How To Handle AC Refrigerant Leaks

Spend more than a summer in Arizona and you’ll want the nicest air conditioning unit you can find. An oasis for and supplier of relief, AC units are relied upon year-round to keep us comfortable when the temperatures are rising. Averages can climb into the 90’F mark with regularity, leaving most of us sweating and looking for comfort at home.

So, when your air conditioning unit begins to leak refrigerant as the thermostat starts to climb, you might feel like you are left without a solution. Fortunately, the team at One Stop Heating & Cooling is here to help!

What Is AC Refrigerant and What Does It Do?

While we may have grown used to the push-button convenience of modern air conditioning, HVAC systems are relatively complicated machines. Refrigerant leaks are one of the most common forms of failure in older HVAC systems and, as such, most homeowners and renters might need to learn a bit more about them.

When you turn on your air conditioning unit, it will begin pushing refrigerant in either liquid or gas form toward your air conditioning unit’s air compressor. At this point, the compressor will trap and compress the coolant, forcing it into a smaller space where they collide and begin to produce heat. After this heat is produced, refrigerant is pushed through the condenser, onto the evaporator coils, and into your home.

If you do not have refrigerant in your system or if a leak prevents its correct operation, your air conditioning unit will only push out hot air, leaving you sweating when you need relief.

How Do I Know My Refrigerant Is Leaking?

Like most HVAC issues, diagnosing an issue will require a little bit of attentiveness. A refrigerant leak in your A/C unit may not be immediately noticeable, but a few signs and symptoms can point you in the right direction.

If you notice any of the following signs, your A/C might have leaking refrigerant issues.

  • Elevated Energy Bill – As the seasons’ progress, it is natural for our utility bills to ebb and flow. However, if you notice a higher-than-usual energy bill, there is a chance your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant. When an HVAC unit cannot properly process refrigerant, the machine is forced to run constantly while it attempts to cool your home. This leads to overworked HVAC machines and skyrocketing energy bills all without any comfort in the home.
  • Longer Cooling Times – There are a variety of reasons for a home to struggle to stay adequately cool during the summer. An HVAC unit may have clogged filters or it could even be improperly sized for your home. Another common reason for slow cooling times is due to leaking AC refrigerant. Your AC will be forced to work harder to get the same results that a healthy and fully stocked machine would require.
  • Elevated Humidity – When your air conditioning unit struggles to produce, it can cause the humidity levels in your home to rise. Leaking refrigerant will prevent your AC from properly dehumidifying your space, leaving you in an uncomfortable and potentially sticky environment.
  • Frozen Coil – Finally, an AC unit that is improperly functioning will potentially run into evaporator coil issues. If you assess your HVAC machine and see that the evaporator coil has frozen over or is covered in frost, you have found your problem.

Common Causes of AC Refrigerant Leaks

As with all appliances in the household, air conditioners only have a limited shelf life. If you have an older air conditioner or are faced with sudden operating issues, it might be due to one of the following reasons.

  • Eroded Joints – Weak HVAC joints can lead to erosion within the HVAC system. As the machines’ core components erode, the HVAC system will lose not just durability but efficiency as well. Contact a qualified HVAC technician to assess your system for weakened joints.
  • Corrosion – A major issue in leaking HVAC units; corrosion is produced by moisture and time. Corrosion causes cracks and splits to appear in the walls of your HVAC oils.
  • Improper Installation – Not only is it imperative to hire a qualified HVAC technician to repair your system, but you also want a professional to install it as well. Poor installation services can lead to leaking AC refrigerant, particularly if components are not well-fitted together.

Keep Cool With One Stop Heating & Cooling!

One Stop Heating & Cooling is a family-owned and operated company based out of Phoenix, AZ. Focused on high-quality work provided by exceptional professionals, One Stop Heating & Cooling prides itself on being the top HVAC company in Arizona.

