As the U.S. continues to transition away from home refrigerators that use high-GWP HFCs like R134a, the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is compiling a “Buyer’s Guide” listing HFC-free fridges that contain the efficient natural refrigerant isobutane (R600a).

The guide, launched in June, lists 52 models from nine manufacturers: Bosch, Frigidaire, GE Appliances, Haier, Hisense, LG, Samsung, SUMMIT and Whirlpool. Each model includes brand name, model number and whether the unit is qualified or certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program. 

“We are compiling a list of climate-friendly fridges available in the United States, where super pollutant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are still used widely despite the availability of HFC-free alternatives,” the EIA says on the guide’s website. 

EIA notes on the website that fridges are labelled with a sticker located on the inside compartment that lists which refrigerant is used along with other manufacturing information.

EIA acknowledges that the guide is “not comprehensive and will continue to be updated over time.” The NGO encourages consumers and others to submit information on R600a home fridges not on the list by emailing with the brand, model number, and a picture of the sticker label inside the unit.

“We are more than happy to update the list with any fridges we might have missed,” said Avipsa MahapatraEIA’sClimate Campaign Lead.

2018 rule change

While home fridges around the world have been using R600a as a refrigerant for many years, in the U.S. this only began happening for regular-sized units in September 2018, when the EPA raised the hydrocarbon charge limit for new home refrigerators and freezers to 150g from 57g through the adoption of a 2017 Underwriters Laboratories (UL)standard (60335-2-24).

The rule pertains to three flammable (A3) refrigerants – R600a, propane (R290) and R441A (a hydrocarbon blend) – in new household refrigerators, freezers and combination refrigerators/freezers under the EPA’s SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) program.

The U.S. home appliance industry is continuing its transition out of high-GWP HFC refrigerants to R600a, said Kevin Messner, Sr. Vice President of Policy & Government Relations at Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. “Many states are requiring compact products to be out of these refrigerants by January 1, 2021, and then the larger products will be fully transitioned out over the next couple of years.”

The previous 57 g limit was widely seen as an impediment to the adoption of energy-efficient hydrocarbon refrigeration in the U.S. domestic market, where consumers have purchased about 12 million new R134a-based household refrigerators and freezers annually. 

“We are more than happy to update the list with any fridges we might have missed.”
– Avipsa MahapatraEIA

Want to find out more, or have something to say about this story? Join the ATMO Connect network to meet and engage with like-minded stakeholders in the clean cooling and natural refrigerant arena.