What to Do About Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leaks

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Are you dealing with air conditioning issues and think you might have a refrigerant leak? Handling a refrigerant leak is among the most dangerous problems that your air conditioner can face. Air conditioners are not designed to consume refrigerant during operation, but to recycle it back and forth to move heat out of the house. 

The initial charge of refrigerant that an air conditioner receives upon installation is meant to last for its entire lifespan. A refrigerant leak will deprive the system of the fluid that it needs to operate, causing it to develop a number of problems, eventually culminating in a breakdown. Let’s take a look at how you can identify refrigerant leaks in your air conditioner.

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 valves 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. This process 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 release 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, and the gaseous refrigerant can then return to the beginning of the cycle.

What Happens When My AC Leaks Refrigerant?

Low refrigerant levels put undue stress on your compressor since there is a change in pressure that causes the compressor to work harder. Eventually, this causes the compressor to overheat, which leads to your entire unit burning out and failing. A burnt out compressor would require replacement, and oftentimes, this can lead to a complete system replacement.

Additionally, because the refrigerant can no longer absorb the same level of heat as it moves through the evaporator coil, it remains colder than usual. Moisture along the coil will freeze and create a layer of frost that further impedes heat absorption. This frost turns into ice that will only continue to grow until it blocks heat exchange from occurring at all. The ice can also damage the coil itself.

How Do I Know If I Have a Refrigerant Leak?

Here are a few signs that mean your AC is low on refrigerant:

  • Your AC takes longer than normal to cool down your home
  • Your supply vent is blowing lukewarm or warm air
  • The AC runs much longer than needed, increasing your electric bills
  • You notice visible ice buildup on the refrigerant line
  • Water has accumulated on the floor by your furnace due to condensation
  • You’ve noticed higher than average electric bills due to your AC running longer than normal to cool your home
  • You hear a hissing or bubbling noise coming from the refrigerant line

What Do I Do If I Have a Refrigerant Leak?

HVAC professionals will check for refrigerant leaks during your regular AC maintenance appointment. However, if you haven’t scheduled a maintenance appointment in at least the last year, and/or you suspect a refrigerant leak, then you’ll want to contact a professional.

Refrigerant is not a problem you should attempt to fix yourself and may even necessitate an emergency service call to your HVAC expert. The trained technicians at Bell Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical can come to your home and use leak detectors to discover where the break is that has drained the vital refrigerant. After that, the technician will use sealant to fix the leak and add in more coolant to bring the charge back up to its original level. After the technician is finished, your air conditioner should be back to providing you with the cool temperature you desire.

Call Bell for AC Repair and Refrigerant Leaks

When it comes to your options for getting an AC repair in Denver, Bell Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical is one of the best choices. We’ve been family-owned and operated since 1926 and can provide the personal service your AC needs when it loses refrigerant. Schedule your appointment today!

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