There a number of problems that can and will afflict your air conditioner over the years, most of them a result of natural wear and tear. This means some problems will be more minor than others. For instance, you might have a worn-down motor bearing that needs to be replaced, or a loose fan tightened.
There are other problems, however, that really shouldn’t be brushed off and need to be addressed right away. A refrigerant leak is one of them.
There’s a fairly common misconception circulating that refrigerant to an air conditioner is like gasoline to a car–it depletes over time. On the contrary, refrigerant is in a closed-loop system and is recycled throughout the lifespan of your air conditioner, theoretically. If your air conditioner is losing refrigerant, it means there is a leak, and yes it is a big deal. Read on to learn why!
Why Refrigerant Matters
Refrigerant is the chemical fluid that literally makes the cooling process possible. Without it, all your air conditioner is, is a giant and very complex fan, doing nothing more than moving air without actually lowering the temperature of your home.
When your air conditioner cycles on, it draws hot air to it from inside your home, and puts it through an evaporation process where the refrigerant cools down the air coming back into your home. A leak would mean there’s not enough refrigerant to do all this, which can have terrible consequences, including a completely broken down AC compressor.
But how can you tell if you have a refrigerant leak?
Signs Your AC Is Losing Refrigerant
Fortunately, there are some telltale signs you can watch out for that indicate your air conditioner is losing this important component. This includes:
A Loss of Cooling
Have you noticed that the air coming out of your vents into your home isn’t as cool as you think it should be? First, check whether it’s the airflow or the coolness of the air that’s a problem.
An airflow issue is another symptom to be aware of, but might not indicate a refrigerant leak. It could be nothing more than a clogged air filter, or it could be something serious like damaged ductwork. If changing the air filter doesn’t resolve the problem, it’s time to give us a call!
But if the air coming through is powerful, just not cold, and your air conditioner is set to “cooling” (vs. being set to “fan only”) then you’re most likely looking at a refrigerant leak that needs to be patched up and recharged by a professional.
Your Air Conditioner Is Short-Cycling
This is the name given to the process where an air conditioner turns on and off rapidly instead of going through regular cooling cycles. In fact, when it does this it’s actually not completing a cooling cycle at all. Therefore, your air conditioner is working very inefficiently, leaving you paying for cooling that you’re not even receiving–which brings us to our next symptom.
Your Energy Bills Spiked
If you’re paying much more than you did this time last year for cooling, or you’re paying more than what your neighbors do, despite comparable use, then it’s a sign that something is causing the air conditioner to work less efficiently. A refrigerant leak may certainly be to blame.