There’s a fairly common misconception among homeowners about refrigerant–that it “runs out” or depletes from your air conditioner like gasoline does from a vehicle.
This misconception could come from an internet video or article, or even a dishonest HVAC “professional” looking to make a quick buck. But the point is, refrigerant loss isn’t something that should ever happen!
Refrigerant is in a closed, sealed loop, and is recycled throughout the lifespan of your air conditioner or heat pump. So if you’re suffering from refrigerant loss, it means there is a leak that must be repaired. Read on to learn more!
Refrigerant: What’s the Point?
Your air conditioner literally cannot function without this stuff! It’s what enables your air conditioner to even provide your living space with chilled air. Refrigerant is evaporated and condensed, changing from liquid to gas, within its closed-loop system in order to do its job.
Refrigerant goes through two important coils in your air conditioner–the evaporator coil and the condenser coil. As the refrigerant evaporates, it removes heat from the air within your living space. Then, it’s sent out to the condenser coil. There, the refrigerant is condensed and this allows it to release heat into the air outside and send cooled air back through your vents. This process continues on until desired temps are met and maintained.
Do You Have a Refrigerant Leak?
Air conditioners will struggle to operate as they should if there is a refrigerant leak. But when the leak first occurs, the signs of this may be a bit subtle for the naked eye, or ear. Fortunately, we have a list here of what you can look for.
- Your air doesn’t feel as cool as you remember it.
- The system is short-cycling, turning on and off rapidly without ever actually completing a full cooling cycle.
- Your energy bills are much higher than they were this time last year, or higher than what your neighbors are paying for similar use.
- You hear a hissing noise near your air conditioner.
- You see ice developing anywhere on your system–while ice may seem like a natural part of the cooling process, we can assure you it’s not supposed to be there.
Refrigerant leaks cause compressors to fail and air conditioner to break down years before they should. So you can see how vital the situation is if an HVAC pro tells you that your air conditioner is losing refrigerant.
The source of the loss–the leak–must be located and repaired, and the refrigerant must be refilled (recharged) to restore complete functionality in the cooling system.
A refrigerant leak wastes energy and money, and does irreversible damage to the compressor. Unfortunately, compressor damage typically means your whole air conditioner needs to be replaced, even if it’s years before it’s estimated lifespan. Compressors are the most expensive component in the system, and by taking care of refrigerant leaks, you help that component last a lot longer.