:

Simply, mix a few drops of dish soap with some water in a spray bottle, shake it well, then spray the contents on the refrigerator’s tubing.

Now, with a thin layer of soap on the tubes, any leaked gases should pass through this layer first before getting released into the air.

If the freon is coming out of a small puncture in the tubing, bubbles will form on the soap.

Interesting Further Reading:

Do RV Refrigerators Use Freon?

Unlike domestic refrigerators, most portable refrigerators don’t feature freon as their cooling agent. On the other hand, RV refrigerators use ammonia for this purpose.

You’d be surprised at all the ways that ammonia excels over freon as a refrigerant.

Here are some ammonia refrigeration perks:

  • Ammonia (NH3) consists of nitrogen and hydrogen, both of which aren’t harmful if leaked into the environment.
  • Ammonia has no adverse effects on ozone or global warming.
  • It’s easy to detect ammonia leaks because its odor is strong.
  • Ammonia is a very energy-efficient refrigerant.

Even though ammonia fires are a thing every camper should be careful of, they’re always avoidable by making sure all the parts of an RV’s boiler are well-maintained.

Better still, it’s a relief to know that ammonia, while flammable, has a narrow range of flammability.

So in the case of a fire, it shouldn’t be a problem to contain any flames in a heartbeat.

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