Propane: The Refrigerant of Choice for Small Spaces?

01/01/2018 |

Prototype window AC unit beats ENERGY STAR efficiency high mark

Researcher Bo Shen

Researcher Bo Shen of Oak Ridge National Laboratory works with a prototype window air conditioning unit that uses propane as its refrigerant. | JASON RICHARDS/OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY, DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

A window air conditioning unit that uses propane as its refrigerant cooled air with 17% higher efficiency than the best comparable ENERGY STAR commercial unit, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers that designed the early stage technology.

“Propane offers superior thermodynamic properties and creates 700% less pollution than standard refrigerants,” says researcher Brian Fricke. “We developed a system that takes advantage of these qualities and reduces global warming potential.”

Ideal for small office spaces, the unit includes a novel heat exchanger, compressor and controls that require less propane than similar units that are already in use overseas. The Oak Ridge prototype is the first propane-powered window air conditioner that can meet U.S. building safety standards.

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