An Introduction to Central AC Refrigerant Leaks

Refrigerant leaks are a common problem in residential air conditioning that every homeowner should be familiar with. If your air conditioner is losing efficiency or failing to keep your home comfortable, a leak could be to blame. Here's what you should know about central AC refrigerant leaks.

What is Central AC Refrigerant?

Modern air conditioners rely on refrigerant to reach frigid temperatures and produce cold air. The refrigerant fluid goes through a cycle of compression and evaporation to absorb heat from the air in your home and release it outside. Central AC refrigerants are frequently made from gaseous hydrocarbons which have exceptional heat transfer capabilities.

Although refrigerant is a working fluid, it is not a fuel that gets used up over time. Your AC should be able to go several years between refrigerant recharges without any problems. A sudden drop in performance could indicate that your AC has developed a refrigerant leak.

What Are the Signs of AC Refrigerant Leaks?

Symptoms of AC refrigerant leaks can appear in several forms. In the early stages, you may simply notice that your air conditioner isn't cooling like it used to, or that it runs for longer cycles. A severe refrigerant leak could prevent your AC from cooling entirely and may even cause it to freeze up. Freezing occurs when the remaining volume of refrigerant is so low that it expands excessively and creates subfreezing temperatures.

If you suspect that your AC may be low on refrigerant, there are a few specific things you can check for. Sometimes, pressurized refrigerant makes a hissing sound as it escapes, so take a moment to listen to your AC evaporator coils, refrigerant lines, and condenser. You can test coils and refrigerant lines for leaks by applying a light coating of soapy water and watching for bubbles to form. If you detect these signs of leaks, stop using your air conditioner until you can have it inspected by a professional.

How Are AC Refrigerant Leaks Repaired?

HVAC technicians encounter refrigerant leaks relatively often, and they rarely require replacing the entire unit. Instead, your contractor can patch the leak with solder or a specialized sealant. In some cases, the evaporator coils or outdoor condenser may need to be replaced. Replacing only the affected component is a much more affordable solution than installing a new air conditioner.

Residential air conditioning is always vulnerable to refrigerant leaks, but the problem is quick and easy to repair with the help of a professional. Act quickly if you notice the signs of a refrigerant leak so you can continue to enjoy maximum efficiency from your AC. For help with your SC system, contact a residential air conditioning repair service in your area.