5 Signs Your Home’s AC Is Low on Refrigerant

May 27, 2017

Refrigerant (sometimes called Freon) is the lifeblood of your air conditioner. 

Without it, your AC can’t cool your home. And because it’s so important, most air conditioner manufacturers ship their new ACs with exactly the right amount of refrigerant. 

The good news is that refrigerant doesn’t need to be “filled up” like a car. So, ideally, your AC should always have the same amount of refrigerant as the time you first installed it.

But because of wear and tear, your AC can lose refrigerant due to leaks. So If you’re low on refrigerant, you know you have a leak

You’ll know your AC is leaking refrigerant if you see these 5 signs:

  1. Air coming out of vents isn’t cold

  2. AC runs all day without cooling your home

  3. Expensive energy bills

  4. Hissing/bubbling noise

  5. Frozen AC

 We’ll go into more detail about each of these signs and what you should do if you have a refrigerant leak.

Sign #1: Air coming out of vents isn’t cold

Refrigerant absorbs heat from your home’s air, so if there isn’t enough refrigerant, that means the air coming out of your vents will feel warm.

Sign #2: AC runs all day without cooling your home

Air conditioners are obedient: when you set the thermostat to a certain temperature, they’ll keep running until they reach that desired temperature. 

But if your AC has a refrigerant leak, your system will run all day (or for longer periods) without cooling your home.

Sign #3: Expensive energy bills

As your air conditioner struggles to cool your home nonstop, the AC will consume more energy. More energy consumed = higher energy bills.

Sign #4: Hissing/bubbling noise

Most refrigerant leaks are small. But if you have a larger leak, you’ll be able to hear a hissing or bubbling noise when your AC is running. That noise is caused by refrigerant escaping from one of the refrigerant lines. 

  • A hissing noise means the refrigerant is escaping in a gas form.

  • A bubbling noise means the refrigerant is escaping as a liquid.

Sign #5: Frozen AC

Believe it or not, ACs can and do freeze, even when it’s hot outside. And when they do, it means something isn’t working right. 

Low refrigerant can cause 2 parts of your AC to freeze: 

  1. Evaporator coil: Your AC’s evaporator coil is found in your indoor unit (usually located in the attic). Insufficient refrigerant causes pressure in your AC to drop, which lowers the temperature of the refrigerant even more. The colder refrigerant freezes the condensation on the coils, so it will cover the evaporator coil in ice.

  2. Refrigerant lines: If you have a serious leak, you’ll notice that the refrigerant lines leading to your outdoor unit are frozen.

Learn more about problems that cause your AC to freeze.

What to do if you have a refrigerant leak

Step 1: Call a professional

A refrigerant leak is NOT a DIY repair: Only a licensed professional is certified to handle refrigerant and repair a leak. 

Here’s why: Refrigerant is a dangerous substance that could cause severe health problems if you’re exposed to it in large doses. Plus, repairing a leak is a complicated process that only a trained professional should handle.

Step 2: Avoid this costly refrigerant scam

Unfortunately, there are some “professionals” who will try to scam you by saying, “Your refrigerant is low, and it needs to be recharged (or refilled).”

A red light should go off in your brain when you hear those words. Unless the technician mentions a leak, that’s a scam.

Here’s why: Like we explained before, you can’t have low refrigerant levels without a leak somewhere. If a technician charges you to refill your refrigerant and doesn’t look for or fix any leaks, they’re just setting you up for another refrigerant refill.

What’s the problem with that, you ask? Well, the problem is that refrigerant is expensive. In fact, with older types of refrigerant, it could cost as much as $50 per pound (your home requires 5–15 pounds). Constantly refilling refrigerant every few months is a HUGE expense.

On the other hand, an honest technician will do the following:

  1. Remove all refrigerant from the system (called “evacuating the system”)

  2. Find and fix leaks

  3. Test to make sure the leak is properly repaired

  4. Refill your AC with the right amount of refrigerant

Think you have a refrigerant leak?

Contact Red Cap Air for a trustworthy refrigerant leak inspection. We’ll follow the steps outlined above to make sure you won’t be without cool air this summer.

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