Signs Your AC May Need a Refrigerant Change
All air conditioning systems contain refrigerant, which serves a vital role in cooling your home. Refrigerant is what helps to cool the air that pumps out of the supply vents in your home. Freon, a type of refrigerant, goes through a recurring cycle as it travels through the system.
Freon, also known as R-22 refrigerant, is no longer used in new air conditioners. As it undergoes a phaseout, R410a, also known by its brand name Puron, is now the most common refrigerant in AC units. However, if you have an older AC unit, it could still use Freon refrigerant as the coolant.
Whatever type of refrigerant your HVAC unit has, its role is the same. It undergoes various changes in pressure and temperature in the vapor-compression refrigeration cycle to remove heat from your home.
When the air conditioning refrigerant enters the evaporator coils in the air handling unit (inside your home), the refrigerant is cool and under low pressure. As air blows across the coils, the heat from the air transfers to the refrigerant. This now cool air blows into the various rooms of your home to cool it.
At the same time, the refrigerant gets hot, and it flows from the evaporator coils to the condenser unit outdoors. There, the compressor increases the refrigerant’s pressure and releases its heat to the outdoors.
If your air conditioning system is performing poorly, perhaps failing to kick out icy-cold air, and instead puffs out tepid or warm air, the unit may need a refrigerant charge.
Only trained HVAC professionals who are EPA-certified and well-versed in proper safety methods should complete a refrigerant recharge. However, identifying the signs of low refrigerant first will help determine if you need professional assistance.
Your AC system should not run out of refrigerant unless there is a leak, as it doesn’t get depleted while cycling through the unit.
The refrigerant is contained in a closed-loop system, meaning it is not open to the outside environment. Imagine a hula-hoop filled with refrigerant; there’s no “end” or opening to the hula-hoop, so it can never “pour” out.
Now picture a condenser unit, an air handling unit, and a thermal expansion valve connected in-line with the hula-hoop. The compressor inside the condenser pulls the refrigerant through the hula and forces it to constantly flow through each component, exchanging heat and varying in pressure along the way. In real life, the hula-hoop is made up of refrigerant lines and coils.
This is the basic premise of a closed-loop system and why your AC unit should never lose refrigerant (there’s nowhere to escape, except a leak).
If your refrigerant is low, you might notice several signs indicating that such a problem occurs.
Home Takes Much Longer to Cool
When your air conditioning system is low on refrigerant, the air in your home will not cool as fast. You may notice that the vents are kicking out warm air or that it may be much warmer than usual. In this case, calling our HVAC professionals for help is the best course of action.
Increasing Electric Bills
A lack of refrigerant in your AC unit may cause your electricity bills to skyrocket. This is due to the excess energy it takes to cool your home.
When the refrigerant is low, the system can’t work at optimal efficiency, which causes the thermostat to trigger the AC unit to run for extended periods and rack up a substantial energy bill.
Noises From the AC Unit
Although refrigerant leaks are usually silent, larger fissures or holes in the refrigerant line or coils may be audible. If you notice a bubbling or hissing sound originating from the AC unit, call our HVAC pros immediately, as Freon gas and other refrigerants are toxic.