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Finding and Fixing a Refrigerant Leak in Your Air Conditioner

Water is a chemical compound that has the ability to change form. At low temperatures it is ice, at mid-range it is liquid, and at high temperatures it is steam. There is a different form-changing class of chemical compounds in air conditioning systems generally referred to as refrigerant. Refrigerant changes from liquid to gas and back, as it is used to cool the air in your home.

Without refrigerant, your air conditioner cannot cool the air. Not only do you need refrigerant, but within a fairly narrow range you need the right amount of refrigerant under the right amount of pressure. Your air conditioner does not consume refrigerant; it circulates the same refrigerant over and over.

Sometimes the pipes that contain the refrigerant in your air conditioning system develop leaks. In the normal course of operation, an air conditioning system can lose a small amount of refrigerant. Your HVAC technician may recommend a “top-up” of the refrigerant levels on your system as part of routine maintenance.

The Basics About Air Conditioning

The concept is simple: collect heat and take it outside, produce cool air and bring it inside, then distribute the cooled air around the inside. The actual work is a little more complicated. Heat from inside is collected from the air intake ducts throughout your home. The heat is absorbed by the refrigerant and moved outside where it is compressed, causing it to cool. Heat is discharged outside and the cooled air travels back inside where it is distributed and picks up more heat to keep the cycle going over and over.

Stand next to the outside unit and you will feel the heat being distributed outside. Stand in front of a cool air outlet inside and you will feel the cooler air coming out. Heat discharges outside, cool air is distributed inside, and the cycle is repeated over and over again.

Finding the Leak

If there is a significant refrigerant leak in your air conditioning system, you may notice symptoms like the following:

  • Ice buildup on the coils
  • Cool air coming into your home is not as cool as it should be
  • System running longer while the time between cycles is less
  • Puddles of liquid by your outside unit
  • Utility bills going up because your system is running longer
  • Unusual sounds (listen for a bubbling sound)
  • If the leak is bad enough, your air conditioner will stop cooling entirely

An air conditioner service technician has the skills and tools to measure refrigerant levels and determine if the refrigerant is so low that it is causing your system to not operate as it should.

Fixing the Leak

A big part of fixing the refrigerant level is finding the leak. The first place a technician will look is the coils; small cracks in the coils can cause slow leaks. Repairing a refrigerant leak is usually not a do-it-yourself task – call an expert technician. Technicians have specialized tools to find and repair leaks. Small cracks can be patched; multiple cracks and other signs of advanced wear might mean that new coils are needed.

Failure to repair a refrigerant leak can cause big damage to other parts of your air conditioning system. A refrigerant leak serious enough to develop obvious symptoms is in need of prompt attention.

The service technicians at Semper Fi can help you understand your options for repairs. They are dedicated to helping you get as much life out of your older system as practically possible and offer competitive, cost-effective system replacement options as needed.

Call Semper Fi at 480-616-3636 to make an appointment for a technician to check your system’s refrigerant level and add whatever is needed to get your system back to working like new at full efficiency.

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