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One the Biggest Air Conditioner Misconceptions: Your AC Does Not Use Up Refrigerant

Most homeowners don’t know the technical details about how their air conditioning systems work. There’s nothing wrong with this, especially considering the complexity of modern ACs and the years of training required to become a technician who can repair and install them. However, there are few common misunderstandings about air conditioners that can get in the way of properly caring for a system and knowing when to call for repairs. One of the largest is a myth about how refrigerant works, and we’d like to help clear this up for our readers.

Refrigerant is not “fuel” for your air conditioner

In simple terms: The refrigerant in your air conditioner does not work like fuel. People commonly mistake the chemical refrigerant that moves through an air conditioner as something the air conditioner must consume in order to work, the same way that the combustion engine in a car consumes gasoline and exhausts the byproduct as fumes. However, the two are nothing alike. The air conditioner does not use up its refrigerant and exhaust it as cooling. Instead, it uses the refrigerant to carry out heat transfer—moving heat from the inside of a home to the outside—and doesn’t dissipate. The refrigerant cycles through the AC, changing from a liquid to a gas and back again, over and over. The same amount of refrigerant (known as the air conditioner’s charge) should last for the entire service life of the air conditioner.

Should the AC lose some of its charge (which can occur because of leaks along the refrigerant line) it is a major repair issue. The air conditioner cannot simply keep running as if it were a car with a half tank of gas. Not only will the AC start losing its cooling power, but the drop in refrigerant will endanger components that designed for a specific charge. It can even cause the compressor to burn out, which might require replacing the whole air conditioning system.

If you notice a decline in cooling from your air conditioner, see ice along the evaporator coil, or hear a hissing noise from the cabinet, call for technicians to repair the system right away: you may have a refrigerant leak. If you do, the technicians will seal the leak and recharge the refrigerant to its proper level.

Call Raleigh Heating & Air, Inc. for fast and effective air conditioning repair, whatever the problem, in Knightdale, NC.

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