In a recent blog post, we addressed the trouble with ice on an AC’s evaporator coil. It’s bad news and can point toward several problems in an air conditioning system. One is loss of refrigerant, and this is something we’d like to investigate a bit more.
Refrigerant leaking from an air conditioner is a common source of malfunctions in systems more than five years old. If you recognize the signs of leaking refrigerant, you’ll have time to call for our professionals for air conditioning repairs in New Braunfels, TX.
What Refrigerant Is and What It Is Not
To explain why losing refrigerant from an AC is a repair priority, we need to clarify what refrigerant does in a cooling system. People are often uncertain of refrigerant’s job. Refrigerant is …
… a heat transfer medium. The blend of chemicals that make up refrigerant can easily shift between liquid and gaseous states. This allows them to easily absorb heat by evaporating and release heat by condensing. In an air conditioner, moving heat from inside a house and releasing it outside the house is called heat exchange, and refrigerant is what allows this to happen.
… not an energy source. A key thing to know about heat exchange is that it doesn’t consume energy, it only moves it. Refrigerant is not a type of fuel creating the energy to power the AC’s components, and therefore it never gets “used up.” The same amount of refrigerant (known as the air conditioner’s charge) should stay in the AC for its entire service life. (The actual source of energy in an AC is electricity. This is what the AC uses up.)
Because an air conditioner is designed to run at a specific charge of refrigerant, any change in this charge will have negative—and eventually catastrophic—effects on the cooling system.
The only way an AC can lose any refrigerant is through leaks along its refrigerant lines or at connection points. Corrosion from chemicals in a home’s air may cause leaks after the AC has been in service for more than five years. At first, these small leaks are hard to notice. You may hear a hissing sound from the cabinets—something that you should always have a professional investigate. Other troubles that will start to occur because of leaking refrigerant:
- Ice along the evaporator coil
- Uneven cooling around the house
- Short cycling (the AC’s compressor turns on and off too frequently)
- A rise in indoor humidity
These symptoms can point to other problems, but they all need to be fixed, so don’t hesitate to call repair technicians.
The Burnt-Out Compressor
The biggest problem from refrigerant leaks is the danger to the compressor. The compressor will overheat with a lower charge of refrigerant, and a dead compressor usually means having to replace the air conditioning system entirely (unless the compressor is still under warranty, in which case it’s cost-effective to have the compressor replaced). Avoiding a burnt-out compressor is the reason we recommend calling our technicians right away to see if your AC has lost refrigerant. We can seal the leaks and then restore the proper charge to the system.
At Thayer Air Conditioning, your comfort is our #1 priority! Schedule superb AC service today.