Are you are concerned because your place is not cooling off like it should? Perhaps you’ve noticed warm air or lower than normal airflow coming out of your system’s registers or you’ve heard a hissing sound. Maybe you’ve observed water on the floor by your HVAC unit or seen ice forming on your evaporator coils. These are all telltale signs of an AC refrigerant leak.
IMPORTANT: Losing refrigerant is not normal and likely signals an AC refrigerant leak. A properly running system maintains the same amount of refrigerant. It’s not like oil in your car that must be replenished over time.
Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of an AC refrigerant leak, and the probable causes of that leak that’s reducing your comfort and increasing your electric bills.
5 signs of an AC refrigerant leak
1. Loss of cooling power
Refrigerant plays an extremely important role in the cooling process. It’s the refrigerant’s job to absorb the heat from your home and release it outside. If your refrigerant levels are depleted, it will take longer to cool your home or business.
2. Registers not blowing cool air
Check the air coming from your registers (vents). If the air is not as cold as it should be, it could mean a refrigerant leak.
3. Hissing sounds coming from your indoor unit
An AC refrigerant leak is caused by holes or cracks in the coils that circulate the refrigerant. Though hissing could be a sign of a variety of problems, refrigerant leaks are among them. A larger leak may produce a gurgling sound.
4. Coils are frozen
When the refrigerant level is insufficient, your AC system swill not adequately absorb and release heat. This causes condensation on the coils to freeze. Sometimes the frozen condensation will begin to melt and drip on the floor. Though ice on the evaporator coil might not seem alarming, it could lead to a system breakdown and could translate into an expensive repair such as a compressor replacement.
5. An AC refrigerant leak causes elevated electric bills
With poor cooling, you’re probably turning down the thermostat and causing the system to run longer. That uses more electricity. Review your utility bill for inconsistent usage levels especially when compared to the same timeframe last year.
What’s next? Getting a refill is not the answer
You may be tempted to just ask an AC professional to come in and add refrigerant to your system. This is not the proper solution for a refrigerant leak and beware of any HVAC company that takes this cutting-corners approach.
Adding refrigerant could cost you money in the long run because the refrigerant, which is escalating in price, will leak out again and have to be refilled; plus you could see a major expensive repair or replacement if the leak is not addressed.
Learn more: AC Troubleshooting: Refrigerant Leak
Some people might try to use a sealant as a stopgap measure for a small AC refrigerant leak, however, sealant quick-fixes are just that. This temporary solution could end up doing more harm than good because sealants sometimes cause blockages, which can cause more damage to your system.
The right way to address an AC refrigerant leak
Don’t jump to the conclusion that you have a refrigerant leak solely based on a lack of cool air blowing from your vents or your space not being cooled as efficiently as in the past. These symptoms can be caused by a number of factors and not just an AC refrigerant leak. It could be something as simple and inexpensive as replacing clogged filters.
It’s smart to call in a reputable HVAC service company, such as Arista Air, to inspect your system for an AC refrigerant leak. Arista has the equipment to detect leaks rapidly, which means less expense.
If your system only has a couple of small leaks, AC refrigerant leak repair is the recommended solution. If there are many leaks or serious ones, your HVAC professional may recommend replacing your refrigerant coil. While this is more costly than repairing holes, your system will perform at a higher level and you will save on electricity costs.
In some cases, your system may be in such poor condition that a system replacement is recommended. Should you repair or replace? This guide can help you decide.
TIP: Consider refrigerant phase-out
Certain refrigerants are in the process of being phased out as per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because they are harmful to the planet. In fact, R22 can no longer be imported or manufactured in the U.S. If your system was installed before 2010, it likely is cooled with R22. If so, you should carefully weigh whether an expensive repair is worth the investment, especially on an older system.