Chemically speaking, a hydrocarbon [HC] is an elementary compound of hydrogen and carbon which occurs naturally and is found in large concentrations in crude oil. Used as a modern refrigerant, non-toxic hydrocarbons are an ecofriendly alternative to the CFC/HCFC/HFC fluorocarbons linked to ozone damage.
Though a range of HCs have refrigerant applications, isobutane (R600a) is the HC most frequently found in domestic fridges and freezers, whilst propane (R290) is common in commercial heat pump, air-conditioning, refrigeration, and freezer applications.
In addition to their environmental benefits, hydrocarbons are a cost-saving option for heating/cooling and also for freezing. A common replacement for fluorocarbons (now lacking green credentials), HCs substitutes are compatible with oils and components found in many existing systems. They can be purchased more cheaply and also offer superior energy efficiency, reflected in more-affordable running costs.
Though HCs are flammable, propane (R290) is in general used for cooking and heating, and thus the necessity for the application of standard practices for the safe handling and deployment of such materials is recognized and accepted by all users.