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David Brown Heating & Cooling, LLC Blog

Why Refrigerant Leaks Are Bad News for Your AC


People often misunderstand the role of refrigerant inside an air conditioning system. It’s common for homeowners to think their AC will eventually “run out” of refrigerant and need to be refilled or topped-off. This isn’t the case, since refrigerant is not an energy source or fuel for an AC. The energy source for an AC is electricity. What refrigerant does is allow the air conditioner to carry out heat transfer, i.e. moving heat from inside the house to the outside. Heat transfer is how an air conditioner provides cooling for a home, and it can’t do that without refrigerant. 

Because refrigerant isn’t an energy source the AC consumes, it doesn’t get “used up.” The amount of refrigerant in the air conditioner when it’s installed (known as the AC’s charge) is the same amount it will keep through its service life. The only case where an air conditioning system may lose its refrigerant charge is because of leaks. Unfortunately, these are a common AC problem and require professional AC repair in Ashland City, TN or else the air conditioner will be in major trouble. Below we’ll go into why refrigerant leaks are bad news for any air conditioner.

Air Conditioners Are Designed to Work at a Specific Charge

The charge of an air conditioner isn’t casually determined. Air conditioning systems are designed to use a specific amount of refrigerant. Either too much or too little will cause problems for the system, likely ending with the system breaking down. An overcharged AC can happen if an amateur technician puts refrigerant into it, but the more common problem is leaks developing along the copper refrigerant lines, causing the charge to drop. 

The Problems With an Undercharged Air Conditioner

An air conditioner cannot run at the efficiency level it’s supposed to if it loses refrigerant to a leak. The loss of charge changes the pressure throughout the AC system, and this will make the air conditioner work harder to provide cooling. This loss will also cause the air conditioner to suffer a drop in cooling capacity, although you are more likely to notice a change in indoor humidity first before you feel a loss of cooling. 

But the biggest concern is yet to come: A decline in refrigerant charge puts the entire air conditioning system in jeopardy of a full, likely permanent breakdown. When there’s less charge in the AC, the compressor is in danger of overheating and burning out. When the compressor burns out, it’s often too expensive to replace it and the better route is to replace the entire air conditioner. 

Finally, refrigerant leaks can present health troubles and harm the indoor air quality in a house. Even the safer current refrigerant blend, R-410A, can create health complications. 

Call for AC Repairs When You Suspect Refrigerant Leaks

If you notice any of the problems we talked about above with your AC—a drop in efficiency, less cooling, changes in humidity—or you notice a hissing or bubbling sound from the system, don’t hesitate to call technicians to see if there’s a refrigerant leak. Our technicians will locate any leaks, seal them, and then take care of the important follow-up job of restoring the proper refrigerant charge to the AC. 

Call David Brown Heating & Cooling, LLC—“A Name You Can Trust!”

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