How Did My Air Conditioning System Develop Refrigerant Leaks?

We have talked before about one of the more common malfunctions in an air conditioning system: refrigerant leaks. Many homeowners run into this problem with their ACs and call us to fix it. But there’s something we didn’t talk about previously, and it ties into a question that many people have once they discover their air conditioner is leaking refrigerant: Why did these leaks start in the first place?

The answer is an interesting one.…

Copper refrigerant lines, formicary corrosion, and formaldehyde

We first have to point out that an air conditioner that begins leaking refrigerant is rarely the fault of the owner. Even the finest air conditioning system that receives regular maintenance can fall prey to this problem. (In fact, high-efficiency air conditioners may be a bit more prone to it.)

The reason that most refrigerant leaks start is something called formicary corrosion. In most air conditioners, the refrigerant lines are made from copper, the same as the pipes in your home. Copper is a corrosion-resistant metal, which makes it ideal for an air conditioner. But there is a specific type of corrosion that can damage it, and it comes from formic acid developing along the refrigerant lines. This formicary corrosion is almost impossible to detect until it causes holes to open up along the copper surfaces and leak refrigerant. Because high-efficiency ACs use narrower copper refrigerant lines to help with faster heat exchange, they may succumb faster to this corrosion than older power-draining systems.

But wait… formic acid? Where did that come from? The answer is the formaldehyde in a home’s air. This chemical is a common pollutant inside homes today, and it leaves formic acid along surfaces such as copper. Some air purifiers can lower formaldehyde levels, but it’s hard to eliminate all of it.

Although you may not be able to prevent formicary corrosion, you can detect it early thanks to routine air conditioning maintenance from professionals. It’s better to have technicians find small leaks before they can cause larger damage than to find out about the leaks when the AC starts to fail or frost appears on the coils.

To schedule air conditioning repairs or maintenance in Nashville, TN, call Mid-State Air Conditioning and Heating.

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