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Is My Air Conditioner Losing Refrigerant?

Running low on refrigerant can cause serious problems for a home’s air conditioning system. It can be challenging to know if your air conditioner is losing refrigerant; however, it is vital to the longevity of your HVAC system. Cates Heating and Cooling wants to share with homeowners the reasons refrigerant is so important for air conditioning units as well as the things to look for if you suspect you are losing refrigerant.

Why Your Air Conditioner Needs Refrigerant

Refrigerant is a chemical blend inside your air conditioner that is necessary for it to run. Many homeowners think that refrigerant is an energy source; however, it is not meant to deplete over time. Instead, it transitions between a liquid and gaseous state within the air conditioner. The refrigerant is a charge that brings heat to the AC unit’s coils. The chemical moves through the indoor and outdoor coils, causing it to go through a cycle of evaporation and condensation.

Because refrigerant is not meant to diminish over time, there are always other factors at play if a home’s air conditioning is losing refrigerant.

Signs Your Air Conditioner Is Losing Refrigerant

Although refrigerant is crucial to the functionality of air conditioning units, it can be difficult to tell when a unit is losing refrigerant. The main reason air conditioners lose refrigerant is through leaks in the system. These leaks can appear along the lines or at connection points. However, most homeowners do not inspect their air conditioners regularly, so it is unlikely that they will notice these leaks. Luckily, there are some other indicators that your AC unit may be losing refrigerant.

First, a rise in humidity in the home may be a sign that there is a leak in your air conditioning unit. Although AC units are not dehumidifiers, humidity levels may rise in the home when there is not enough refrigerant.

If you notice a hissing sound coming from your AC unit, this may also be an indicator that refrigerant is leaking from the equipment. When there is not enough refrigerant in the unit, the coil cannot warm up enough, so the remaining refrigerant stays too cold. This causes the moisture around the coil to freeze. If you notice that anything is frozen on your air conditioner, this is likely because refrigerant is leaking. You may also notice that there is oily residue near or around the AC unit.

Insufficient amounts of refrigerant can also lead to a broken compressor. Without enough refrigerant, the compressor can overheat and burnout, which can mean that the entire unit needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, it is difficult to detect when the compressor begins to malfunction, so it is vital to notice the beginning signs of leaking refrigerant in your AC unit.

The last thing that may be a sign that your air conditioner is losing refrigerant is a spike in your electricity bills. Many different things can cause your electricity bill to increase, including clogged air filters and poor ventilation. However, if you notice a sudden increase in your electricity bill, you may want to inspect your AC unit. Losing refrigerant causes the unit to run inefficiently, driving up your electricity bill.

What to Do If Your Air Conditioner Is Losing Refrigerant

When air conditioners experience a depletion of refrigerant, the chemical blend will need to be recharged. If you notice any indications that your air conditioner may be leaking refrigerant, you should call a licensed HVAC technician right away. Fixing this problem can be dangerous or cause further damage to the HVAC system if it is not done correctly, even for the handiest homeowners.

Adding refrigerant is not the answer, however. While the technician may need to recharge the chemical, it is also important that they seal any leaks that caused the depletion in the first place. If these leaks are not fixed, recharging the refrigerant will only cause it to leak again.

One of the easiest ways to prevent your air conditioning unit from losing refrigerant is to get routine service on your HVAC system. This way, the technicians can catch leaks or other issues before they cause damage to the unit. At Cates Heating and Cooling, our expert HVAC technicians are knowledgeable in fixing leaks and preventing them altogether. If you do suspect that your AC unit may be leaking refrigerant, contact us to schedule an appointment today.


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