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Jun 07

How Do I Know If My Air Conditioner Has A Refrigerant Leak?

hvac technician with refrigerant air conditioner leak detector

Air conditioner refrigerant leaks might not be an easily identifiable AC problem, but it is a common one. It is usually the culprit behind your inefficient cooling system and uncomfortable home. This problem can also lead to health issues when you do not address it immediately.

As a homeowner, you must learn everything you can about an AC refrigerant leak. This includes why it happens and how to prevent it from happening to you.

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How Do I Know If My Air Conditioner Has A Refrigerant Leak?

This article discusses air conditioner refrigerants and the common reasons that lead to air conditioner coolant leaks. We also cover the best solutions for this type 0f air conditioning problem.

What Does Air Conditioner Refrigerant Do?

The refrigerant is a fluid or gas compound used in the cooling cycle of an air conditioner. The compressor forces it around particular parts of a cooling system, then compresses it quickly as it is pulled back to the compressor. The refrigerant’s molecules then move into a smaller space where they collide with each other, causing them to produce heat. The refrigerant then goes through the condenser, where the heat is removed with the help of fans. It condenses into liquid as it cools, and the refrigerant then passes through the evaporator as it cools further. The air that passes through the evaporator coils is cooled before it is released via vents located throughout your house.

The refrigerant is essential in the cooling process of your air conditioner. If the volume gets too low or it leaks, your system might not be able to cool down your home as effectively.

 

Reasons Your Air Conditioner Is Leaking Refrigerant

Some of the reasons behind an AC refrigerant leak include:

  • Corrosion: The metal parts of your air conditioner can become riddled with rust. This will cause it to corrode and develop cracks and holes where refrigerant can leak through.
  • Weakened A/C Joints And Connections: As time passes, your system becomes more susceptible to wear and tear. Therefore, the joints and connections in your air conditioner thin out and erode, causing a refrigerant leak.
  • Improper Air Conditioner Installation: Improper AC installation means that some parts are not fitted accurately, making AC coolant leaks inevitable.
  • AC Factory Defects: Sometimes, the cooling unit is not handled correctly or assembled even before it reaches your home. These defects could be what’s causing the coolant to escape.
  • Air Conditioner Wear And Tear: Regular use and age can cause coolant to leak. For instance, rubber seals that protect your cooling equipment are worn out over time and allow coolant to leak through.

Signs That Your Air Conditioner Has A Refrigerant Leak

Here are the symptoms to look out for if you suspect that your cooling system has a coolant leak:

  • Higher Electric Costs: Leaks will cause your air conditioner’s efficiency to reduce drastically. Therefore, your system will overwork to reach the set temperature. This will cause your electricity bill to spike.
  • AC Takes A Long Time To Cool Your Home: A coolant leak means your AC does not work as effectively as it should. As a result, it takes longer for your AC to cool your home.
  • High Humidity Levels: Your air conditioner also dehumidifies your home. If the refrigerant is leaking, it will not be able to do this effectively, if it could at all.
  • Frozen Evaporator Coil: An AC that is low on refrigerant means that there is not enough AC circulating in the evaporator coils. Therefore, the coil cannot absorb heat as it should, so condensation will form around it. This water will freeze, and ice will form around the coils.
  • AC Leak: The ice around your frozen evaporator coils will eventually melt. The water will then trickle to your system and the floor and cause even more problems.
  • Hissing Sounds: If you hear a hissing noise from your AC, it could mean that there are holes or cracks on the coils. This is where the refrigerant is circulated, so that would mean there is a leak as well. If you hear a gurgling sound, you could be dealing with a bigger hole on the coil.
  • Low Airflow: A leak can lead to inadequate airflow. This is because your air conditioner cannot produce the amount of cool air needed to keep your home comfortable.

 

Why Are AC Refrigerant Leaks Dangerous?

It could be dangerous if your refrigerant leaks through the vents. Exposure to this substance can lead to symptoms like poor concentration, dizziness, loss of coordination, shortness of breath, and skin rashes. Inhaling high amounts of refrigerant can also lead to fainting and seizures. Touching the coolant with your care skin can lead to a chemical burn or frostbite. The worst-case scenario would be death from coolant exposure.

 

Should I Repair Or Replace My Air Conditioner?

You might think it’s a good idea to conduct do-it-yourself air conditioner repairs or replacements. However, it could be disastrous if you do not know what you are doing. Refrigerant leaks should always be handled by a professional. Otherwise, the problem could escalate into bigger ones. Moreover, you might end up voiding the warranty if you have a new AC unit. It is always better to contact an HVAC expert.

Older air conditioners typically use a refrigerant called the R-22 compound. Unfortunately, this type of coolant has been phased out since the beginning of 2020. This means that its production has stopped and, although it may still be available, there are only small quantities of it left, and they come with a high price tag. If you still have an AC that uses R-22 that is not as efficient as before, consider getting an air conditioner replacement instead of a repair. It might be more practical and cost-effective this way.

More often than not, older units have problems that go beyond a refrigerant leak. Getting your old, leaking, and problematic air conditioner repaired and its refrigerant topped off may cost as much as half of a new system with a high SEER rating. If this is the case, it might be better to choose the latter option. After all, A new, ENERGY STAR® certified AC unit offers better performance, high comfort levels, and enhanced efficiency.

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Conclusion

If you are having problems with an air conditioner with a refrigerant leak, you might want to consider replacing it with an energy-efficient system instead of a repair. Simple issues can be easy to fix. However, in some cases, the damages and problems have escalated, and you need to have a more concrete solution. Consult with your local, trusted HVAC contractor about the best options to maximize your home’s comfort and safety.

Call Skylands Energy Service For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

image of skylands energy service logoWhen you need superior HVAC services in Central New Jersey, do not hesitate to call Skylands Energy Service. Rest assured, we only have the best professionally certified and highly qualified technicians to ensure all heating and cooling maintenance, repairs, replacements, and installations are done correctly. Each of our friendly techs is knowledgeable, trained, and experienced to provide accurate and prompt HVAC services.

Our company offers the most competitive HVAC service prices in the area. We provide maintenance services to enhance your comfort, indoor air quality, and energy efficiency while keeping your cooling costs in check. When you need to replace your old system, we can recommend you with the best make and model within your budget. We back all our services with a guarantee. Book your next service appointment with Skylands Energy Service today. We provide free, in-home estimates.

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