5.1 Identification of Refrigerants

Identification of Refrigerants

Refrigerants are carefully selected and matched for each application and use.

Heat pumps, air conditioning and other types of refrigerant equipment are designed to operate with refrigerants manufactured to provide safe and efficient equipment operation.

In some trades or occupations, such as residential air conditioning where one type of refrigerant (HCFC-22) is used almost exclusively, this topic may not seem important.

In other areas where different types of refrigerants are used, safety hazards can occur when refrigerants are mixed or the wrong refrigerant is used in the equipment.

The first step in the safe and proper handling of refrigerants is to identify the refrigerant.

Refrigerants are compressed gases and must be maintained within a closed loop system, sealed component, or container to prevent them from being mixed with other refrigerants or released into the environment.

When the type of refrigerant used in a unit is not known, the following procedure should be used:

  •  Check the nameplate
  •  Check the temperature/pressure
  •  Check the colour coding
  •  Check the labels

Check the Name Plate

The nameplate on refrigerant equipment will include the refrigerant type and quantity contained in the system.

On refrigerant systems where historical data or working knowledge does not exist, caution must be exercised to ensure that refrigerants have not been mixed during previous servicing.

Check Temperature and Pressure

When the manufacturer’s installation and specifications manual or name plate are not available, the procedure listed below should be followed:

  • Ensure that the equipment is off and at ambient temperature
  • Obtain and record the pressure reading of the refrigerant
  • Obtain and record the saturation temperature of the refrigerant
  • Compare your readings to a refrigerant chart which is readily available from refrigerant manufacturers

Check Colour Coding

Refrigerants contained in their factory cylinders can be identified by a colour-coding system.

The following is a listing of the most frequently-used refrigerants and their colour codes.

Reclaim Cylinders

Colour coding of reclaim cylinders is the same as for virgin refrigerants, with one addition:

Anything wrong with this picture?

They are painted yellow on the shoulder with the yellow paint extending 12” down on the side.

Check the Labels

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) regulations must be attached to refrigerant containers.

(see: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/occup-travail/whmis-simdut/index_e.html)

 The labels, in addition to identifying the refrigeration type, also provide other valuable information.

Refrigerant labels are of two types:

  •  Supplier Labels
  •  Workplace Labels

Supplier Labels

Supplier labels are provided by the refrigerant manufacturer and available from wholesalers.

Refrigerant manufacturers usually affix the supplier label to refrigerant containers prior to shipping.

If the supplier label on a refrigerant container is damaged or not legible, it must be replaced immediately.

Workplace Labels

Workplace labels are required when a refrigerant is decanted from a supplier’s labeled refrigerant container into another approved container.

Workplace labels are also required on refrigerant containers that contain recycled or reclaimed refrigerant that will not be reused on the same workday by the person who decanted the refrigerant.

Decanted refrigerant stored in a container and reused by the worker in the same day it was decanted does not require a workplace label.

Workplace labels must name the product, provide safe handling instructions and have a statement on the label that indicates a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is available.