This blog post could easily be titled A Lesson on How Refrigerant Works.
Because that’s what we’re here to talk about–a common refrigerant myth that far too many homeowners believe, and a myth that could be costing you hundreds in repairs. Read on as we give you a quick rundown of what refrigerant actually is, what myth surrounds it, and why this all matters!
First, What Is Refrigerant?
It’s a chemical blend that flows through your air conditioning system. Whether you have a traditional central air conditioner, a heat pump, or a ductless system, it uses refrigerant.
Many homeowners out there, however, believe refrigerant is like a fuel–that air conditioners use it up like vehicles use up gasoline. In fact, the reason so many homeowners believe this myth is because unscrupulous HVAC “professionals” lead them to this conclusion.
In reality, refrigerant is a recycled fluid that makes heat transfer possible within your air conditioner. Without it, your air conditioner can’t remove warm air from the home or return chilled air into your home. Refrigerant uses a closed system, meaning it’s never released from your air conditioner–unless it has a leak!
And this is where the myth/misconception comes in. Homeowners are tricked into believing refrigerant is something that “runs out” so that each year they’ll be forced to pay to refill the fluid in their system. What’s happening here is one of two things–your system isn’t losing refrigerant at all and it’s just a money grab, or you have a leak that needs to be repaired.
The Only Way You’ll Ever Lose Refrigerant…
…is through leaks! Whether it’s in liquid or gas mode, this is the only reason refrigerant will ever leave your air conditioning system. Yes it needs to be refilled–what we in the HVAC industry call recharged. But once this occurs, it should never have to happen again.
That said, leaks can occur anywhere that refrigerant flows. This includes the refrigerant line itself, evaporator coil, and condenser coil. The area itself where the leak occurs can be a tiny pinprick, and you may not even be able to see it. It’s most commonly spotted by homeowners as a sound, rather: hissing or bubbling.
Refrigerant leaks are serious and do require immediate repairs so your air conditioner doesn’t suffer.
Beware Unchecked Leaks
Your air conditioner can suffer in a number of ways if it loses too much refrigerant. These are a few symptoms it may experience:
- A Frozen Evaporator Coil: Despite the fact that an air conditioner cools your home, there should never be any ice on the system. If an evaporator coil freezes over, it ironically won’t be able to absorb heat, and therefore the system won’t be able to do its job.
- Compressor Failure: The compressor of your AC system pumps the refrigerant through the system, as long as its charged with enough refrigerant. Any less than its required amount will cause the compressor to struggle and eventually break down–and a compressor failure usually leaves you with one option: replacing the entire air conditioner.