The Problems of Leaking Refrigerant in an Air Conditioning System

One of the essential parts of an air conditioning system that allows it to keep a home comfortable during hot weather is refrigerant. This heat transference fluid shifts easily between liquid and gaseous states, which allows it to absorb heat from the indoors through evaporation and then release the heat to the outdoors through condensation. Most modern air conditioners use a non-combustible refrigerant blend called R-410A, sometimes trademarked as Puron.

Refrigerant is at a set level in an air conditioner (known as the AC’s charge) that shouldn’t lower during the system’s lifetime. The process of evaporation and condensation does not cause the refrigerant to dissipate. However, it is possible for an AC to lose its charge through leaks in the refrigerant lines (which can corrode due to exposure to some household chemicals) or loose connections. When that happens, it can lead to a number of major consequences for the cooling system:

  • Drop in cooling power: The less refrigerant circulates through an air conditioner, the less heat it can absorb from a home and then release.
  • Frozen evaporator coil: Although it may seem strange that less refrigerant means a coil that freezes, a coil with frost on it is one of the major warning signs of refrigerant loss. Because the coil can no longer absorb the amount of heat it used to, the remaining refrigerant stays too cold, leading to moisture freezing along the coil.
  • Short-cycling: Reduced refrigerant levels will throw off the air conditioner’s cooling cycle, causing it to short-cycle and drain power. This will also put heavy stress on the components.
  • Burnt out compressor: This is the largest danger from leaking refrigerant. Not only will the compressor be under more stress, but the lack of refrigerant will keep it from cooling down and risk causing it to burn out. A burnt out compressor often requires that the entire air conditioning system be replaced.

At the first indication that your AC is losing refrigerant, call on Mid-State Air Conditioning and Heating in Nashville, TN. We will take care of the air conditioning repairs necessary to seal the leaks and recharge the refrigerant to its proper level.

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