Do You Have an AC Refrigerant Leak?
An AC refrigerant leak can cause serious problems for your home air conditioning system, your wallet, and your comfort.
Systems that are chronically overdue on maintenance or neglected often develop refrigerant leaks, but even a well-maintained AC system will eventually leak when it reaches the end of its lifespan, which is typically about 10+ years.
What Causes AC Refrigerant Leaks?
The refrigerant lines in your home air conditioning unit are highly pressurized and can degrade over time due to wear-and-tear and environmental factors. If your system starts to leak, it’ll need to be fixed and the refrigerant recharged.
This repair can often be avoided by regular HVAC service that detects small problems before they become big problems by using pressure and system tests. Like your car, heating and cooling systems require maintenance to perform effectively.
“Can’t I just get it recharged?” you might ask.
That’s a temporary fix to a permanent problem. Your system should always be evaluated by a trained pro for repairs of this nature. A proper repair may include dye and seal to locate the leak, and then braising it shut or replacing the pipes or lines before the system can be recharged again. Otherwise, the new refrigerant will simply leak out.
It’s also important to know that venting refrigerant from a compromised AC system is illegal because the substances deplete the ozone layer. In fact, the national ban on the R-22 refrigerant used in older AC systems has already begun. No reputable HVAC company should be cutting corners on these repairs.
So, when the hot weather strikes, how can you tell if you have an AC refrigerant leak?
Here are the six common signs to look out for:
AC Refrigerant Leak Sign #1: No Cold Air
This one is the most obvious. When you turn your AC unit on, does it blow warm air? Does it have trouble keeping up at the hottest times of the day? An air conditioning refrigerant leak may be the culprit.
Because your air conditioner contains refrigerant inside its copper coils, which absorbs heat from hot indoor air and exhausts it outside using a fan. Another fan in your AC system blows air over the cool coils and then distributes crisp, cold air throughout your home.
No or low refrigerant means no cool air.
AC Refrigerant Leak Sign #2: Humid Air
Air conditioners dehumidify hot air during the cooling process. This added benefit ensures that your indoor air stays cool and comfortable. However, when there isn’t enough refrigerant in your AC coils, this ability is diminished or disappears entirely.
AC Refrigerant Leak Sign #3: Long Cooling Cycles
Is your AC system turning on for longer and longer periods? Does it seem your home is warmer than the temperature you set on your thermostat?
If so, this can signify that your AC unit is struggling to keep up with demand due to an AC refrigerant leak.
It’s working harder and harder to provide the cool air you’re requesting, which can overwork the system and lead to other failures. Your AC system requires refrigerant to function properly, and constant system stress can compromise the system over time.
AC Refrigerant Leak Sign #4: Spending More on Utility Bills
Have you seen an increase or a sudden spike in your energy bills? Inefficient cooling and longer cooling cycles lead to drops in your system performance, which lead to higher electric and fuel costs.
AC Refrigerant Leak Sign #5: Frozen Evaporator Coils
Has ice formed on your outdoor air conditioning unit during hot weather?
Ice or frost on your AC unit means that a wall has formed between the hot air you want to be cooled down and the refrigerant in your system; your AC unit cannot perform the way it should under these conditions.
Not only do you lose cooling capacity, but you’re also stressing your system and risking a breakdown while paying more on your energy bills in the process. It’s a lose-lose-lose situation.
It’s important to know that an AC refrigerant leak is often the culprit, but other factors could cause it, such as:
- Problems with your fan and/or fan motor.
- Clogged filters.
- Blocked ducts.
- Running your air conditioner when it’s too cool. In New Hampshire, this means it has to be at least 65 degrees or warmer outside.
- Excessive humidity.
- Dirty coils.
Basically, if you see frost or ice on your air conditioning unit, it’s time to shut off your system and wait for a professional to diagnose your problem.
AC Refrigerant Leak Sign #6: Hissing or Bubbling
Your home air conditioning unit should never hiss like a snake, so if you hear this sound, give us a call. It usually means you’ve got a sizeable AC refrigerant leak somewhere in your system. A bubbling sound can also mean the same thing.
Is an AC Refrigerant Leak Dangerous?
The short answer is that it depends on the amount and time of exposure. According to Healthline, mild exposure is generally harmless, and poisoning is rare except in cases of misuse or exposure in a confined area. To learn more about refrigerant poisoning, we recommend reading the article here.
At Sanford, we’re experts at delivering the comfort you deserve, so if you think you’re experiencing an AC refrigerant leak, contact us today for home air conditioning service.
We provide extensive air conditioning service, repair and installation options for ducted homes and homes without ductwork on all makes, models and brands of heating and cooling equipment.
Thanks for visiting our website. We look forward to the opportunity to turn your home into your comfort zone!