woman suffering from heat due to air conditioner with refrigerant leak

A common but not easily identifiable air conditioning problem is an AC refrigerant leak. An ineffective HVAC system with a coolant leak will affect the comfort of your home. Furthermore, health issues are a concern if the leak is not fixed in time. Homeowners should, therefore, learn about refrigerant leaks, what causes it, and why they should take action.

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

This article discusses the role of refrigerant in an air conditioning system. We also discuss the typical causes of coolant leaks and the steps to take when your air conditioner has a leak.

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What Is Air Conditioner Refrigerant?

manometer to test air conditioner refrigerant levels

Air conditioner refrigerant is a compound in a gas or fluid state within a cooling system. The refrigerant (for example R-22 or R-410a) is pushed around the components of the air conditioning system by the compressor. The refrigerant is cooled down rapidly as the compressor pulls it in, forcing the molecules into a small area. When the molecules collide, it produces heat. The refrigerant moves through the condenser which, in turn, eliminates the heat. Fans also aid in the process of heat removal. The refrigerant cools down and it condenses back into a liquid. It cools down even further when the refrigerant passes through the evaporator. Before the air is released into a room, it passes over the evaporator coils.

The refrigerant in an air conditioning system is crucial in the process of cooling ambient air. The system will not work correctly if it runs low or leaks.

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What Makes An Air Conditioner Leak Refrigerant?

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Air Conditioner Factory Defects

Factory defects due to improper assembly or handling could also be a reason why an AC unit has a coolant leakage.

Corrosion

Copper tube walls inside the air conditioner’s indoor coil or other metal components can corrode. A refrigerant can leak through holes or cracks formed in the weakened metal.

AC Wear And Tear

Regular use and time will certainly cause coolant to leak eventually. For example, air conditioning systems have certain components that are protected by rubber seals, which can wear out with time. Consequently, the refrigerant can escape.

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Weakened Air Conditioner Joints And Connections

An air conditioning system’s joints and connections can erode or thin out with time and aging.

Improper Air Conditioner Installation

An incorrectly installed AC unit can result in leaks if certain parts were not fitted properly.

 

Indications That Your Air Conditioner May Have A Refrigerant Leak

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  • Hissing Sounds: You will be able to hear a hissing sound if your AC unit has holes or cracks in the coils where the refrigerant is circulated. A larger leak will produce a gurgling sound.
  • It Takes a While For Your Home To Cool Off: The air conditioner has less cooling power. This means it will take longer to feel comfortable after turning on the AC.
  • Higher Electric Costs: Since the AC unit cannot cool down your home properly, the system will have to work more to get your air to the right temperature. This will result in a spike in your electric bill.
  • Frozen Evaporator Coil: The evaporator coil can’t absorb heat if there is not enough refrigerant circulating through the AC. This will cause any condensation that forms on the coils to freeze. You can usually see ice forming on the coils if this happens.
  • AC Leak: A common AC leak is caused by frozen condensation. It can melt on the evaporator coils and form a puddle of liquid on the ground.
  • Low Airflow: An air conditioning system will not produce enough cool air if there is a small amount of refrigerant. This will result in lower airflow.
  • Increased Humidity: Another sign that your AC system is not working correctly is increased humidity. Low refrigerant levels will make it take longer for your air conditioner to dehumidify your home.
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Is It Time To Repair Or Replace My Air Conditioner?

Repairing your AC unit on your own may be tempting. However, it’s always best to have a professional HVAC contractor fix it because a refrigerant leak can be caused by many problems. Also, performing air conditioner repairs yourself could void the warranty if your AC unit is a newer model. Therefore, it is always a safer option to contact a professional.

It is important to note that the R-22 compound (a common coolant used in older AC systems), has been phased out since January 1, 2020. It is no longer being produced, but it’s still available in small quantities and at costly R-22 prices. Instead of repairing an older air conditioner that uses R-22, it makes more sense to replace the unit with a new one.

Your problems with an older unit often are much more than just a refrigerant leak. Repairing your leaky, old, and problematic AC system and topping off its refrigerant could cost almost half of much as a brand new, ENERGY STAR® A/C system would cost. You’re assured better performance, comfort, and efficiency with a new, highly rated SEER air conditioning unit.

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What Are The Dangers Of An Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leak?

image of caution sign depicting dangers of coolant leak of AC unit

You can have symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of coordination, and poor concentration when you are exposed to a coolant leak. You could also develop frostbite, skin rashes, or a chemical burn if the coolant came in direct contact with your skin. If you inhale a high level of coolant, it can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and potentially be fatal.

Conclusion

Struggling with an AC refrigerant leak? Then your best option is to invest in a new energy-efficient air conditioner. While some issues are simple and fixable, others like damages and defects require a more concrete solution. Give your HVAC contractor a call to learn about what you can do to enhance the safety and comfort of your home.

Call Lawes Company For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

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Lawes Company offers heating and cooling services in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, New Jersey. We hire HVAC technicians who specialize in HVAC tune-ups, repairs, installations,  replacements, and more. Each of our techs is NATE certified with ample experience. They have the knowledge to service your HVAC system properly, the first time around.

Lawes Company’s competitive heating and cooling services can improve your home comfort and improve your energy efficiency levels. We can accomplish this while, at the same time, reducing your costs for home cooling and heating. We can recommend the best HVAC repair or replacement system for your home when necessary. Additionally, we can offer you the best solutions while staying within your budget. All of our work is backed with a guarantee as a way to ensure your satisfaction. Call Lawes Company today to get a free, in-home estimate and schedule a service appointment.

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