Isobutane is an ecological substitute for the hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC)-based refrigerants currently used in the U.S. that’s been widely used in Europe and parts of Asia for several years. Recently, General Electric (GE) filed a petition under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program, which evaluates alternatives to substances being phased out under the Clean Air Act, and the EPA has issued a proposed rule approving isobutane for use in household refrigerators, subject to certain conditions.
GE plans to put isobutane to work in their stylish new Monogram-brand 30-inch refrigerator, which is slated to hit the market in early 2011. To add to the eco-goodness, the Monogram will also use cyclopentane as the insulation foam-blowing agent, to replace commonly used HFC foam-blowing agents. (Cyclopentane, like isobutane, is a hydrocarbon, rather than a HFC, which is not as hard on the environment.) Conversion of these refrigerators to hydrocarbon refrigerants, however, will be dependent on the EPA’s final rule approving the refrigerant for use, along with favorable public policy supporting the transition–but, in the words of a recent release, “the climate change benefits could be significant.”
“The approval of isobutane under SNAP will pave the way for the use of low global-warming potential refrigeration technology in the U.S. to help address global warming challenges,” said Kevin Nolan, vice president of technology for GE Appliances, in a statement. “Our goal is to deliver a new GE Monogram refrigerator that will be ENERGY STAR qualified and that will conform to GE and third-party safety standards for the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants, including specifically the standards that address any flammability risks associated with the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants. We plan to seek ecomagination qualification, a rigorous GE process to demonstrate both operational and environmental benefits of products in the ecomagination product portfolio.”