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

Identifying an AC refrigerant leak is not always a straightforward task, but it is a common repair that HVAC contractors deal with. Such a leak often serves as the primary reason for an ineffective HVAC system, which, in turn, compromises home comfort. Nevertheless, if left unaddressed, such leaks can result in health concerns. That is why it is essential for homeowners to acquaint themselves with the causes of air conditioner refrigerant leaks, what they entail, and why it may be necessary to inspect their HVAC system more closely.

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

This article delves into the significance of air conditioner refrigerants and addresses the frequent culprits behind coolant leaks. We also discuss potential remedies for this type of cooling system problem.

What Does Air Conditioner Refrigerant Do?

Air conditioning systems use refrigerants, which are typically in a fluid or gaseous state, to cool the air. The refrigerant, such as R-22, is compressed by the compressor and forced around specific components of the system. As the refrigerant is pulled in, it is rapidly compressed, which causes its molecules to occupy a smaller space and produce heat due to the collision of the molecules. The refrigerant then moves through the condenser, removing the heat. Heat removal is aided by fans, and the refrigerant is cooled down and condensed into a liquid state. When the refrigerant passes through the evaporator, it is further cooled down. The air that passes over the evaporator coils is cooled before it is released into a room or space.

The action of the refrigerant is crucial for cooling the air in an air conditioning system. If the refrigerant runs low or leaks, the system’s ability to cool down a room or space is severely compromised.

What Causes An Air Conditioner To Leak Refrigerant?

Keep reading to explore some of the common reasons for coolant leaks.

  • Corrosion: The walls of copper tubes within the indoor coil of an air conditioner are susceptible to corrosion, which may lead to the formation of holes and cracks. These weakened areas can ultimately cause a refrigerant leak.
  • Loose or Damaged Air Conditioner Connections & Joints: Joints and other connections inside the air conditioning system can still erode or thin out due to the passage of time and aging.
  • Improper Air Conditioner Installation: Improper installation of an air conditioning unit can cause certain parts and components to be incorrectly fitted, which can lead to leaks.
  • Factory Defects: Defects in the cooling unit caused by improper assembly or handling prior to delivery to your home may be a contributing factor to coolant leakage.
  • Wear And Tear: Coolant leakage is an unavoidable consequence of age and frequent usage. The air conditioning system’s rubber seals, which safeguard specific components, can gradually wear out and permit the refrigerant to seep out.
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Signs To Look For When Your Air Conditioner Has A Refrigerant Leak

The following are indications of a coolant leak in your AC system:

  • Elevated Electric Expenses: Inefficient cooling causes the cooling unit to work harder to attain the right temperature, leading to increased energy consumption and higher electricity bills.
  • Slow Cooling: A loss of cooling capacity due to a coolant leak means that the air conditioning unit will take longer to cool your home to a comfortable temperature.
  • High Humidity Levels: Insufficient refrigerant levels result in longer dehumidification times for your home. As a result, elevated humidity levels indicate your AC system is malfunctioning.
  • Frozen Evaporator Coil: If the quantity of refrigerant in circulation through the evaporator coils is insufficient, the coils will be unable to absorb heat, resulting in condensation forming and freezing on the coils. This is noticeable as ice formation on the coils.
  • Leaking Liquid: A puddle on the ground or floor is a typical indication of an AC coolant leak, which is caused by melted condensation dripping from the evaporator coils.
  • Hissing Sounds: Holes or cracks in the air conditioning unit, particularly in the refrigerant-circulating coils, can produce a hissing sound. A more significant leak can result in a gurgling sound.
  • Reduced Airflow: Inadequate refrigerant levels in the cooling system results in a reduced amount of cool air being produced, resulting in decreased airflow.

Dangers Of Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leaks

A coolant leak through vents poses significant problems. Exposure to the coolant can result in various symptoms, such as dizziness, poor concentration, shortness of breath, loss of coordination, and skin rashes. Direct skin contact with the coolant may cause frostbite or a chemical burn. Inhaling large quantities of coolant can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness, which could be fatal in severe cases.

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Should I Repair Or Replace My Air Conditioner?

While it may be tempting to fix your air conditioning unit on your own, it’s important to remember that only a professional HVAC contractor should handle any problems caused by a refrigerant leak. Attempting repairs on a newer model may void the warranty. In such cases, it’s always better to call in an expert.

Another vital point to remember is that R-22, the most common type of coolant used in older AC systems, has been phased out since January 1, 2020. Although it may still be available, it is rare and expensive. If your older air conditioning unit uses R-22 and is no longer as efficient as it once was, it may be more practical to replace the entire unit rather than do an R-22 leak repair.

Older cooling systems often have other problems besides a refrigerant leak, making repairs and topping off the refrigerant level expensive. In fact, it may cost almost as much as half the price of a new ENERGY STAR® certified air conditioner. Opting for a new system with a high SEER rating ensures better performance, greater comfort, and improved efficiency.

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In case you’ve been struggling with an AC refrigerant leak, consider getting an energy-efficient air conditioner. Although minor problems can be resolved, certain damages and defects demand a more permanent solution. Discuss with your HVAC contractor the alternatives to enhance your home’s comfort and safety.

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Call Lake Region Energy For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

Lake Region Energy provides exceptional heating and cooling solutions throughout southwestern Maine. We employ the most skilled certified technicians to deliver top-notch HVAC tune-ups, repairs, installations, and replacements. Our professional technicians have the knowledge and expertise to service your HVAC system with precision and proficiency.

At Lake Region Energy, we guarantee the most competitive prices for our heating and cooling services. Our maintenance services can enhance your comfort, energy efficiency and lower your home cooling expenses. If you require an HVAC repair or replacement, we can recommend the most suitable option for your home while adhering to your budget. We stand behind our work with a guarantee to ensure your complete satisfaction. To schedule a service appointment, contact us today. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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For more information about our fuel deliveries and HVAC services, be sure to contact Lake Region Energy. You can click here to contact us, or you can call us at (207) 839-5500 to find out more. We offer a full line of heating and cooling repairs, maintenance services, and installations.

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