When Do I Need More Refrigerant in My AC?
We often receive questions from our customers about their air conditioning in Farmers Branch, TX. One of the most common we hear is about refrigerant: “When will my AC run out of refrigerant?” or “When will I need to have more refrigerant put into the AC?”
These questions come from a misunderstanding about how air conditioning systems run. But they also strike close to important facts about air conditioners. We’ll go into details below, but the quick explanation is that your AC shouldn’t need to have any refrigerant added to it during its service life, but it may have to in case of a specific malfunction.
An Air Conditioner Doesn’t Use Up Refrigerant
The reason people sometimes believe an air conditioner will need a refrigerant “refill” is that they’re equating refrigerant with fuel as if it were like the gas in a vehicle. But an air conditioner doesn’t run off refrigerant; it runs off electricity. Refrigerant does a different job: it’s the heat transfer medium that allows an air conditioner to remove heat from inside the house and then expel it outside.
The way refrigerant does this process of heat exchange is that it moves between liquid and gaseous state. The refrigerant starts in the compressor, where it’s changed into a hot, high-pressure gas. It moves through the outdoor condenser coil where it condenses and expels heat. The cooled gas moves through an expansion valve, which lowers its temperature below freezing and changes it into a liquid. The cold refrigerant goes through the indoor evaporator coil, where it removes heat from the air to provide cooling. The now warm liquid refrigerant moves to the compressor and the cycle starts over.
Here’s the important thing to know about this process: the refrigerant never dissipates as it goes from liquid to gas and back again. The AC will use the same amount of refrigerant for its entire service life, which is known as its charge.
An Air Conditioner Can Lose Refrigerant Through Leaks
Unfortunately, refrigerants can leak out of an air conditioner. Leaks can happen because of corrosion, physical damage to the outside condenser, amateur repair mistakes, poor installation, or a factory fault. Loss of refrigerant isn’t merely an inconvenience that will make an AC less effective—it puts the entire air conditioner at risk of breaking down. An AC unit is designed to use a specific refrigerant charge. Anything more or less alters the pressure through the air conditioner and will eventually cause the compressor to burn out.
Watch For Signs of Refrigerant Leaks
If you notice your AC is no longer keeping you as cool as it once did, or you hear bubbling or hissing noises coming from it, it may be losing refrigerant to leaks. You must have professionals repair the problem. Call our technicians and they’ll inspect the AC to locate the leaks. When they’ve found the leaks, they’ll seal them and then recharge the air conditioner to its factory-set charge. (A common mistake amateurs make is putting in too much refrigerant, and this is as bad as too little.)
When in doubt about your AC’s performance, always rely on our expertise. We’re here to see you have the best possible indoor cooling.
Boone’s Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. serves the North Dallas Metroplex. Contact us today! We have emergency service available.