If you’re like many homeowners, you might not actually understand what the refrigerant inside your air conditioner does. You’ve probably heard of it, and you know it’s important. Maybe you’ve been told it’s like a fuel…
Well, it is important. It’s essential to the cooling process. Your air conditioner cannot do its job without it. But the misconception is that refrigerant is a fuel; that it depletes like gasoline does from a vehicle. But your cooling system is actually supplied with enough refrigerant to last through its whole lifespan upon manufacturing. So if your system loses refrigerant, it means that it has a leak.
Read on as we uncover why it’s a problem if you believe the former—the misconception that refrigerant is a fuel.
Your AC Shouldn’t Need More Refrigerant
At some point, you might have had an HVAC “professional” tell you your AC’s refrigerant needs to be “topped off” every once in a while. This isn’t the case. As we mentioned above, refrigerant doesn’t deplete, nor does it get “used up” while your air conditioner is running.
Your AC system is designed to use the same level of refrigerant—what we refer to as its charge—throughout its lifetime. Refrigerant circulates through a closed loop, evaporating and then condensing, never dissipating.
So, why is all of this so important? Because if your system is losing refrigerant, it means you have a leak that has to be located and repaired. If the leak isn’t found, you’ll continue using your AC system and continue losing refrigerant. Your air conditioner’s efficiency and your comfort will both decline, but may seem to improve each time the refrigerant is recharged, because it will get a temporary boost.
Avoiding Compressor Damage
The compressor is the heart of your air conditioner, and is also its most expensive component! When the compressor fails, your air conditioner fails. And since a lack of refrigerant can cause the compressor to fail, you definitely want to address refrigerant leaks or avoid them altogether.
The only time a compressor failure doesn’t mean a complete air conditioner failure is if your AC system is still under manufacturer warranty and you’ve kept up on annual professional maintenance. If your warranty is still good, then you’d only need to pay for the labor to replace the compressor. Otherwise, it almost always makes more financial sense to upgrade the entire air conditioner.
How to Avoid Refrigerant Leaks
It’s not always possible to avoid refrigerant leaks, especially in an aging air conditioner. But you can reduce the risk by making sure you stay on top of maintenance. Professional maintenance allows our technicians to fully inspect, clean, and adjust the components that need it, including your refrigerant line.
And if you can’t prevent it, you can at least know the signs that you have a refrigerant leak so you can call us right away for repair. These signs include:
- Ice forming on the evaporator coil.
- A hissing or bubbling sound from the indoor or outdoor cabinet of the air conditioner.
- Hot spots throughout the home or a feeling like your air conditioner isn’t keeping you as cool as it once did.