A common misconception with air conditioners is that the coolant gets used up and eventually needs to be replaced over time. However, unless there is a leak, the amount of refrigerant circulating through the system stays the same. The refrigerant in an air conditioner is crucial to carry out heat exchange. It shifts between liquid and a gaseous state to absorb heat from inside the home and then release it outdoors. It never dissipates during this process, remaining at the same amount throughout the closed-loop system.
In this article, you’ll learn more about refrigerants within an air conditioner, some common problems people run into, and how to remedy those problems.
What are some signs of an air conditioner leak?
Refrigerant is a key component to making an air conditioner work properly during the hot summer months when you want cold air the most. If you’ve ever found yourself asking any of the following questions, you might want to contact your HVAC professional to take a closer look at your system.
Why isn’t my air conditioner distributing cold air?
If your air conditioner isn’t distributing cold air, check the vents in several different rooms to see if they are blowing cold air. This is often the most obvious and easiest way to detect if you have a possible refrigerant leak. If the air is warm or just mildly cooled, this could be a sign you have a refrigerant leak.
Why is my electric bill so high?
A skyrocketing electric bill could indicate that you have a refrigerant leak. When a cooling system loses refrigerant, it causes the air conditioner to work harder. Therefore the electric bill is going to be considerably higher. Sure, everyone expects the electric bill to go up when the air conditioner is running in the summer. But if your bill is significantly higher than what you were paying last year at the same time, there is probably something not functioning properly. It could be something as simple as changing the filters or something more pressing like a refrigerant leak.
Why is my air conditioner's cooling cycle lasting forever?
If you’re finding the air conditioning unit’s cycle seems to last forever, there is a possibility of your AC unit leaking refrigerant. When there is a leak, the air conditioner needs to run for longer periods to do the same job. This increases the amount of energy your system uses to produce cold air. A harder working air conditioner is not a good thing for the owner.
What is that hissing/gurgling noise?
You might have a leak if you’re standing by your air conditioner unit and hear a hissing or gurgling noise. An air conditioner refrigerant leak is caused by holes or cracks in the coils that circulate the refrigerant. Even though several problems could cause this, a leak is definitely among them. If the system has a larger leak, it can result in a gurgling noise.
Why is there ice on the evaporator coils?
If the refrigerant levels flowing through the evaporator coils are insufficient, it won’t draw heat properly, resulting in condensation forming outside the coils and freezing. This could result in costly repairs.
Should I replace or fix my leaking AC?
This is a question that has plagued homeowners for decades. The first thing to consider is the age of your system. In 2010 the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned the sale of air conditioners using R22 Freon. If you have a system manufactured before 2010, there is a good chance it is filled with the R22 refrigerant. Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean that the unit needs to be replaced. However, it does mean that if it has a refrigerant leak, it might be worth considering replacing the unit instead of repairing it. For starters, R22 Freon can no longer be manufactured in the U.S., so the supply is dwindling and becoming more expensive to acquire. Not only is the price skyrocketing, but the unit is also starting to get up there in age, being manufactured before 2010, and will most likely have more issues soon. Air conditioning units have come a long way since 2010, so replacing your old system with a new high-efficiency unit will most likely save money in the long run. Also, repairing a leak can run up to $2,000 dollars depending on where the leak is and if an entire component needs to be replaced, which is an expense you might want to spend on replacement instead of repair.
How do HVAC professionals find leaks in my system?
A professional will utilize several different ways to detect a refrigerant leak in your HVAC system. The first and most common way to test for a refrigerant leak is to use an electronic leak detector. This is one of the most popular methods due to the high degree of accuracy that well-calibrated devices deliver.
The second way is to introduce a specially formulated dye into your closed-loop system. After giving the dye approximately two weeks to work its way throughout the system, the technician can then see where the leaks are coming from using ultraviolet light.
Lastly, there is nitrogen leak detection. The technician will remove all the refrigerant from the air conditioner and introduce nitrogen gas to the lines in this test. Since nitrogen gas is under higher pressure, it will make an audible hissing noise if any leaks are present.
Cardinal Heating & Air Conditioning
Cardinal Heating & Air Conditioning is a full-service contractor that provides services from HVAC and air quality to electrical and plumbing. Having been in business for over 38 years, their team of experts offers top-notch solutions, 24-hour emergency response, and absolute professionalism for every one of their customers. If your air conditioner isn’t keeping you cool, let the experts at Cardinal Heating & Air Conditioning take a look at it.