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How to Tell if Your AC Is Losing Refrigerant


One of the most common myths about air conditioning and heat pump operation, one that our technicians often have to dispel, is that these comfort systems “run” off of refrigerant, as if it were a form of fuel like gas in a car or propane for an outdoor grill. What refrigerant actually does in an AC/heat pump is exchange heat, moving thermal energy from inside a house and releasing it to the outside. The chemical refrigerant doesn’t get used up in this process. Barring a leak in the system, the refrigerant should remain at the same level (known as the system’s charge) for its entire service life.

But… leaks can happen. A drop in refrigerant charge will eventually lead to a broken AC or heat pump. Here are some ways to detect early that your system is losing refrigerant:

  • Hissing sound: As the high pressure refrigerant gas escapes through small holes in the lines (usually caused by a type of chemical corrosion from formaldehyde in the air) it will create a distinct hissing noise. As soon as you hear this form your air conditioner or heat pump, call professionals.
  • Loss of cooling: Does the air coming from the room vents feel warmer than it should for a summer day? Or have you noticed hot spots around the house? There are a number of possible issues with an AC (or heat pump in cooling mode) that can cause this. Refrigerant loss is one of the most common. No matter the source, this is a job for HVAC technicians. They’ll find the exact problem and fix it.
  • Ice along the indoor coil: “Wait, why would loss of refrigerant make the coil get colder?” We understand that this doesn’t make much sense on the surface, but bear with us. What’s happening in the indoor coil is that the reduce amount of refrigerant is struggling to absorb enough heat to turn into a warm gas. The remaining refrigerant will still be cold, causing moisture along the coil to freeze into ice. You never want to see ice anywhere on your AC or heat pump, so have this repaired right ASAP.

When you want the best people in the industry to repair your AC or heat pump in Clayton, NC, contact Raleigh Heating & Air, Inc.

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