Contact One Stop today to enjoy

  • 24/7 Emergency Services
  • Sales, Service, Repair, and Installation
  • Residential & Commercial Services

Beat the heat this summer and call One Stop Heating & Cooling to fix your leaking AC refrigerant.


The Importance of Refrigerant

If you’ve ever experienced a problem with your air conditioning, there’s a good chance you’ve looked at the system and wondered what could be wrong. Have any fans stopped turning? Is something wrong with the vents? Maybe the thermostat just isn’t connected right or there is an electrical issue.

Ironically, the last thing on your mind happens to be the most important. The refrigerant is an often un-talked about component of your A/C system, but it contributes directly to its functionality. The refrigerant lines are what’s used to chill and condition the air in your home, and when there is a problem with them, you don’t get the cool air you want. 

If you suspect there may currently be an issue with your refrigerant or your A/C unit in general, it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible so the problem does not get any worse. In the meantime, read on to learn more about refrigerant and the important role it plays in keep your home cool and comfortable. 

What Exactly is Refrigerant? 

While most people don’t associate cool air with liquid, that’s exactly what refrigerant is. At least for a good part of the time. It’s really a chemical compound that exists either in a liquid or gaseous state inside the copper coils of your A/C system. There are different types of refrigerants used today, but they all generally work the same way. The refrigerant moves between the indoor and outdoor units of your A/C and transitions between its liquid and gas states. This allows it to absorb heat from the surrounding indoor air and carry it out, returning with freshly cold air in its place. In compression systems, a pressurizer and condenser are used to cause the vapor to liquefy as needed. But even though it is going through a constant state of evaporating into a low-pressure gas and then liquefying repeatedly as it conditions the air around it, refrigerant stays contained inside the A/C system the entire time. 

So, if refrigerant is blocked or leaking anywhere, this can prevent it from doing its job (which of course is cooling the air in your home). It is important to get these problems fixed quickly, or you may soon find yourself looking at an entire system replacement. 

Does Refrigerant Run Out or Need to Be Refilled

It’s possible that you may have some friends or family members tell you that you simply need to “top off” or “refill” your refrigerant if you are experiencing leaks or other problems. Sadly, this is largely because some so-called HVAC “professionals” have cut corner by adding more refrigerant to their customer’s leaking systems and calling it a day. However, this is wrong, and it can even cause further problems. 

The truth is that your A/C system’s refrigerant should never leak or “run low.” All A/C units are designed to use the refrigerant they come with for the duration of their time in service. Refilling it either delays an existing problem that is bound to get worse over time, or it could even cause more serious issues right away. Furthermore, there are different types of refrigerant, and combining different kinds can cause further damage to the system. 

That said, if an experienced HVAC technician examines your system closely and determines that a significant amount of refrigerant has been lost via a leak, they may determine that a replacement is in store. This will include fully repairing the leak and replacing (or “recharging”) the refrigerant compound in the system. The solution is not, and never should be, simply “topping off” the refrigerant in the system. 

Signs of Refrigerant Problems

Your refrigerant is meant to last the lifetime of the A/C system, but that doesn’t mean that problems can’t come up from time to time. It’s time to call in a professional if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Hissing, bubbling or other unpleasant noises coming from the walls or vents (or the unit itself)
  • Ice or frozen spots forming along the unit’s evaporator coil.
  • Uneven cooling / warm spots in areas of your home that used to be cool while the A/C was running.
  • Problems with your home not cooling or getting cold in general (constantly trying to set your A/C to cooler or more powerful settings is also a sign). 

In many areas, you may actually face legal repercussions if a refrigerant problem is known about and not handled correctly. For example, intentionally venting refrigerant into the environment is prohibited, as is disposing of old or leaked refrigerant improperly. In fact, you could face some hefty fines if your A/C is found to be leaking refrigerant into the surrounding community for some time without being fixed. The good news is that a professional HVAC tech will be able to address these issues and dispose of any refrigerant (if necessary) properly, as well as make sure the entire system is up to code. 

Give us a call today, and we’ll help with all your A/C refrigerant questions and needs.