All air conditioning problems are serious and require immediate attention. However, not all air conditioning problems are a danger to your entire system. A refrigerant leak, however can cause system failure and lead to costly repairs.
Refrigerant is what makes cooling your home possible. Loss of refrigerant, also known as coolant or Freon, is not a normal part of an AC system’s operation and indicates a refrigerant leak. A properly running AC system circulates and maintains the same amount of refrigerant, it does not lose refrigerant over time.
If you have any reason to believe that you have a refrigerant leak in your air conditioning system, then call us immediately to schedule air conditioning repair. Of course, you need to recognize what a refrigerant leak looks like! Read on to learn more about potential warning signs.
What Does Refrigerant Do?
First and foremost, you need to understand what it is that refrigerant does in your air conditioning system. The refrigerant in your system allows your AC to cool your home. More specifically, it is the evaporating and condensing of refrigerant that allows your air conditioner to cool your home.
Your AC is equipped with two coils. The evaporator coil is indoors, and the condenser coil is outdoors. As refrigerant evaporates in the indoor evaporator coil, it removes heat from the air in the house. It is then sent out to the condenser coil where it is condensed, allowing the heat to be released into the air outside. This process continues until desired temperatures are met and maintained in your home.
What Causes Refrigerant Leaks?
It is a fairly common misconception that refrigerant is slowly depleted as part of an AC system’s cooling process. But the truth is low refrigerant levels are caused by small puncture holes that allow the refrigerant to escape.
Refrigerant leaks can be caused by several things, such as:
- Normal wear and tear causing thinning of tube walls
- Improper AC installation
- Factory defects in your unit
- Corrosion of copper tube walls of the indoor coil
- Joints or connections weakening over time
Signs of a Refrigerant Leak
An air conditioner refrigerant leak is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a system that is supposed to keep your house cool. Refrigerant is not consumed when you are running it during hot summer months. Instead, the refrigerant gets cycled back and forth as it removes heat from your house. The initial charge when the AC system is installed should last throughout the lifespan of the unit.
If your system is leaking refrigerant, then it is going to struggle to function effectively. You may have a refrigerant leak if you notice any of the following symptoms. If you do, reach out to us right away so that we can identify and resolve any leaks that you’ve got in your system.
By noticing the signs early, you can maintain a cool temperature within your home and avoid shelling out thousands on repairs or replacing your AC system.
The following signs may indicate there’s a refrigerant leak in your AC unit.
1. Higher Than Usual Electric Bills
A refrigerant leak can cause your AC unit to work harder than normal. If your electric bill has unexpectedly skyrocketed without any other changes on your part, your air conditioner may have a refrigerant leak. Review your electric bill for inconsistent usage levels, especially when compared to the same time period in previous years.
2. AC Taking Longer to Cool Your Home
An AC unit that is losing the ability to reach the set temperature on your thermostat in a timely, efficient manner is likely experiencing a refrigerant leak. This causes your AC system to run longer than usual to reach the desired temperature. Refrigerant’s job in the cooling process is to absorb the heat from inside your home and release it outside. If your refrigerant levels are depleted, it will take longer to cool your home.
3. Increased Humidity inside Your Home
A properly functioning air conditioning system should only take about 15 minutes to properly dehumidify your home.
4. AC Not Blowing Cold Air
Check the air coming from your air vents. If the air is not as cold as it should be, it could mean a refrigerant leak.
5. Hissing Noises
An AC refrigerant leak is caused by holes or cracks in the coils that circulate the refrigerant. While a hissing sound coming from your AC system could be a sign of a variety of problems, refrigerant leaks are the most common. If the leak is large enough, your AC may make a gurgling sound.
6. Frozen Evaporator Coil
Check your evaporator coil (the indoor coil) periodically for new ice crystal formations. When the refrigerant level circulating through the evaporator coils is insufficient, the coils will not adequately absorb heat. This will result in the condensation on the coils to freeze.
7. AC Leaking Water
If you have noticed water on the floor by your HVAC unit as a result of the ice melting off your evaporator coils.
8. Tiny Bubbles in the Evaporator Coils
Listen for any strange noises in the unit. This is one of the best ways to determine whether your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant or on the brink of breaking down. Air bubbles can form in the refrigerant line as coolant leaves your air conditioner unit. Some noises make a hissing sound; others sound like bubbling noises whenever the unit is running.
Dangers of Refrigerant Leaks
The loss of refrigerant can cause your system to cool inefficiently. Your system may struggle to produce adequate air conditioning, preventing your home from reaching the desired set temperature. This not only causes your system to work harder, but it can also increase your monthly energy bills.
Refrigerant leaks can be harmful to your health and hazardous to the environment. Refrigerant contains chemicals that can affect air quality and enter your respiratory system. While tasteless and odorless, refrigerant does make a large impact on your air and health.
Refrigerant poisoning is a serious condition that can lead to difficulty breathing, headaches, nausea and vomiting, skin and eye irritation, and coughing. If left untreated, the poisoning can lead to life threatening issues including the following:
- Labored breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Buildup of fluid in the lungs
- Confusion, mental fatigue
- Loss of consciousness
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of refrigerant positioning, consult a doctor immediately.
The last thing you want on a hot, sticky summer day is to flip that switch to “on” and nothing happens. When your air conditioner sits idle for at least half the year, maintenance or a tune up is a necessity.
You can always count on the Aire-Tech to keep your home cool. Perhaps you need repairs, new thermostat installation, or preventative maintenance—whatever the HVAC issue is, Aire-Tech is ready to help. If your system needs repair or inspection before summer, call us on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.