The Dangers of Low Refrigerant in an AC

technicians-evaluate-air-conditioning-systemAs we move into the warm weather here in Texas, it’s time to start paying close attention to how the air conditioners in our homes are running. If they’ve received regular maintenance, they should be in good shape. (Sign up for our Service Efficiency Agreement if you haven’t had your spring AC maintenance yet.) But troubles can still crop up as the heat rises, and one situation to be cautious of is when an air conditioner starts to lose its refrigerant.

Under normal circumstances, the amount of refrigerant set in an air conditioner when it was installed (known as its charge) will remain the same for the system’s entire life. An AC doesn’t consume refrigerant, it cycles it. But leaks in the refrigerant lines or coils, or loose connections, can cause refrigerant to escape and the charge to drop—and that’s a big problem.

What Can Go Wrong Because of Low Refrigerant

The chemical refrigerant used in air conditioners (today it’s a blend known as R-410A) is vital for heat exchange. But it’s also vital for the components to run correctly. When the refrigerant charge drops, it can mean both a loss of system function as well as actual damage to the system:

  • Less cooling power: The most immediate and noticeable problem due to a loss of refrigerant charge is that an AC cannot draw as much heat out of the air. The air conditioner will struggle to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  • Frozen evaporator coil: Why would a coil freeze with less refrigerant? It’s because the refrigerant can’t draw sufficient heat through the coil to warm up. The remaining refrigerant stays too cold, and that means moisture on the coil will freeze and further reduce the AC’s cooling power.
  • Overheated compressor: This is the biggest danger of loss of refrigerant charge. The compressor is designed to handle a specific refrigerant amount, and if it drops, it can lead to the compressor overheating. A fried compressor is an expensive fix, and often it’s easier to replace the entire air conditioner.

How to Tell Refrigerant Is Low

Unless you’re an HVAC professional, you can’t open up your AC and make a determination of its refrigerant level. Instead, you must look out for warning signs of the trouble. Some you can tell from reading the above problems with a drop in refrigerant charge, such as reduced cooling power (often starting as hot spots around the house) and ice appearing over the evaporator coil. Other indications to look out for are hissing noises coming from the cabinet and a compressor that is short-cycling, i.e. turning on and off rapidly over a short period of time. Even if low refrigerant isn’t behind these warning signs, they mean something is wrong, and it will require HVAC technicians to repair it.

If you believe your AC has lost some of its refrigerant charge, get in touch with our Corpus Christi, TX air conditioning repair technicians. Only professionals are qualified to handle the refrigerant used in ACs today. We offer 24-hour emergency service for when you need assistance right away to keep your house cooled down.

Justice Air Conditioning & Heating Is Your Air Conditioning Expert in Corpus Christi, TX and the Surrounding Areas.

Comments are closed.