Refrigerant Leaks: Everything You Need to Know

HVAC leaks problem

Within your air conditioner, the key cooling agent is the refrigerant, which are fluids or gases that cycle throughout your air conditioner. You may not know much about refrigerants as a layperson, but your HVAC system could not run without them. Read on to learn more about why refrigerant leaks are important to address and their role in cooling. 

How Does Refrigerant Work? 

To start, the compressor forces the refrigerant through a series of cooling steps before compressing it. This compression produces heat as the molecules within the gas begin colliding with each other in a small space. The refrigerant then passes through the condenser where fans remove the heat and cool the gas to a liquid state. This liquid passes through evaporator coils where it becomes a chilled gas that finally releases into the airflow of your home or building through AC vents. 

As the refrigerant passes through the entirety of your air conditioner to produce the cooled air that chills your home, damages at any point can result in a refrigerant leak. However, there are some key root problems behind most leaks, including:

  • Corrosion. Over time, your air conditioning unit may develop rust, leaving corroded metal and cracks and holes where refrigerant seeps out. 
  • Loosened Joints. As with any machine, wear and tear weakens the joints that hold your air conditioner together. As these connections thin and loosen, refrigerant leaks become increasingly problematic. 
  • Manufacturing and Installation Errors. Sometimes, the issue lies with factory defects that couldn’t have been prevented. In these cases, a warranty replacement of any parts or unit is required. On the other hand, improper installation leads to parts that are not fitted properly, causing refrigerant leaks to be an inevitable part of cooling your home with a faulty unit. 

Signs of a Refrigerant Leak

When your air conditioner experiences a refrigerant leak, it can dramatically reduce its cooling power for your space. As refrigerant leaks out of your unit, the energy used to fuel the process up to that point is wasted, leaving you with a frustratingly warm environment and higher utility bills. To spot a refrigerant leak early on, look out for these warning signs: 

  • Increased electric costs. Regardless of the root issue, inexplicably higher energy costs should be investigated with a repair inspection of your air conditioner. 
  • Longer wait for a cool home. When you lower the thermostat, noticing that your AC takes significantly longer to cool your home to the new temperature is often the result of a leak. 
  • Frozen evaporator coil. If the refrigerant is leaking from your unit, there will not be enough circulating within the evaporator coils at the end of its typical cooling process. This means that the coil cannot absorb enough heat and will develop frost and ice around it as a result.

The Dangers of Refrigerant Leaks

Your AC’s refrigerant poses many health hazards before it is adequately processed by the unit. A significant leak through the vents of your home can lead to dangerous symptoms, including light-headedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, and skin irritations. Further, a liquid leak of refrigerant is dangerous to touch as skin exposure to this liquid can cause chemical burns and frostbite. 

Concerns for Older AC Units 

For a noteworthy reminder, older air conditioners typically rely upon a refrigerant called the R-22 compound. Unfortunately for homeowners with these older units, this coolant has been phased out by the government since early on during 2020. 

If your air conditioner experiences a leak or other significant damage and uses this outdated coolant, it is recommended that you upgrade your unit rather than spending on repairs to stopgap inevitable investment. Often, these older units are riddled with additional issues beyond the leak at hand due to their years of wear, creating repair costs that match that of a new unit when considering the inflated cost of this now scarce refrigerant. 

Fix the Leak With Gator Air & Energy

While the internet provides a wealth of information and countless do-it-yourself guides, repairing your air conditioner is best left to trusted professionals with the expertise to get the job done correctly and safely. To get your air conditioner back to its former glory, trust your Gator Air & Energy team to restore your unit’s optimal cooling capacity and energy efficiency. Reach out today to book your AC repair by either contacting us online or giving us a call at (352) 389-4396. 

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