Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your air conditioner or heat pump. With the compressor, like a heart, forcing it to flow through the indoor and outdoor coils in a continuous circuit, it absorbs and releases heat and provides the cooling you so desperately need during a Texas summer. Because it is a continuous circuit, a closed loop, there should never be a need for more refrigerant. The system doesn’t use it up like fuel. But there are times when it must be refilled. Occasionally, a leak occurs, causing refrigerant to be lost from the AC system. Catching this issue early will prevent it from causing bigger problems.
How AC Refrigerant Leaks Occur
The refrigerant flows through quite a length of tubing, so there’s a lot of surface area for damage to occur. Anything from a mishap during home projects to a branch tossed by stormy winds can impact the coils and cause a crack. It’s also possible for the coil to simply deteriorate with age, because it experiences major temperature fluctuations which, over time, can weaken the material.
How Refrigerant Leaks Affect Your Air Conditioner
Low levels of refrigerant decrease the effectiveness of the cooling your air conditioner should provide, because less refrigerant absorbs less heat from your home. This forces the system to run more of the time, increasing energy usage and putting strain on that vital (and expensive!) compressor. The low pressure within the evaporator coils, and the fact that they’re not absorbing much heat, will cause them to be much colder than they would otherwise be. This can lead to ice forming on them from frozen condensation. The ice acts as insulation, further decreasing the amount of heat that can be absorbed, and further increasing the strain on the compressor. The greatest risk of a refrigerant leak is that, without air conditioning repair in Lubbock, TX, the compressor can be irreparably damaged.
How to Tell if Your Air Conditioner Has a Refrigerant Leak
There are several symptoms that indicate a refrigerant leak. If you spot any of these signs, you definitely have an AC issue that requires repair, and if you spot multiple signs, there’s a very good chance that what needs repair is a cracked or leaking coil.
- Decreased Effectiveness: As the refrigerant fails to absorb enough heat, your home will be too warm.
- Increased Energy Usage: The air conditioner runs more and more of the time. You may be able to spot this before you get the electric bill that reflects it.
- Ice: The evaporator coil may become encased in a layer of ice, which will continue to thicken if the problem is untreated.
- Sounds: You may hear a trickling noise, like running water, or a hissing noise, like gas escaping through a small opening.
- Smell: The refrigerant itself has a chemical smell that is also somewhat sweet.
Prompt Repairs Prevent Compressor Catastrophe
A qualified AC technician is the only person who can address this issue safely and effectively. They are specially trained and certified in the handling of refrigerant, which must be treated with caution and care. Your technician will inspect the full length of the coils, identifying any damaged sections. These can be sealed, and the refrigerant can be topped up. And your air conditioner will be back to work in no time!
JD’s Prompt Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning serves the Lubbock area. Contact us for all your plumbing needs.