There are several important parts of your home’s air conditioning setup, including both components themselves and solutions that are utilized as part of their operations. Within this latter area, one of the most vital areas of your AC unit to be aware of is the presence of what’s known as refrigerant.

At Lee’s Heating and Air, we’re happy to help with a wide variety of AC services for your home, including both preventive maintenance and air conditioning repairs. While we’re coming to the end of the cooling season here in Utah within the next month or two, this is actually a time of year where refrigerant will sometimes be considered by homeowners. Here’s everything you need to know about this important substance — what it is, what it does, signs of possible leaks, and how often your unit might require additional refrigerant.

What is Air Conditioner Refrigerant?

Firstly, for those who are just learning about this part of their system, what is air conditioner refrigerant? This is a substance that’s used to actually cool the air within your home, and it exists in liquid form within your AC unit. As air passes over the coils where the refrigerant resides, heat is absorbed from within the house and transferred out to the outdoors.

Refrigerant is very important for the proper functioning of your system, and it needs to be at the right level in order for your AC unit to operate both efficiently and effectively.

The Process of AC Refrigerant Application

How does refrigerant move around and work within your system? Here’s a basic layout:

  • Absorption: To begin the process, refrigerant is pulled from your outdoor AC unit into the air inside your home. From here, it begins to absorb heat.
  • Compression: The next stage in the process is compression, where the refrigerant is moved to a different area of your system in order to be pressurized. This helps it to release more heat.
  • Condensation: In this final stage, the now warmer refrigerant is moved back outside, where it can expel its heat and start the process all over again.

As you can see, this is a closed system, and the refrigerant should never escape it. If it does, that’s when you have what’s known as a refrigerant leak.

Signs of an AC Refrigerant Leak

While most homes will go years without any issues regarding their air conditioning refrigerant, there are some cases in which a leak can develop. If this happens, it’s important to take care of the problem as soon as possible in order to avoid any further damages. Here are some signs that you might have a refrigerant leak:

  • Warm air: If your vents are blowing out warm air instead of cool, that’s a possible sign that there’s not enough refrigerant in your system.
  • Hissing or bubbling noises: Another sign of a leak is if you hear hissing or bubbling noises coming from your AC unit. This is often the result of refrigerant escaping through cracks or holes in your system.
  • Higher energy bills: Have you noticed a sudden spike in your energy bills, even though you haven’t changed your usage habits? This could be due to your system working overtime to try to compensate for the loss of refrigerant.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to call a professional AC repair technician right away. They will be able to locate the source of the leak and make the necessary repairs.

Possible Causes of AC Refrigerant Leak

It’s also good to know about the possible causes of refrigerant leaks. This is important for two reasons: First, it can help you to be proactive in preventing leaks from happening in the first place. Second, if you do have a leak, knowing the cause can help your repair technician to make the necessary repairs more quickly and efficiently. Here are some of the most common causes of air conditioner refrigerant leaks:

  • Holes or cracks: Over time, your AC unit can develop holes or cracks. This is often due to wear and tear, but it can also be the result of severe weather conditions.
  • Loose connections: If the connections in your AC unit are loose, that can also lead to refrigerant leaks. These need to be checked regularly and tightened if necessary.
  • Leaking lines: Various lines connect the different parts of your AC unit. If these lines are leaking, it can lead to a loss of refrigerant.
  • Old age: In some cases, leaks can simply be the result of an AC unit that’s getting old and needs to be replaced.

As you can see, there are a variety of possible causes of refrigerant leaks. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the signs and to call a professional right away if you think you might have a problem.

Other Possible Needs for Refrigerant Addition

In cases where significant amounts of refrigerant has leaked out, adding more back into your system will often be required. However, there are also a few other scenarios in which you might need to have your AC unit serviced in order to add more refrigerant. Here are a few examples:

  • Your system is new: If you just had a new AC unit installed, it’s possible that it didn’t come with enough refrigerant. In this case, you’ll need to have it topped off in order to get it to work properly.
  • You’re adding on to your home: If you’re adding on to your home, that can also lead to a need for more refrigerant. This is because the new space will require the AC unit to work harder in order to keep it cool.
  • Changes in temperature: If there are sudden changes in temperature (either hot or cold), that can also lead to a need for more refrigerant. This is because the AC unit will have to work harder in order to maintain the desired temperature.

For more on air conditioner refrigerant, or to learn about any of our HVAC repairs, installations or other services, speak to our team at Lee’s Heating and Air today.