Leaks, in general, should be taken seriously. If the attitude that you adopt toward leaks is that there is no such thing as a "minor" leak, then you don't wind up wasting money due to, say, a dripping faucet. It's not a big leak, but those drips add up! In some cases, though, even "small" leaks can have much more immediate consequences. This is definitely the case with refrigerant leaks. If you have a refrigerant leak of any size, act fast!
Your air conditioner in Asheville, NC, uses refrigerant in order to cool your home. That refrigerant does not get used up like gas in a car. It exists in a closed system, cycling back and forth from the indoor to outdoor units, over and over. If that closed loop leaks, you'll run into a lot of different problems. Let's explore why refrigerant leaks are such a major concern, and how to spot the signs of such leaks in your system.
How the Refrigerant Cycles Works
Your air conditioner has two coils. The condenser coil is the one in the outside unit, and the evaporator coil is indoors. In the evaporator unit, the refrigerant is evaporated. No big surprise there. As it evaporates, it draws heat out of the air. That is what allows your home to be cooled. The air passing through the coil releases its heat and is recirculated throughout the house.
The condenser unit is where the refrigerant is condensed. When it condenses, the refrigerant releases its heat outdoors. This cycle simply continues until desired temperatures are met in your home. It's pretty simple in theory, but a minor leak will seriously disrupt the process.
Consequences of Low Refrigerant Levels
There are a lot of different ways in which refrigerant leaks will adversely affect your cooling experience. If there is not enough refrigerant in your air conditioning system, then:
- Efficiency levels will plummet. Your system will have to work harder than it should in order to cool your home, driving up energy costs.
- Performance levels will plummet. Your system won't really be able to keep up with your cooling needs, leaving you to pay more for less comfort.
- Repair needs will increase. All of the wear and tear on the system will result in more frequent need for repairs.
- Your system may fail completely. If you run a system that is low on refrigerant long enough, irreparable damage can be done to the compressor.
Signs of Refrigerant Leaks
If there any good news regarding refrigerant leaks, and "good" is a real stretch, it's that there are a lot of warning signs that can alert you to the problem. Keep an eye out for:
- Increased energy costs.
- Uneven temperatures throughout the house.
- Short cycling (where your system runs in short bursts, starting and stopping frequently).
- Hissing sounds coming from the units or refrigerant lines.
If you notice any of these problems, remember that professional repairs are the only solution to a refrigerant leak. This is not a job that is DIY-appropriate!