The air conditioning system is an essential part of your home. It keeps the environment comfortable and refreshing, especially during the summer months when heat creeps in from outside. There are instances, however, when it feels like your AC system is not cooling the place like it used to, which could be a sign of a refrigerant leak.
The refrigerant is a vital element of an AC unit’s operation: it is a chemical blend that reduces the temperature inside a room as it changes from a liquid to a gas. One crucial fact about refrigerants is that they are not consumed during the cooling process, and they are simply converted back to liquid in the condenser unit. Since normal AC operation does not reduce refrigerant levels, your AC unit system should be circulating and maintaining the same amount.
There are three common reasons why refrigerant leaks happen: it could be gradual wear and tear, the degeneration of copper tubing, or formicary corrosion - caused by an acidic formation of formaldehyde in the AC unit.
Is your AC’s refrigerant leaking?
Refrigerant leaks happen all the time, and most calls for AC maintenance and repair are associated with the issue. A hole in the system can cause all sorts of performance and efficiency problems, but worse than that is inhaling large amounts of the chemical, which can lead to health issues. That said, you should be on the lookout for the telltale signs of refrigerant leaking.
1. An observable decrease of cooling power
The refrigerant's primary role in the cooling process is to absorb the heat from inside the room and release it outside. In case of a leak, the AC produces less cold air. You'd notice that it takes more time to lower the temperature of the space than it used to.
2. AC blowing warm air
With lower levels of refrigerant in your air conditioner, there is a noticeable difference in the coolness of the air that's coming out of the unit. When you put your hands in front of the vent and sense that it's warmer than usual, a leak might be taking place.
3. The unit makes hissing sounds
AC refrigerant leaks occur because of holes and cracks in the coils. Although the noise may be due to some other problems in the system, a leak is a possibility. Also, louder sounds could mean there’s a bigger refrigerant leak going on.
4. Frozen coils
A considerable decrease in the amount of refrigerant circulating through the coils affects their capacity to absorb heat and can cause them to freeze. As condensation builds up, ice can be detected on the evaporation coil. Sometimes, the ice melts and drips on the floor.
Even when a leak is not causing the ice build-up, however, it's wise to address the problem quickly and avoid more costly repairs in the future.
5. A sudden increase in electric bills
If you have observed any of the symptoms mentioned above, plus the fact that your energy bill is much higher than normal, there is a high chance of a refrigerant leak. With less refrigerant, your AC system must work harder to cool the room. Also, you may have been using more electricity by frequently adjusting the thermostat to cool the air faster. Suffice it to say that your utility bill will give you a heads up if there are problems taking place within your AC.
What to do in case of refrigerant leaks?
While the signs enumerated above may signify that there is indeed a leak in your AC system, they can also be symptoms of some other issues. Instead of jumping to conclusions, get in touch with a reputable HVAC service company near you.
If you’re not experiencing any problems with your unit yet, you should still consider calling for a check-up. Regular maintenance prevents costly reparations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Gordon is a content marketing specialist of New AC Unit. Aside from creating online content on energy-efficiency, Stephanie enjoys running and biking with her family and friends to stay fit.
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