Is Your Air Conditioner Leaking Refrigerant?

Posted on: 24 April 2017

Inside the coils of your air conditioner, there is a liquid known as refrigerant. It is specially designed to expand and contract as it changes temperature. Its ability to absorb heat from the air is what allows your air conditioner to cool your home. One problem that can occur, however, is that the coil starts leaking refrigerant. Here's a closer look at this problem and how to tell if it's to blame for your air conditioner's issues.

What are the signs of a refrigerant leak?

The most obvious sign of a refrigerant leak is that the air conditioner stops working properly. Usually, it won't suddenly quit cooling. Instead, it will start cooling less effectively than it used to. It may run for hours to cool your home, whereas it only used to take a few minutes. Or, you might notice that it turns off randomly throughout the day, leaving your home warmer than desired.

You may also actually see refrigerant beneath the AC unit if you look closely. It tends to have a slightly "rainbow" look to it if you look at it in the sunlight. Ice accumulation on the air conditioner is another sign of a refrigerant leak. This happens because as the refrigerant leaks out, it leaves too much empty space in the coil. The remaining refrigerant then expands and cools too much, causing the AC unit to freeze over.

What causes a refrigerant leak?

Refrigerant leaks are usually caused by cracks in the coils. This can happen "naturally" when an AC unit ages and is approaching the end of its serviceable life. The chances of cracks increase if you don't cover your air conditioner to protect it from the harsh winter weather, or if you force it to work too hard by never changing or cleaning the filter.

What should you do about a refrigerant leak?

If the air conditioner is very old, your HVAC contractor may recommend replacing the entire unit. This is because the refrigerant used in older models of air conditioners is no longer sold because it was not very eco-friendly. If your unit is newer, your HVAC installation contractor can repair the cracked coil and add more refrigerant to to "top off" the system.

If you've been having issues with your AC unit, look into the possibility of a refrigerant leak. It's one of the most common problems with air conditioners, and your system won't start working properly 'til you fix it.


HVAC For The Layman

Do you remember the last time your air conditioner died? Although you might have been tempted to write off the problem as a simple quirk, serious air conditioning issues might mean that your family gets stuck living in a hot, humid, uncomfortable environment. I have been a homeowner for a long time, and you wouldn't believe how many times I have come across issues with my HVAC systems. I want you to know how to recognize the early signs of trouble, which is why I decided to put up this page. By reading here, you might be able to learn the intricacies of HVAC in layman's terms so that you can get things resolved as quickly as possible.