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Is Your AC Losing Refrigerant? How to Tell

Posted on: April 1, 2019

To create lower temperatures indoors, your air conditioner uses the circulation of refrigerant, a chemical compound that can easily change between liquid and gaseous forms. As the refrigerant evaporates in the indoor coil of the AC, it absorbs heat and makes the air cooler. Then the refrigerant condenses in the outdoor coil, which releases the heat to the outside. This process is called heat exchange, moving heating from one place to another.

Without refrigerant, an air conditioner cannot carry out heat exchange, and that means no cooling. But that’s not the worst part! Without the proper amount of refrigerant, the entire AC is in danger of failing—usually permanently.

Refrigerant Isn’t Used Up Naturally

No, you don’t have to worry about making sure to put more refrigerant in your AC. Under normal operation, an air conditioner doesn’t use up refrigerant. It changes from liquid to gas form and back without dissipating. The factory-set refrigerant amount (known as the AC’s charge) won’t change during the system’s service life—unless the air conditioner has leaks.

Signs the AC Is Leaking Refrigerant

When an air conditioner starts to lose refrigerant to leaks, it’s vital to have it repaired as soon as possible—leaks sealed up, the system recharged to factory levels. There are a few warning signs that you may have a leaky AC:

  • Ice on the indoor coils: People often make the mistake of believing that ice is a normal consequence of how an AC operates. It isn’t. If ice forms along the air conditioner coil, it means the refrigerant isn’t effectively absorbing enough heat to warm it past freezing. One possible reason it can’t do this is because there’s less refrigerant in the coil than there should be. (Please don’t try to scrape the ice off—this won’t solve the core problem.)
  • Hissing sounds: A high-pitched hissing sound often indicates a leak along one of the copper refrigerant lines. The hissing you’re hearing is the escape of the high-pressure refrigerant gas.
  • Uneven cooling: When you notice one (or more) of the rooms in the house aren’t getting as cool as they normally do, it’s a warning the AC is starting to lose its cooling power. This can indicate a loss of refrigerant. Don’t try to determine the reason for the problem, however: you should call for repairs no matter what.

Before you make a call for repairs, shut off the air conditioning system entirely. This reduces the chance of the compressor suffering from damage due to a drop in refrigerant charge. The compressor is the component in the most danger because of refrigerant leaks, since it will eventually overheat.

HVAC technicians can locate where the leaks are occurring and seal them. Afterwards, they’ll add in the amount of refrigerant is lost. Only a skilled professional can do this—an amateur may overcharge the air conditioner, which is just as hazardous to the compressor as being undercharged.

You can call our technicians for air conditioning repairs in Durham, NC and the surrounding areas. We have 24/7 emergency services so you have your cooling restored fast.

Bud Matthews Services is here for all your home service needs in Durham—including repairs for your air conditioner.

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