Refrigerant Leaks

Don’t you love a little warm sunshine?

Isn’t it nice when things start to warm up in the spring? Even the first couple weeks of summer can be exciting! The sun seems to be shining for the first time in ages! But after a while, that Carolina heat can make you feel like a cookie in an oven, especially if your home’s AC isn’t doing a good job. One of the most common causes of air conditioning problems can be linked back to leaking refrigerant. A refrigerant leak can lead to higher electric bills, an inefficient AC, increased home humidity, and plenty more problems!

Did You Know?

You might’ve heard the words “refrigerant” and “freon” used interchangeably before. What’s the deal with that?

You know how sometimes, people say Kleenex to refer to tissue, Band-Aids to refer to bandages, and Q-Tips to refer to cotton swabs? It’s the same thing when people say Freon when they’re talking about refrigerant!

Warning Signs

Our Priority Advantage® Members have a chance of catching possible refrigerant leaks before they become a big problem because they get their HVAC unit maintained twice a year. This means our techs can thoroughly inspect their unit and all its parts! If you don’t get your unit maintained, you might not realize there’s an issue until your refrigerant is already leaking. How can you tell you might already have a leak?

Higher Electric Bill

When your refrigerant is leaking, your AC works harder than usual to keep things cool. This means your AC is using more electricity, and that can affect your power bill. If you’re not sure if your power bill is abnormally high, compare it to your power bill from the same time of year last year. New homeowner? Unfortunately, if you’re a new homeowner, you won’t be able to compare your utility bill to last year’s, but we can help! Give us a call and we’ll thoroughly inspect your unit to make sure everything is working right.

Inefficient Air Conditioning

Refrigerant removes heat from your home and helps your unit move the heat outside. If you have a leak, your refrigerant levels will be lower than they should be, and your unit will have to work even harder to cool your home. Your unit will have trouble cooling to the temperature that you set on your thermostat, and that will also cause it to run longer than usual to reach that desired temperature, if it even reaches it at all.

Increased Home Humidity

When your air conditioner is functioning properly, it starts to dehumidify your home in around 15 minutes. If the air in your home constantly feels sticky, it might be because of a leak in your refrigerant.

Frozen Evaporator Coil

One of the most obvious signs of a refrigerant leak is ice crystals on your evaporator coil (indoor coil). This coil should have refrigerant circulating through it to help absorb heat, but if your refrigerant levels are low, your coils won’t be able to pull heat and they’ll freeze. This ice will result in a breakdown, and sometimes the repairs can get costly.

Air Conditioner Leaking Water

Remember how we said your evaporator coil can develop ice crystals? When your AC shuts off, that ice melts over time. That water has to go somewhere! Unfortunately, that water drips on the floor around your HVAC unit.

Air Conditioner Not Blowing Cold Air

Check your air vents. How cool is the air coming out of them? When your AC isn’t blowing cold air anymore, that’s a clear sign it’s time to call a professional! There are several reasons that could lead to this, but if you’re noticing several of these symptoms, there’s a good chance a refrigerant leak is to blame.

Your AC is Making Hissing Sounds

When your refrigerant is leaking, it’s because there’s a hole or crack in your coils. If your A/C is making a hissing sound, it could be that hole or crack making noise. Have you ever squeezed a balloon with a hole in it and heard the noise it makes? Just like a balloon, your A/C will stop making this noise when all the freon leaks out.

Little Bubbles in Your Evaporator Coils

One of the things our techs look for when they suspect a refrigerant leak is tiny beads on your evaporator coils. Have you ever seen a puddle of oil in a parking lot during the rain? If you look close enough, you can see water beading up on the oil. The condensation on your coils can bead up just like that when there’s a refrigerant leak. If your tech spots some of this beading on your evaporator coils, that’s a sign that something isn’t right! Over time, these leaks will get worse.

Some people will try to tell you that it’s normal for your unit to lose a little refrigerant over time, but that’s simply not true. Your unit doesn’t “use up” freon, so if the levels seem low, it’s because it’s leaking. Refrigerant is bad for the environment and is also dangerous when inhaled, so it’s important to get your unit repaired if there’s a leak!

What Causes Refrigerant Leaks?

You’ve read the symptoms, and it doesn’t sound good. Maybe you’re pretty sure you’ve got a refrigerant leak. So, what causes these pesky leaks?

Age of the System

As your unit ages, your coils can wear down and develop little holes and cracks. The joints and connections are most prone to damage over time.

Vibrations

Your unit is a powerful piece of technology that works hard to keep your family comfortable! While it’s running, it tends to vibrate a bit, and those vibrations can separate the joints in your coils, and even just a tiny separation can cause a leak.

Landscaping

Copper lines that lead from your outdoor unit to the inside of your house are prone to damage that can lead to refrigerant leaks. Some people cover these copper lines with dirt or mulch, but then they don’t see exactly where these lines are. When it comes time to mow the lawn or do other landscaping work and you’ve covered these lines, you risk stepping on them or hitting them with lawn equipment.

Contaminants

Do you keep up with routine maintenance for your HVAC unit? If you don’t know how important maintenance is, check out our article: Is HVAC Maintenance Really Worth It?

If you don’t have your unit periodically maintained, any possible leaks will get worse and eventually let in pollutants. If dust and other pollutants get into your coils, it can lead to corrosion, worsening any holes and cracks in your coils!

Phasing Out R22 Refrigerant

R22 refrigerant used to be the industry-standard. Because it’s so bad for the ozone layer, the US Environmental Protection Agency passed a law that banned R22 in the US as of January 1, 2020. Systems that rely on R22 are now difficult and expensive to repair when additional refrigerant is needed, so it might be a good time for you to evaluate your replacement options.

How to Prevent Refrigerant Leaks

Did you know there’s a way to protect your system from leaks? When you become a Priority Advantage® Member, you get two free system renovations every year! That means your technician will visit your home twice a year to clean and inspect your unit to make sure everything is running good as new. Keeping your unit clean can help prevent damage to different components like your coils, which in turn can help prevent refrigerant leaks! Not only that, but when your technician inspects your unit, they can detect if you already have a leak before things get worse.

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