How much do you know about refrigerant leaks?
Like all appliances, HVAC systems require maintenance and issues may arise, such as a freon leak. Refrigerant leaks can present potentially dangerous issues if not taken care of properly, so knowing how to detect a leak and what to do if you have a leak are very important.
What Is Refrigerant?
Refrigerant, also called freon, is a cooling agent that is present in all HVAC systems.
To put it simply, refrigerants are what make HVAC systems possible. They work simultaneously with the coils of an AC unit to cool and remove humidity from inside.
Air conditioners absorb the warm air inside your home, cool it down, and release it back through the air vents. Refrigerant is the pressurized gas that cools it down. It’s just like the coolant in your car, except that you don’t ever have to top it off unless there’s a leak.
One of the most common types of refrigerant for AC units is Freon. However, this specific type is being slowly phased out in favor of more environmentally friendly options. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency has established new regulations requiring that manufacturers start implementing greener energy.
What does this mean for your air conditioner unit? If that gas is not good for the ozone layer, it’s definitely not good to breathe it in inside your home. Extended exposure is hazardous to your health. That said, the dangers posed by breathing this gas are only present if your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant.
7 Symptoms of a Freon Leak
There are several telltale signs that your AC has a freon leak. They include:
1. Low Coolant Levels
A sure sign of a leak is if there are low levels of coolant. Your HVAC system does not burn freon so you should never need to refill the unit unless there is a leak.
While there are many refrigerant detectors you can purchase, often times you will need a local professional who is experienced, trustworthy, and patient to detect and fix the leak.
2. Hissing Sound
Refrigerant is a pressurized gas. Sometimes, with ordinary wear and tear (or even from the fumes of some cleaning supplies) your air conditioner may develop pinholes. As refrigerant seeps through, some people are actually able to hear the hissing noise of the escaping gas.
3. AC Not Cooling
There are several reasons why an air conditioner is not cooling properly.
For example, if you haven’t changed your air filters in a while, airflow may be obstructed.
The same can be the case if the condensate line is clogged with mold or algae. You should consider whether this is the only issue you’re having with your air conditioner.
If it is, replace the filters and clean your condensate line.
However, if you’re experiencing your AC blowing warm air in addition to the rest of the items on this list, call an HVAC technician as soon as possible.
4. Air Conditioner Won’t Cycle Off
Most people are familiar with the background hum of an air conditioner: It runs for a while, shuts off and starts again later. When you set a specific temperature on your thermostat, your air conditioner will run until it reaches that number. Then it shuts off.
If your AC is running low on refrigerant, it won’t be capable of properly cooling the air inside your home, the target temperature won’t be met, and it will keep running constantly to no avail.
5. Frost on the Condenser Unit
The condenser unit is the big square box that sits outside your home. When there’s a refrigerant leak, the side panels become covered in a layer of frost.
6. It Feels Humid Inside Your Home
Since the air conditioner would not be cooling and removing the humidity from the warm air inside your home, it’ll start feeling muggy indoors.
7. Higher Energy Bills
Since your air conditioner is not cycling off, the constant running will result in higher electric bills. Hopefully, though, you’ve discovered you have a refrigerant leak well before you receive your next utility bills.
In addition, you or your family may also experience some of the following symptoms:
- Irritated eyes
- Scratchy throat
- Coughing fits or asthma attacks
As you can see, a refrigerant leak is a serious issue. Even if you notice them at 2:00 AM, call an experienced HVAC technician immediately.
What to Do If You Have a Freon Leak
Fixing a freon leak isn’t as simple as adding more refrigerant. If you find or suspect there is a freon leak, it’s imperative to call a professional. A trained air conditioning technician will fix the leak and test the repair before adding more coolant to your system.
Dangers of a Refrigerant Leak
All refrigerants are types of chlorofluorocarbons—CFCs for short—and are chemical substances controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency. Because they are controlled substances, they must be properly removed and disposed of. CFCs present a great threat to the environment as well as your health and should be taken care of immediately.
Besides the environmental damage, a freon leak can damage your air conditioning system or worse, evaporate as a gas in your home. If you inhale these gases, you could experience nausea, headache, or even asphyxiation in worst case scenarios.
Contact Climate Design for AC Service
Freon leaks can be a headache, figuratively and literally, so taking care of the problem right away is important. Your local professionals at Climate Design can detect and fix any freon leaks and ensure that your HVAC is performing as efficiently as possible.
At Climate Design, we have a 24/7 emergency line, and we provide HVAC services all over Tampa Bay: Clearwater, Largo, Palm Harbor, South Tampa, St. Pete Beach, Eastlake, Tarpon Springs, Safety Harbor, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto, New Port Richey.
If you suspect you have a refrigerant leak, let us help you.
Call (888) 572-7245 to Schedule Your Appointment