There’s a common myth regarding AC refrigerant out there, one that homeowners unfortunately have heard from dishonest—or well-meaning but ill-experienced—HVAC “professionals.” That is, that refrigerant needs to be “topped off” every once in awhile, such as during your maintenance session.
We understand why someone might believe this misconception. Refrigerant is like a “fuel” for your air conditioner, right? Well—sort of. It is what allows the cooling process, but it’s not like gasoline in a car or oil in a heater in that it depletes.
Your air conditioner will never run out of refrigerant—unless something is wrong. Read on to learn more!
The Function of Refrigerant
As refrigerant changes from a liquid to gas and back, it absorbs and releases heat—this is how it’s capable of cooling down your living space. The compressor of your air conditioner changes liquid refrigerant into a high-pressured, high-temperature gas.
Next, the refrigerant moves to the outside coil of the air conditioner and releases its heat through condensation, therefore cooling it down. By the time it reaches the indoor coil, it’s cooled to the point that it causes evaporation when it means the warmer indoor air. This siphons heat from the air, keeping your household nice and cool. The refrigerant, now a liquid again, returns to the compressor to restart the whole cycle.
The Problem with Refrigerant Leaks
The only time you’ll ever deal with refrigerant loss is if you have a leak somewhere along the refrigerant line. This is literally the only time you’d ever “run out” of refrigerant.
That said, a refrigerant leak is nothing to mess around with—it’s a big deal! It can create all sorts of other problems. If you’re not careful, you could find yourself facing a full air conditioner breakdown, which is definitely not something you want. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the signs that suggest you have a leak. These include:
- Low cooling output
- Liquid coming from the system
- Strange hissing or bubbling noises
If You Suspect Refrigerant Loss
So what happens if you do suspect you have a refrigerant leak? Well, the most important thing you can do is contact a trained and experienced HVAC professional right away. Only experienced professionals will have the tools, training, and experience to accurately pinpoint the source of the leak and repair it appropriately. In addition, your technician will be able to refill (recharge) the system so you’ve got the right refrigerant levels once again.
Remember, there are plenty of amateurs out there willing to service your system, but sometimes an attempt to cut costs can end up costing you more in the long run, since you’ll have to call in a pro anyway to fix the mistakes of the amateur. So if you have someone tell you your refrigerant needs to be recharged every maintenance visit, please give us a call so we can give you accurate information.