If your AC has stopped blowing cold air, is blowing warm air, or is simply not cooling as effectively as it used to, you might have a Freon or refrigerant leak that requires repair. You need to call the San Antonio HVAC experts at Service First Air Conditioning and Heating at (210) 521-1500. We can assess your air conditioning system for refrigerant leaks and get your unit back to blowing cold air. Putting off refrigerant leak repair can wind up costing you a lot more down the line, so don’t delay!
There’s nothing more dangerous than an AC unit that stops working in the midst of a San Antonio summer. All homeowners and small business owners with commercial units should know the signs of a refrigerant leak in order to minimize the damage that such a breakdown can cause. Here’s what you need to know about AC refrigerants, the signs of a leak, and the potential fixes.
What is AC Refrigerant?
The refrigerant (also called Freon by some people) in your AC unit is a type of coolant that plays a vital role in its ability to cool your home or office. All air conditioning units contain refrigerant inside their copper coils, which is how it is able to cool your home down to the temperature you set it to from the thermostat.
How Does Refrigerant Make Cool Air?
The refrigerant draws heat from the air indoors, compressing the low-pressure gas in the process. It then moves through the AC unit’s coils and cools down; as it cools, it transforms into a high-pressure liquid. As a liquid, the refrigerant absorbs heat from the exterior of your home or business and brings cool air inside. The refrigerant then cools down, returning to a gaseous form and beginning the cycle again.
The term Freon has come to be used by many to indicate any HVAC refrigerant, though Freon is a specific gas that is being used less and less out due to environmental concerns.
How Often Should I Recharge Freon or Coolant in my Home AC Unit?
AC refrigerant should never need to be topped off or recharged unless there is a leak. There are only two reasons for a low refrigerant level in your AC system: either it wasn’t properly charged during installation, or you have a leak.
It’s a common misconception that the refrigerant level in your air conditioner will naturally diminish over time, but it’s simply not true. In a properly installed system that is functioning correctly, the refrigerant level should not change over time. When your AC unit is functioning properly with no leaks, it will not use up any refrigerant. The refrigerant instead constantly cycles between your HVAC system’s outdoor and indoor units without reducing in level. That’s why any reduction in the amount of refrigerant in your AC unit is almost always a sure sign of a leak.
5 Key Signs of an AC Refrigerant or Coolant Leak
- Your AC is Not Cooling Down to the Right Temperature
- Hot Air is Coming Out of Your Vents
- Your AC Unit is Making a Hissing Noise
- The Evaporator Coils are Frozen
- Your Electric Bill Went Up Suddenly
While lower refrigerant levels can signal a leak, few people check this regularly. Instead, indirect signs of a refrigerant leak are more likely to alert you to a potentially serious problem with your AC unit. Here are five common signs to keep an eye out for.
- Your home takes longer than normal to cool.Since it’s the refrigerant in an AC system that takes away hot air from inside and delivers cool air in return, lower levels of refrigerant can lead to less efficient cooling. Without enough refrigerant in your HVAC system, it will take much longer for your system to cool down the indoors. Frequent trips to the thermostat to lower the temperature are a related sign of a leak.
- Hot air is coming out your vents.As we noted above, it’s the refrigerant in an AC unit that produces cool air. Hot air coming out of your HVAC system’s vents–or just air that isn’t as cold as you expect it to be–is a potential sign of an AC refrigerant leak.
- Your indoor AC unit is making hissing sounds.Almost all refrigerant leaks are caused by cracks, holes or punctures in the unit’s copper coils. Refrigerant leaking out of these holes can cause a hissing sound. You’re more likely to hear this noise inside the building or close to the condenser unit outside, depending on where the leak is. Larger leaks can also cause a gurgling sound. The only way to fix the cracked bronze, unfortunately, is to replace the evaporator coils.
- Your AC unit’s evaporator coils are frozen.As the refrigerant moves through the evaporator coils, it absorbs heat from inside your home or business. Lower refrigerant levels due to a leak mean that the coils absorb less heat than normal. This can result in the condensation that naturally accumulates on the copper coils to freeze. (It’s important to note that evaporator coils should be cleaned regularly. Left unaddressed, it can lead to even bigger repair issues.)
- Your electric bill has suddenly increased.The natural response to an AC unit that isn’t cooling as well as it should is to crank up the thermostat or run the system for longer. Both courses of action can lead to higher utility bills. If your bill is much higher than at the same time in the previous year, it may be a sign of a refrigerant leak.
Potential AC Coolant Leak Fixes
- Recharge Freon or AC Refrigerant.
- Replace Cracked Coils
- Repair Holes or Hairline Cracks
Some HVAC service technicians may suggest simply refilling the refrigerant in the unit, but that is only a temporary band-aid fix. If you opt to recharge freon in a leaky unit, it will probably end up costing you more money in the long run. If you can’t afford the cost of replacing the coils, ask your contractor about financing options.
Home Warranty and Manufacturer Warranty Coverage
While HVAC parts are usually covered under manufacturer or home warranties, Freon and labor usually aren’t. This may tempt homeowners to simply recharge the system every few months just to get through the hot season (about 9-10 months out of the year in San Antonio!). Unfortunately, by the time you get around to fixing the part that is leaking, the warranty may have expired, so you’re now on the hook for the entire cost of the new part and there’s no recouping all the money you sunk into just recharging the system.
A trustworthy Service First technician will use state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to find any holes or cracks using leak detection equipment. This will identify where the leaks are located so you know where you’re losing cooling power. It will also identify whether the refrigerant is leaking indoors, which could be a health concern. Your technician will recommend your options and help come up with a plan to get your system back in top shape.
What Should You Do if You Suspect an AC Refrigerant Leak?
If you really want to avoid an AC refrigerant leak, schedule HVAC maintenance service. Especially if your HVAC unit uses Freon as its refrigerant, exposure to any leaking fluids can pose a danger to your family’s health. That’s why it is critical that you call a Service First repair technician as soon as you suspect an AC refrigerant leak. Our HVAC professionals will inspect all refrigerant lines for any leaks and can help walk you through your options.
Schedule Diagnostic Exam for AC Freon Leak
If your HVAC unit is exhibiting any signs of a coolant leak, we highly recommend that you schedule a diagnostic exam. We’ll come out to your house or business anywhere in the greater San Antonio TX area and give you an honest estimate for repairs. Call (210) 521-1500 now to request service.