A few blog posts ago, we wrote about an important topic: the types of refrigerant used in air conditioning systems and why we recommend you upgrade to a unit that uses R-410A refrigerant. The short version (if you don’t want to go on a click-adventure): if you have an old AC that uses phased-out R-22 refrigerant, technicians cannot repair it if it leaks refrigerant. Refrigerant in an air conditioning system must remain at a set level (known as the AC’s charge), so in case of leaks, technicians must restore the original charge after sealing the leaks.
This brings us to another topic, one that often affects air conditioners—the leaks themselves. We’ve addressed why leaks can wreck an air conditioner and cause other problems on the way to ruin. Now we’ll take a closer look at why refrigerant leaks occur in the first place.
The Source of AC Leaks
A short recap of the earlier blog: an AC doesn’t consume refrigerant as it runs, so it should retain the same charge for its entire service life. It can lose refrigerant to leaks along the copper lines, and this drop in charge will lead to inefficiency, a decline in cooling, and eventually, the compressor burning out.
But what causes these refrigerant leaks? Let’s examine this below:
- Chemical reactions: You’ll find formaldehyde everywhere in the air in your home. It comes from building materials, cleaning supplies, cosmetics, etc. Formaldehyde reacts with copper in a way that creates a type of corrosion known as formicary corrosion. This weakens copper enough to create pinhole leaks. These tiny leaks allow refrigerant to leak out slowly, making it hard to detect. This can start in an air conditioner as young as 5 years.
- Amateur soldering: We warn our customers to stay away from amateur HVAC “technicians” because of troubles like this. If an amateur attempts to make repairs to the refrigerant coils, they might do a sloppy job soldering connections and joints. High-pressure refrigerant will rapidly weaken these joints and start to leak out. We’ve often seen this sort of poor work done on ACs we repair.
- Factory fault: You have a manufacturer’s warranty for a good reason! Even the best producers of air conditioning products may ship out a lemon from time to time with copper tubing in bad shape. These copper tubes wear down faster and lead to leaks.
- Damage to the outside cabinet: The exterior cabinet of an AC (i.e. the condenser) can sustain damage from a range of collisions, such as weather-hurled objects or somebody ramming the lawnmower against it. Such impacts may loosen the condenser coil and cause leaks.
Aside from steering clear of amateurs repair people and not knocking into the condenser cabinet, you don’t have much control over the forces that create leaks. But you do have options to have them repaired! If you suspect your AC has refrigerant leaks, please call us for air conditioning service in San Antonio, TX. Our experts can detect the source of the problem and fix it, whether the air conditioner has lost refrigerant or another issue has affected its efficiency or performance.
At Thayer Air Conditioning, your comfort is our #1 priority! Call us for AC service … we’re already on the way!