Important Things To Know About Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leaks

Air conditioners rely on a substance called refrigerant in order to cool your air. The refrigerant is housed inside a coil. It expands inside that coil, and in that process, it absorbs heat. This makes the air blowing past the coil cooler; that air can then be blown through the home. Since refrigerant plays such a huge role in your air conditioner's operation, it is important to know how to recognize signs of problems with your refrigerant ā€“ and what to do about them.

Signs of Refrigerant Problems

Contrary to popular belief, air conditioners do not naturally lose refrigerant as they age. As such, air conditioners do not need to be "recharged" or refilled with refrigerant as a part of regular maintenance. Air conditioners can, however, develop refrigerant leaks as they age. The following are common signs of a refrigerant leak:

  • Short-cycling: Your air conditioner turns on, then off, then on again, repeatedly.
  • Frost buildup: Your air conditioner may develop snow or ice buildup on its surface.
  • Colored fluid: Your air conditioner may be dripping green or pink liquid onto the ground.

What to Do About Refrigerant Leaks

If you think your air conditioner has a refrigerant leak, call an HVAC contractor. This is not a project to DIY for a few different reasons. For one, in many areas, it is not legal for someone to fill a coil with refrigerant without having the proper license and training. Plus, if you under-fill or overfill the AC coil, you may cause more problems than you solve. There's also the matter of sourcing the refrigerant; it's hard to source if you're not a licensed HVAC contractor.

What Do AC Contractors Do About Refrigerant Leaks

An air conditioning contractor will first locate the source of the leak. Sometimes, they may be able to seal the crack or hole. Then, they can refill the coil with refrigerant, restoring your AC unit's proper operation.

If your AC unit is older, your HVAC contractor may instead recommend replacing it. Some older units use an old refrigerant that is no longer available, so repairs may not be possible. Or, if the cost of repairing an air conditioner is too high, replacement may simply be a better investment.

Air conditioners do not need to be regularly recharged with refrigerants. However, they can and do develop refrigerant leaks. Learn to recognize the sign of a leak, but always rely on a pro for repairs. 

Reach out to an AC contractor to learn more.