R290 Refrigerant: What HVAC Techs Need to Know

Traditional refrigerants such as R22, have been widely used in various cooling systems for decades. However, many traditional refrigerants have proven to be harmful to the environment. This article focuses on the R290 refrigerant, what it is used to replace and the pros and cons. 

In this blog post, we’ll be covering:

  • The Phase Out of HCFC Refrigerants  
  • R290: A Safer Solution to R22, R-404 and R-134a
  • Performance Comparison of R-407A vs. R-404A & R-22 
  • The Pros and Cons of R290 


The Phase Out of HCFC Refrigerants

The phase-out of traditional refrigerants began as part of the Montreal Protocol international agreement which aimed to protect the ozone layer by gradually eliminating the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances. The agreement signed in 1987, involves a phase-out timeline with the final goal to halt the production and import of all HCFC refrigerants by 2030.  

According to the EPA’s Phaseout timeline, HCFC refrigerants cannot be produced or imported with an exception for equipment manufactured before 2020. There are also restrictions on the usage of some HCFC refrigerants. As the phase-out of traditional HCFC refrigerants gained momentum, new refrigerants including R290 have emerged as a promising alternative. 

R290: A Safer Solution to R22, R-404 and R-134a 

R290 is an extremely pure propane, is a natural hydrocarbon refrigerant with a minimal impact on the environment. It can be used for low to medium-temperature refrigeration including domestic and light commercial refrigeration as well as air conditioning. Unlike R22 and other traditional refrigerants, it is not composed of HCFCs or CFCs and does not deplete the ozone layer.  

R-290 Properties 
Formula  C3H8 
Molecular weight (g/mol)  44.1 
Boiling temperature °F (°C)  -43.8 (-42.1) 
Critical temperature °F (°C)  206.1 (96.7) 
Critical pressure, PSI, (Bar)  616.5 (42.5) 
Global Warming Potential  3 
Ozone Depletion Potential  0 
ASHRAE Safety Group  A3 


Performance Comparison of R-407A vs. R-404A & R-22 

According to Super Radiator Coils performance comparison in March 2022, R290 performs similarly to R-22, R-134A, & R-404A. The main difference is that: 

  • R290 requires a lower mass flow to meet the same requirements compared to the other refrigerants, meaning less R290 refrigerant is needed to recharge the same unit. This could lead to lower refrigerant costs. 
  • R290 has a lower pressure drop than the other refrigerants, reducing power consumption. 


The Pros and Cons of R290 


  • More environmentally friendly:  R290 has a drastically lower Global Warming Potential of 3 when compared to R22, 134a and R404A. It also does not deplete the ozone layer. 
  • High energy efficiency: R290 has a high energy efficiency due to its thermodynamic properties and therefore has reduced energy consumption and lower operating costs. 
  • Recharging requires less mass flow: R290 requires less mass flow to recharge the same system when compared to other refrigerants such as R22, 134a and R404A – making it more cost-effective as fewer cylinders are used.  
  • Readily available: R290 is not subject to being phased out, hence it is more readily available. It is also more cost-effective to produce, making it a viable option for manufacturers and end-users alike.  


  • Flammability Classification: R290 is classified as a class A3 refrigerant, which is the highest flammability classification. Proper handling and safety measures during installation, maintenance, and disposal are essential to prevent potential leaks and fires.  


Ambro Controls Disposable Refrigerants 

R290 can be purchased in various cylinder sizes depending on how much gas you need. Whilst large cylinders can contain more refrigerant, they can be quite cumbersome to carry around and take up unnecessary space if you don’t use refrigerants regularly.  

Ambro Controls R290 disposable refrigerant offers a lightweight solution for recharging units on the job with ease.

The convenient size of Ambro Controls R290 Disposable refrigerant