Is your air conditioner's refrigerant level low? Refrigerant is necessary to help your home's system cool the interior air. If you suspect that your air conditioner's refrigerant level is too low, take a look at what you need to know about home cooling, system installation, and how an air conditioning contractor can help.
What Is Air Conditioner Refrigerant?
Before you start to explore the causes of this common AC issue, you need to know what refrigerant is and why it's an essential part of your home's cooling system. Refrigerant is a chemical liquid that can absorb heat from the environment (the interior air). As it travels through a central AC system, the air conditioner converts it from a liquid into a low-pressure gas and then back to a liquid again. This process releases the heat from the refrigerant and helps to cool your home.
There are a few types of refrigerant products currently in use. Older systems may use chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) or hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerants. CFC products, such as CFC-12, were phased out in the 1990s. The phase-out of HCFC products, such as HCFC-22 or R-22, started in 2020. While it is no longer legal to make or import these refrigerant types, a section 608 certified technician can use recovered or reclaimed products to recharge the system.
How Do You Know If the Refrigerant Is Low?
Without refrigerant, your AC system can't cool your home. This means one of the primary signs of a refrigerant leak/low refrigerant is warm interior air. While the system may turn on, the fan may work, and air may come out of the vents, your home's temperature won't drop without the right amount of refrigerant. If you feel warm air coming from the vents or it takes hours to cool one room, your system may have a low refrigerant level.
Along with warm air and a longer cool-down time, low refrigerant levels or a leak may cause higher electric bills (due to the long cooling times), ice formations on the refrigerant lines, bubbling noises, or puddling around the system. Puddles typically aren't the refrigerant itself. Instead, the water is melted ice that falls off of the central system unit.
Why Is the Refrigerant Low?
Refrigerant shouldn't simply vanish on its own. You won't use up the liquid over the course of the summer cooling season. Instead, low refrigerant levels typically happen due to wear and tear, damage, or other mechanical failures.
Low refrigerant levels aren't always the result of a leak. Improperly installed new systems that were initially undercharged will always have a low level.
What Can You Do About Low Refrigerant?
Contact a qualified professional for an AC repair. The technician can assess the actual refrigerant level, look for leaks, and determine whether the low level is the result of wear, damage, or improper installation.