Freon & R12: What’s The Difference?

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What is Freon? 


Have you ever ordered soda or pop in Atlanta? If so, you know that people use the brand name “Coke” to describe all different varieties of the sugary, carbonated drink. The same is true for Kleenex, the most common brand name of many varieties of tissue paper. Just like not all soda or pop is Coke, and not all tissue paper is Kleenex, not all R12 is “Freon.” So why does everyone think R12 and Freon are the same thing? 



Where does the name Freon come from? 


The Kinetic Chemical Company, a joint venture of General Motors and DuPont, first invented R-12 refrigerant, or dichlorodifluoromethane, and brought it to market, in the 1920s. Freon is the brand name they gave to their product.  


The Kinetic Chemical Company was eventually purchased by E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company, which soon became the largest producer of CFCs in the United States. (DuPont went on to merge with Dow Chemical, which eventually spun off its refrigerant business under the name Chemours, which now owns the trademarked brand name Freon).  


Because the Freon brand was first to market, and DuPont quickly became the largest producer of CFCs in the United States, the name “Freon” soon became synonymous with all R12 or CFC-12.  The same as Coke for pop and Kleenex for tissues. 


Despite its market share, there are many other companies that made their own brands of R12 besides DuPont. As of the 1970s, Allied Chemical Company was the second largest producer of CFCs in the United States, followed by Union Carbide, Pennwalt Corporation, Kaiser Aluminum, and Racon, Inc. The brand names used by these other manufacturers included: 


  • National 
  • Sercon 
  • Genetron 
  • Chargette 
  • Racon 
  • Forane 
  • Interdynamics 
  • Isotron 
  • LaRoche  


What is the Difference Between Freon and R12? 


r12 cylinder

Just as not all R12 is “Freon,” not all “Freon” is R12 either. R12 is part of a class of refrigerants known as chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs. CFCs also include CFC-11 or R11, CFC-113 or R113, CFC-114 or R114, and CFC-500 or R500. Each of these also have long chemical names. For example: 

  • R-11 refrigerant is trichlorofluoromethane or CCl3F 
  • R-113 refrigerant is trichlorotrifluoroethane or CCl2FCClF2 
  • R-114 refrigerant is dichlorotetrafluoroethane or CClF2CClF2

In addition to “Freon 12,” the brand name Freon has been applied to a whole list of newer refrigerants as well. You can buy R-134a, R-22, R-404a, and R-123, among many others – all bearing the brand name Freon.

How Do I Keep This All Straight? 


First, be sure to focus on the chemical name – not the manufacturer or the brand. If you want R12 refrigerant, look for the name dichlorodifluoromethane or the chemical compound CCl2F2 on the cylinder or can. Whether the refrigerant was made by DuPont, or Allied or Racon, and whether the cylinder says “National 12” or “Sercon 12,” if it says “dichlorodifluoromethane,” you know you have R-12 refrigerant. 


cylinders of refrigerant


Second, call the experts at Refrigerant Finders. We operate a national refrigerant buyback program and handle hundreds of transactions each month. Our team can help you identify what refrigerant you have in your shed or garage through pictures and other clues on the cylinder or can. We can even Furthermore, our expert team can come out and connect your cylinder to an analyzer to give you assurance that you have the real deal. 

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