Is Your Air Conditioner Leaking Refrigerant?

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Our air conditioners have sat unused for the last few months. Winter weather has turned attention to our heating systems, and you likely haven’t had cause to run your system since last summer. But spring is here, and summer won’t be too far behind. Soon enough, you’re going to need your air conditioner on a daily basis, and the last thing you need is a breakdown just when the temperature reaches its peak. The sooner you can spot any problems with the system, the better off you’ll be.

Among the most common issues encountered by most air conditioning systems is leaking refrigerant, which is the component that makes air conditioning possible. Understanding how it works in your system – and the problems it can cause when it starts to leak – is a key part of correcting the problem.

How Does Refrigerant Work?

Many people assume that air conditioners consume refrigerant in the process of doing their jobs, like a car consumes gas or oil. That’s not the case. Refrigerant cycles through a theoretically closed loop: passing through a series of vales and coils that allow the cooling process to take place. It begins in gaseous form, then enters a series of valves and coils that shift it to liquid form and place it under a huge amount of pressure. (That releases a great deal of heat, which is vented through the outside of the air conditioner.)

The pressurized refrigerant then moves through a valve to releases a set amount into the evaporator coils. There, it moves back to gaseous form: pulling heat from the nearby air in the process. The cool air can then be blown into your home through the ducts, which the gaseous refrigerant can then return to the beginning of the cycle.

What Happens When There’s Leaks

Theoretically, the refrigerant will never leak, and the cycle can perpetuate for as long as you own your air conditioner. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, and leaks will spring up in the system from time to time. This becomes an increasing possibility as the air conditioner ages and wear and tear take their toll.

When that happens, the delicate balance required for the process to work gets thrown off. Frost and ice will form on the evaporator coils, which insulates the remaining refrigerant from the air it’s trying to cool. Not only will that force your system to work harder to do its job, but things will only get worse. As more refrigerant leaks, the ice grows thicker and the system has to work even harder. Eventually, you’ll be left with a very expensive fan blowing warm air through your home, or a flat-out breakdown that requires a very expensive repair call.

A good air conditioning technician can seal the leak and recharge refrigerant levels to their prescribed amount. Only a trained and licensed technician should ever attempt this, since refrigerant can be extremely dangerous if not handled properly.

For air conditioning repairs and services in Aurora, CO, call on the friendly professionals at Bell Plumbing and Heating today to set up an appointment!

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