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Air Quality
Why Is My Air Conditioner Low on Refrigerant Every Year?
April 11, 2013
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There seems to be a belief among some homeowners that air conditioners have to be filled with refrigerant each year.  Homeowners begin to think it’s normal to have an HVAC company come out to top off their refrigerant.  If this sounds familiar, read on!  It’s time to solve this refrigerant mystery!

If you have to have refrigerant added to your air conditioner or heat pump each year, then you have a leak somewhere in your system.  Refrigerant is not supposed to leak out or evaporate away.  The leak could be in the line set, in the coil or in the condenser itself.  The amount of refrigerant that you lose will depend on the size of the leak.

What happens if you don’t do anything about the leak?  Well, eventually the air conditioner will freeze up and quit working.  It may be hard to believe but your air conditioner could turn into a block of ice on a 90 degree day!  This is quite the inconvenience because the system has to be turned off so the ice can melt before a technician can even work on it.  It doesn’t take long to get hot in the house when it’s 90 degrees outside!  In addition, a system that runs without the correct amount of refrigerant is like a car that is driven low on oil.  Will it operate?  Yes, but it’s highly likely that damage will occur from the system running year after year low on refrigerant.

While people may ask to just have refrigerant added, that’s really not the best option.  The cost of R-22 refrigerant is rising dramatically.  This is because R-22 is being phased out and R410 is taking it’s place.  So if you have an older HVAC system that uses R-22 refrigerant, it might cost you double or triple what it’s cost in the past to just add refrigerant.  There’s no warranty on refrigerant either so if you have it added and it leaks out a week later…you’re just thrown away that money.

A leak search is going to make sense for a lot of people.  The goal is to do a leak test to find the leak and make that repair.  There are a couple different types of leak tests that can be completed.  The location of the leak will determine the cost of the repair.  It’s not cheap…but then again neither is just adding refrigerant.

The only time it may not make sense to do a leak search and repair is if the air conditioner is very old (13-15+ years old). At that point, it may be time to compare the cost of a leak search and repair to the cost of replacing the unit.

Feel free to contact us at anytime if you have questions about your own system!