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Smart Choice Heating and Air Blog

Do Not Believe This Refrigerant Myth

air-conditioner-with-tools

There is one question in particular that HVAC professionals get asked pretty often. In fact, you might have asked a professional this at one time—“How often does my refrigerant need to be refilled?”

If you did ask this, what was the answer you got? Did they tell you once a year during maintenance, or twice a year? Well unfortunately, this is incorrect.

The correct answer to your question is, “hopefully never!”

The Myth

This is a fairly common misconception among homeowners—that refrigerant is something that runs out over time, like gasoline does from a car. But this just isn’t the case with refrigerant. When your air conditioner or heat pump is installed, it’s supplied with enough refrigerant to ideally last its entire lifespan. Refrigerant continuously cycles through the HVAC system and effectively moves heat to bring you a comfy indoor climate.

The Facts

So, yes, your air conditioner should be supplied with enough refrigerant upon installation to last the system’s entire lifespan. But what if you’re losing refrigerant? What does that mean?

It means you have a leak and yes, you will need a refill (what we in the industry refer to as a recharge)—but first, the source of the leak needs to be accurately located and repaired so this doesn’t happen again, and your air conditioner’s efficiency is restored. Otherwise, you will start to see a number of problems form, including:

A Loss of Cooling Output

If a leak occurs along your refrigerant line, then your cooling system output will decline along with the drop in refrigerant charge. Eventually, this will cause your cooling system to stop functioning altogether.

So if you do notice a drop in cooling output, please be sure to call our pros right away. The problem could be related to something else, such as an air handler issue. Either way, though, a decrease in cooling output warrants a close examination.

The same goes if the air’s coolness seems fine, but the airflow is low. In this case, please check your air filter first. If it hasn’t been changed in a while, it could be dirty and clogged, therefore causing an airflow blockage.

Ice on the Evaporator Coil

Through the refrigeration process, refrigerant shifts from gaseous to liquid form, and is placed under a good deal of pressure before it enters the evaporator coils. The valve releases a precise amount into the coils, where the refrigerant then shifts back to gaseous form. As this occurs, it pulls heat from the nearby air, cooling it in the process.

But when a refrigerant leak is impacting the system, frost or ice will form on the outside of the evaporator coil. This ice then forms an insulating barrier between the refrigerant and the air that it’s meant to cool. The ice literally prevents the coil from absorbing heat, which is the process that makes air conditioning possible.

Overall, too little refrigerant puts too much strain on your air conditioner, and as a result, you can end up seeing pretty serious and irreversible damage to the compressor.

At Smart Choice Heating and Air, we are “Dedicated to Great Service, Clean Air & Happy Homes.” When you need a trusted HVAC contractor for your AC repairs in Anaheim, CA, you needn’t look any further than our team—contact us today!

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