Have you had to refill your AC refrigerant lately? If not, this is a good sign. Air conditioning refrigerant operates on a closed loop, meaning it is recirculated again and again to cool your home. Therefore, the only times you should have to refill your AC refrigerant are when you replace the system altogether, including the refrigerant that comes with it, when you convert your current air conditioner to support a different kind of refrigerant, or when your air conditioner experiences a refrigerant leak. Keep reading for everything you need to know about air conditioning refrigerant, and remember that for all your AC needs, you can count on our expert technicians at Service Today!
What You Need to Know About Air Conditioning RefrigerantRefrigerant is any kind of working fluid used in the refrigeration cycle of heating & air conditioning systems. In most cases, refrigerant undergoes a repeated phase transition from liquid to gas then back again. Refrigerant is also used in your car’s air conditioning system, though the chemical compounds used in car refrigerants are usually different than those used in home air conditioning systems. In recent years, you may have heard a lot about R-22, the refrigerant more commonly known as Freon. While recent changes in regulations have caused many people to function under the assumption that Freon use is banned in the U.S., this is actually not the case. Due to the greenhouse gasses emitted during Freon usage, the EPA has banned the ongoing manufacturing and importation of Freon in the United States. However, you can still purchase and use Freon, but given the EPA phaseout, more homeowners are choosing to upgrade to a new AC system or convert their current air conditioner to run on a refrigerant other than Freon. Unless you are planning on upgrading/replacing your current air conditioning system, the only time you really need to worry about your refrigerant is if a leak occurs. This is one of the more significant AC problems a homeowner can face, so it is important that you address the issue right away if you experience a Freon leak in your home. Common signs of a Freon leak include:
- Lack of Airflow: If your air conditioner is blowing hot air or struggling to blow air at all, it is possible a refrigerant leak is causing the problem. Before you jump to conclusions, however, it is important to check if you could be dealing with another kind of malfunction. First, check your thermostat setting, to see if you have accidentally left your heating & air conditioning system in heating mode. Next, make sure your heating & air conditioning system is set to “auto,” and not “fan”—on the fan setting, air keeps blowing even when your AC cycles off, which may explain why your air is hot instead of cool. Finally, see if your vents are open and your air filter is clogged. A clogged filter will obstruct proper airflow, and may explain why you aren’t getting the cool temperatures you need. If, after all this, your AC continues to malfunction, you could be dealing with a refrigerant leak.
- Hissing/Gurgling Noises: Although there are a number of possible explanations for a hissing noise coming from your air conditioner, a refrigerant leak is one possible reason your system is emitting that strange sound. Call a technician to see if there is another explanation, and do not inspect your refrigerant lines yourself. Remember, refrigerant is a dangerous chemical and should not be handled without the assistance of a professional. Also, if you hear a bubbling or gurgling sound, it is likely that your refrigerant leak has gotten even worse, so make sure to call an heating & air conditioning tech ASAP if you hear this noise coming from your system.
- Frozen Coils: When hot air runs over your indoor AC unit’s evaporator coil, the refrigerant cools that air, allowing you to receive the comfortable temperature you need in your household. However, when your refrigerant starts to leak, your evaporator coil will freeze, and stop being able to convert the air altogether. You may notice condensation around the refrigerant line or water around the unit when this first starts to happen. However, by the time the coil has frozen, you will have a serious problem on your hand, and it is important to call a technician right away so you don’t have to replace the air handler, if not the entire system.
- Increased Humidity Levels: In addition to cooling your air, your AC system also dehumidifies it. When a refrigerant leak occurs, it will not be able to remove humidity properly, and you will feel the effects in your home. Granted, there are other factors that can contribute to humidity levels, including where you live and the amount of moisture in your household. But if the temperature in your home suddenly gets hotter and you are experiencing more humidity than usual, it is important to call a technician. This is particularly true if you also notice…
- Rising Energy Costs: If your AC system experiences a refrigerant leak, it will start to work harder to cool your whole home. The harder your system works, the higher your energy bills will be—basically, you will pay more in utility costs for less comfort. A lot of homeowners’ first instinct when this happens is to mess with their thermostat, but we do not recommend this. Adjusting your thermostat setting dramatically is just likely to raise your energy bills even more, so if you notice a sudden unexplained increase in your cooling costs, and you are unable to achieve your desired temperature as well, call a technician to see if a refrigerant leak could be to blame.