Do you understand the function of the refrigerant that flows through your air conditioner? You’ve very likely heard the term refrigerant, and you probably even know that it’s important, but it’s possible that you might not understand how important it is.
Without refrigerant, the cooling process would not be possible. This is the chemical substance that allows your air conditioner’s compressor to do its job of cooling down your home.
There’s a pretty common misconception about this substance, however. This myth is that refrigerant depletes, as gasoline does from a vehicle. In other words, people think of refrigerant as a fuel, when that’s not what it is. Your air conditioner is actually supplied with enough refrigerant upon manufacturing to last its entire service life, ideally. If your system is losing refrigerant, it means there is a leak.
Read on to learn why this is a problem and what to do about it.
Refrigerant Shouldn’t Need to be Refilled!
Inexperienced or, unfortunately, dishonest, “professionals” may tell you that an air conditioner’s refrigerant has to be “topped off” every once in a while, and charge you for such a service. The fact is, this just isn’t the case. As we mentioned above, refrigerant isn’t something that depletes or gets “used up” like a fuel while your AC system is running.
Your air conditioner is designed to use the same amount of refrigerant throughout its entire service life. This is called your cooling system’s refrigerant charge. When an air conditioner is supplied with refrigerant or if it has to be refilled due to a leak, this is calling charging or recharging the cooling system with refrigerant.
Whereas gasoline and electricity are fuels that your HVAC systems do consume, refrigerant is not. Instead, it circulates through a closed loop, where it continuously evaporates and condenses to do its job of cooling the air that gets returned back into your home.
If your air conditioner is losing refrigerant, then the leak needs to be located, the tear or hole in the line repaired, and your refrigerant does need to be recharged. if these steps aren’t taken, then both the efficiency of your air conditioner and your overall comfort will suffer.
Sure, your air conditioner will operate a little better each time you have the system “recharged” without addressing the leak, but that’s because it has enough refrigerant until the leak lets enough out again.
Avoiding Compressor Damage
Your compressor is basically the heart of your air conditioner and is the most expensive part of your air conditioner. When the compressor breaks down, your cooling system is likely done for as well.
The only time this won’t be the case is if your manufacturer’s warranty is still current, and the refrigerant leak is due to a manufacturer defect.
“How Do I Even Know If I Have a Refrigerant Leak?”
There are a few signs you can watch out for, such as:
- Your AC system isn’t cooling you as well as it once did.
- You hear a hissing or bubbling sound coming from the system.
- An HVAC professional finds a hole, tear, or damage when inspecting your refrigerant line during maintenance!
Be sure to give us a call if you do notice or suspect that you have a refrigerant leak.