Have you been told by a general handyperson that the refrigerant in your air conditioner is low, and that it needs to be refilled? Perhaps they told you that it needs to be refilled —what we in the industry call recharged every year during AC maintenance.
Unfortunately, this is a little misleading. Yes, refrigerant leaks and problems are something we check for during your annual maintenance appointment. But refrigerant should not actually be leaving your system on a regular basis. In fact, your air conditioner is supplied with enough refrigerant during installation to ideally last its entire lifespan, theoretically.
While refrigerant loss is a relatively common AC problem, that does not make it “normal” or a problem you can delay fixing. Read on as we uncover how you can tell if your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant, and why this is such a problem!
Hissing or Bubbling
This is one way to detect a refrigerant leak–by listening for a hissing or bubbling sound. Hissing indicates refrigerant leaving your system in the gas stage while bubbling is refrigerant leaving in the liquid stage. Either way, when refrigerant leaves the system like this, it prevents the air conditioner from doing the very job it’s tasked with doing —actually cooling your home.
AC Blowing Hot Air
Have you noticed your air conditioner blowing out lukewarm or stifling air? This can be a sign that your system is running low on refrigerant. Your system requires a minimum amount to compress it and transfer the heat out of your home to expel it outdoors. if your air conditioner isn’t moving heat as it should be, it’s definitely a sign of a refrigerant leak.
Ice Development on the Coil
While it may seem only natural to see ice on an air conditioner–after all an air conditioner chills, right—you should actually never see ice development on any part of the system, particularly on the evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is the component responsible for drawing in hot air from your home, and if it can’t do this, your home won’t receive any cooling.
When your system is leaking refrigerant, ice development can definitely occur.
A Spike in Your Energy Bills
Are your electric bills higher this year than they were at the same time last year? Your AC system is going to work harder to compensate for the lack of cooling by running longer to try to achieve the temperature you set on the thermostat. This is very inefficient and will lead to a rise in your utility bills.
Go ahead and compare your costs to last year, as well as what your neighbors are paying if you can. If they’re much higher than they should be, it’s definitely a sign that something is wrong with your air conditioner, and a refrigerant leak can certainly be to blame.
If a refrigerant leak is to blame for your AC problems, it does need to be recharged, definitely. However, it should only need to be recharged once. After that, the source of the leak should be repaired, and you shouldn’t continue to have this problem!