Repairing storm damage to the air conditioner

There Goes Your Freon

by Ivan Prescott

Freon is often used as a refrigerant gas in commercial air conditioning systems. Its preference for this kind of use is explained by its low flammability and its non-toxic nature. 

Leakages are considered the only avenue through which refrigerant gas is lost from an air conditioning system. Below is a discussion on how to tell that Freon is leaking out of your AC unit and the possible causes of such leakage.

Possible Causes Of Leakage

There are several. If your air conditioner wasn't installed correctly in the first place, you'll probably have to deal with leaking refrigerant at one point. For example, if the brazing on the air conditioner's joints was left incomplete, you could easily end up with small holes (pinholes) on the surface of the pipes that carry Freon gas.

Similarly, exposure of the copper tubing to harsh chemicals (e.g. formic acid) could also lead to the development of pinholes. Formic acid may find its way to the copper tubes through the conversion of formaldehyde on the air conditioning unit. Formaldehyde is a common air pollutant in the domestic setting. It's presence in indoor air not only threatens your AC unit, but your health as well.

Under the right circumstances, formaldehyde will convert into formic acid. Formic acid is corrosive and it could encourage the development of pits/pin holes on the surface of copper pipes carrying Freon, hence leakage.

Leak Identification

Despite being a gas, it's not ordinarily possible to establish the presence of Freon in the air that surrounds you. Freon is colourless and odourless. Thus, the only way to ascertain that there's a leakage is to look for signs that your AC is running low on refrigerant gas.

If the amount of gas in an AC unit is less than sufficient, the unit will have a problem supplying cool air. A unit that gives off warm or hot air is likely to be low on refrigerant. Air conditioning units don't use up refrigerant gases. Instead, Freon only moves back and forth carrying heat in and out of the system. 

The wrong thermostat setting and problems with the air compressor are also possible reasons for the production of hot/warm air. Thus, you'll need to listen out for a hissing or bubbling noise coming from the air conditioner. These noises are made by Freon escaping out of the system.

Once the leak has been detected, call in an experienced HVAC repair specialist.