Repairing storm damage to the air conditioner

What Homeowners Need to Know About Air Conditioner Refrigerant

by Ivan Prescott

Poorly maintained air conditioners are susceptible to system failures, generally speaking. But these HVAC systems may also malfunction over the course of normal operation. When most qualified HVAC technicians are called in to inspect the equipment and fix the problem, often they discover that some air conditioner problems tend to be more common as compared to others. One such problem is refrigerant leaks. Although the typical homeowner does not need to have an in-depth understanding of the refrigerant in their air conditioning units, there are some important things they should be aware of.

What is a refrigerant?

A refrigerant is the chemical substance responsible for cooling air that is inside the air conditioning unit before it can be delivered through the supply vents. It is typically located inside the copper coils of the unit and is found in fluid form, which is why it can leak.

How does it work?

Working with other system components such as compressors and evaporators, the refrigerant draws heat from the air moving within the system, providing the cooling effect that homeowners want. The air is also dehumidified in the process.

What happens when there is a refrigerant leak in the system?

Consider what happens when an inflated soccer ball is pricked by a sharp object. It gradually loses pressure until there is no more pressure inside the ball. Without any air pressure, the ball can't be played with. The same applies with air conditioner refrigerant. When there is a refrigerant leak, your system will run low on refrigerant and the air that comes out of your unit will not be as cold as it should be. An effective way to stop the leaking is to seal the leak spots with mastic or duct tape. Once all leak spots have been sealed, the system will be recharged with new refrigerant to restore proper refrigerant levels.

How do you know when refrigerant is leaking?

The followings signs may indicate that your air conditioner refrigerant is leaking:

  • When it takes longer than usual for your unit to cool a room or your entire home.
  • When your unit is blowing hot air.
  • When your unit produces a hissing or bubbling sound.
  • When ice forms on your refrigerant line.

The best way to handle air conditioner leak problems is to ask a qualified HVAC technician to immediately come over to your home and fix the problem. Trying to fix the problem yourself might not work to your advantage.