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Difference Between R290 and R32 Refrigerants in Air To Water Heat Pumps: What You Need To Know

Views: 0     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2024-01-01      Origin: Site


Navigating the world of refrigerants can be a somewhat complex task, especially with the ongoing advancements and changes in environmental standards in the HVAC industry. When it comes to “Air To Water Heat Pumps” (AWHP), two leading refrigerants come to the forefront – R290 and R32. This post takes a deep dive into the basics of R290 and R32, comparing their characteristics, environmental impact, safety issues, and overall performance in air-to-water heat pumps.

What Are R290 and R32 Refrigerants?


R290, or propane, is a hydrocarbon refrigerant that's hailed for its low Global Warming Potential (GWP) and high efficiency. Despite being a flammable refrigerant, R290's environmental advantages and strong performance metrics lead to its increasing usage in refrigeration and heat pump applications.


R32, or difluoromethane, is an HFC (HydroFluoroCarbon) refrigerant, familiar to many because of its use in split system air conditioners. While it has a higher GWP than R290, it's still significantly lower than other common refrigerants like R410A.

Performance and Efficiency

Generally, both R290 and R32 offer high energy efficiency, making them excellent choices for heat pump applications.


R290 tends to display superior thermodynamic properties. It optimizes compressor capacity utilization, leading to higher heat transfer efficiency. This results in energy-saving benefits and operational cost savings over the equipment's life span.


R32 has a slight edge in higher ambient conditions due to its superior cooling performance characteristics. There's also an economic advantage as smaller charge amounts are required compared to other refrigerants, helping to reduce the overall system cost.

Environmental Impact

A refrigerant's environmental impact is commonly assessed through its GWP and Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP).


R290 is a natural refrigerant with a minuscule GWP of 3 and zero ODP, making it one of the most eco-friendly refrigerants in the industry.


R32 is a synthetic refrigerant with a GWP of 675. Although higher than R290, this figure is significantly lower than its HFC counterparts. Like R290, R32 has a zero ODP.

Safety Considerations

Each refrigerant presents its unique safety considerations due to their different flammability characteristics.


R290 is classified as a highly flammable refrigerant. While this might raise safety concerns, the risk is mitigated by using the refrigerant within specially designed and rigorously tested appliances that ensure its safe handling and operation.


R32 is categorized as a mildly flammable refrigerant, demanding fewer safety precautions than R290. Its reduced flammability and lower toxicity make it safe for use in residential and commercial applications, given proper handling and installation procedures are followed.


R290 and R32 refrigerants, each with their distinguished features, benefits, and precautions, offer viable solutions in the realm of air-to-water heat pumps. Selecting between them would depend on various factors such as the specific heat pump design, location, and whether your ultimate priority lies with environmental influence, performance efficiency, cost, or flammability safety. Consulting with a professional HVAC provider can aid in making the right choice for your specific needs.

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