There are many problems out there that people see as “minor”… and it’s true, some are more relatively minor than others. But when it comes to your air conditioner, there’s no problem you just want to brush off without having a technician at least look at the system. A refrigerant leak is absolutely no exception.
Refrigerant is literally what makes your cooling system’s job possible.
And if you have reason to believe that you have a refrigerant leak in your AC system, then you need to schedule a service call right away. The longer you wait, the greater risk there is of serious damage occurring to your air conditioner—likely to your compressor, which is the heart of your cooling system. But how do you know you have a refrigerant leak?
Signs of a Refrigerant Leak
If your air conditioner is losing refrigerant, it will struggle to function as it should. You might have a refrigerant leak if you notice any of the following signs. Keep in mind that some of these are symptoms of other air conditioner problems, so whatever the cause is, you should talk to an HVAC pro right away.
- Your air isn’t coming out as cool as it should be. Take note of whether it’s that the air isn’t cooled or its low airflow. Low airflow might be resolved by something as simple as changing out your air filter—it should be swapped out or cleaned every 1-3 months during HVAC system use.
- Your system is short-cycling (turning on and off rapidly). Is this occurring immediately after installation? This, unfortunately, means your system is too big for your home.
- Your energy bills have spiked for no clear reason. Compare them to what you paid this time last year, and what your neighbors are paying. If your current bills are significantly higher, it’s a definite sign that something is causing the system to behave inefficiently.
- You hear a hissing or bubbling noise coming from your AC. You’re actually hearing refrigerant escape, either in liquid or gas form.
- You notice ice forming on the coil or the refrigerant line itself. Don’t try to remove this on your own as you can do more harm than good.
Refrigerant leaks are one of those things you don’t want to let go on too long without repair. Not only does this waste energy (and money), you are paying more for less from your AC. Plus, running a cooling system that’s low on refrigerant can result in irreversible compressor damage.
Compressor damage, as we alluded to above, in many cases means you have to replace your entire system.
Don’t Believe the Myth
There’s a myth about air conditioning refrigerant—many homeowners believe that refrigerant is something that needs to be refilled (what those of us in the HVAC industry call recharged), on a regular basis—during every maintenance appointment.
Considering we recommend maintenance each year for the standard air conditioner, this would be way too long if you had refrigerant line damage. Upon installation, your air conditioner is supplied with enough refrigerant to ideally last its entire lifespan.
So, no, if you’re losing refrigerant, it’s not normal. You have a leak, and as we stated above, it needs to be repaired.