Is It Legal to Recharge an Old Refrigerator With an R12 Refrigerant?


Many refrigerators manufactured before 1993 used Freon 12 (also known R12) as a pressurized vapor to keep the interior cool. Although the industry has shifted wholesale into the use of alternative refrigerants for environmental reasons, a few remaining vintage refrigerators and older industrial coolers continue to contain R12.


  • Dichlorodifluoromethane was produced by Dupont Chemical Company as an inexpensive and safe innovation on past refrigerants. The name "R12" is derived from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) designation, where "R" denotes a refrigerant and "12" denotes the number of hydrogen atoms and fluorine atoms, respectively.

The Montreal Protocol

  • Scientists discovered in 1985 that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) such as R12 were destroying the ozone layer that protects the Earth's surface from the harmful effects of the Sun's ultraviolet and infrared light. In response, 24 countries, including the United States, and the European Economic Community convened in Montreal and agreed to a plan that phased out CFCs by the turn of the 21st century.

R12 use today

  • It is illegal to produce R12, but it is not illegal to buy or sell it. Those who have yet to switch to an approved alternative can continue to purchase R12 manufactured before the 1996 ban. Stockpiles are diminishing, however; demand has driven the price up and someday the remaining R12 will run out.


  • Photo Credit réfrigérateur image by dead_account from
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