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Does My Heat Pump Have a Refrigerant Leak?


Outdoor

Heat pumps are becoming more and more common in the residential sector. As homeowners look for more efficient and convenient ways in which to keep their homes comfortable throughout the year, the heat pump becomes undeniably attractive. This is thanks, in large part, to its use of the heat transfer process in heating one’s home. This process is thanks to the refrigerant cycle, which the heat pump is able to reverse in order to transfer heat into the home in the winter, and out during the summer.

For that reason, a refrigerant leak in your heat pump is of serious concern. The last thing that you want to do is to ignore the signs of a refrigerant leak, as doing so could lead to very serious problems developing with your heat pump. That means you need to learn how to spot signs of trouble with your heat pump to begin with. Today, we’ll be looking at some of those signs and helping you to better understand the function of the refrigerant in your heat pump. Contact our Cary, NC HVAC pros with any questions that you may have.

What the Refrigerant Cycle Accomplishes

It is impossible to overstate how important it is for your heat pump to have a proper refrigerant charge, because the system would quite literally be useless if it were not for the refrigerant coursing through it. You see, the refrigerant is the heat transfer fluid in the system, capable of changing from a liquid to a gas and back with ease. This is vital in the heat transfer process.

During the summer, your heat pump is tasked with cooling your home. To achieve this, the system evaporates refrigerant in the indoor evaporator coil. The refrigerant draws heat out of the air as it evaporates,  and it then releases that heat outdoors as refrigerant is condensed. In the winter, the heat pump is able to reverse this process. It evaporates refrigerant in the outdoor coil, and it condenses the refrigerant in the indoor coil after it has been compressed to maximize its thermal energy. That allows the system to heat your home without actually needing to generate new heat.

The Problem with Refrigerant Leaks

Okay, so you know what function the refrigerant serves. Why is a low refrigerant charge so problematic? Well, the system is going to have to work harder than it should in order to transfer heat into or out of your home. The harder that it works, the less efficiently it is going to operate. It will run longer and harder as a result of the low refrigerant.

The system may eventually start to overheat, too, which will cause it to run in very short bursts. This is called short cycling. When that happens, the heat pump accrues unnecessary wear and tear. More energy is wasted as the system has to start up over and over, and the ice that may develop on the outdoor unit due to low refrigerant levels just makes things worse. Eventually, your compressor may be irrevocably damaged, in which case you’ll most likely be looking at a full system replacement.

Schedule your heat pump services with Raleigh Heating & Air.

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