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A Brief Guide on Air Conditioner Refrigerant and Leaks

Cooling system

AC refrigerant leaks are something you shouldn’t have to worry about too much—especially if you’ve only just been using your AC for a couple years now. However, it doesn’t hurt to know the warning signs. And to know those, it helps to understand what refrigerant is and why it matters.

In this post, we’ll give you a brief rundown on what refrigerant is and what to expect from refrigerant leaks.

What Is It?

Refrigerant is a chemical blend that flows through your air conditioner. Central air systems, heat pumps, and ductless mini-splits all use refrigerant.

Many homeowners mistakenly believe that refrigerant is a fuel, or like car oil which needs to be changed periodically. In reality, refrigerant is the fluid that makes heat transference possible. Without it, the AC wouldn’t be able to remove warm air from your home and leave you feeling nice and cool. This means that refrigerant exists in a closed system, where it should never be released.

Loss of Refrigerant is Not a Normal Occurrence

Why do we emphasize this fact so much? We’ve found it’s not uncommon that homeowners are tricked into believing they need to have their refrigerant recharged periodically. Unless the refrigerant was never charged properly in the first place, there’s no normal reason that your refrigerant needs to be recharged. Rather, it indicates a problem with your air conditioner that needs to be fixed sooner than later.

Lost Refrigerant = Leaks

Pretty much the only reason you’ll ever have low refrigerant levels is due to a leak. If you’re told that you need to have your refrigerant recharged, make sure to ask for the reason. If it’s not because of a bad charge during installation, then you should be told that it’s due to a leak somewhere in the system.

Leaks can occur anywhere that refrigerant flows through, including the refrigerant lines, evaporator coil, and condenser coil.

Leaks will first appear as small, pinhole leaks—they’ll be very hard to spot unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. One sign would be “champagne bubbles,” the industry nickname for the tiny bubbles of refrigerant that appear at the source of the leak. If the leak is more advanced, you might be able to see or hear the leak ejecting from the copper tubes.

If a Leak Goes on Without Repair…

An unchecked leak can lead to serious AC problems, including a total breakdown. We recommend calling for AC repair in South Miami immediately if you suspect you have a leak.

  • Frozen Evaporator Coil: Evaporator coils can malfunction due to the loss of refrigerant, thus causing it to freeze over.
  • Compressor Failure: The compressor pumps the refrigerant through the system—given that the correct amount of refrigerant is installed. Any less can cause this part to break down, and it won’t be cheap to replace.
  • No Cooling Power: The evaporator coil and compressor are crucial to the AC’s cooling functions, so a failure with them means no cool air coming from your vents.

Don’t stay quiet if you have a refrigerant leak. Contact Air On Demand, an air conditioning repair expert!