This paper discusses the use of propane (HC-290) as a safe and energy efficient alternative to HCFC-22 in a typical split air conditioner with nominal cooling capacities up to 5.1 kW. Initially split air conditioner performance is simulated for cooling capacity, energy efficiency ratio (EER), and refrigerant charge. Tests were conducted for different test cases in a psychrometric test chamber with HCFC-22 and HC-290. The test conditions considered are as per Indian Standards, IS 1391 (1992) Part I. The various parameters considered were based on simulated performance with the objective to achieve maximum EER for the desired cooling capacity. As the flammability is an issue for HC-290, the reduction of HC-290 charge was another objective. Two different types of condensers, first with smaller size tubing and another parallel flow condenser (PFC) or minichannel condenser were used in order to reduce HC-290 charge. For HC-290, the highest EER achieved was 3.7 for cooling capacity 4.90 kW for a refrigerant charge of 360 g. The important safety aspects of using HC-290 in air conditioner are discussed. The refrigerant charge as per EN 378 for different cooling capacities and room sizes is also considered. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.