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Is My Air Conditioner Leaking Refrigerant?


The purpose of the blog posts that we provide on our website is not to cause alarm among our readers. They are intended to inform homeowners about how their home comfort systems work, the benefits of professional services, etc. However, there are certain subjects that cannot be broached without acknowledging how serious the issue at hand can be. The case of the refrigerant leak is one such subject. The good news is that we are not writing this to hammer home the many ways in which a refrigerant leak can negatively affect your AC.

Instead, our goal is to help you better understand the role of refrigerant in your air conditioning system, and how you can recognize that your system may be leaking this vital heat transfer fluid. We’ll touch on the the problems that this can cause, of course, but our hope is that you will keep this information in mind, and that you’ll contact us the moment that you notice a problem with your air conditioner in Cary, NC. That way, we can resolve the problem before serious damage is done.

What Does Refrigerant Do?

First things first, let’s cover what it is that refrigerant actually does in your air conditioning system. Only then can you really understand just how detrimental a refrigerant leak can be. Basically, it is the refrigerant in your air conditioner that actually allows the system to cool your home.

Refrigerant is not something that is consumed, the way that a heater may consume gas or oil to generate heat for warming the house. Air conditioners do not generate “coolness,” obviously. Instead, they remove heat from the air that is already in the house. It is the evaporating and condensing of refrigerant that makes this possible.

The refrigerant in the system evaporates in the evaporator coil, located in the indoor AC unit. This allows it to draw heat out of the air surrounding the coil. Then, the refrigerant travels outside, where it is condensed in the condenser coil and sheds its heat. The cycle continues until desired temperatures are met.

Signs of Refrigerant Leaks

Given how integral to the cooling process that refrigerant is, it only stands to reason that low refrigerant levels will have a serious effect on the AC system and its performance. Here are a few symptoms to look for.

  • Ice on the evaporator coil. When there is not enough refrigerant in the system, the coil can get too cold. This can cause condensation collected on the coil to freeze up. The resulting layer of ice insulates the coil further, making the system’s job even harder.
  • Low cooling output. Does it feel like your air conditioner is blowing lukewarm air? That could be due to the fact that a low refrigerant charge is making it difficult for the system to remove a sufficient amount of heat from the air.
  • Strange hissing sounds. No, there is probably not a snake in the AC unit. If you can hear a hissing sound coming from either unit, it could be the sound of refrigerant — a pressurized gas — escaping from the system.

Contact Raleigh Heating & Air for any air conditioning repairs that you may need.

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