Simply put, you don’t want to be losing refrigerant from your heat pump. Heat pumps and other air conditioning systems are installed with a set amount of refrigerant in them, and it’s designed to last the entire lifespan of your system. So if you’re losing any, it means you have a leak that needs to be repaired.
For us, not only are heat pumps vital in the summer, but they’re essential in the winter. The refrigerant process is reversed this time of year to provide us with heat in our homes. If you have a leak, you’re about to be unpleasantly surprised by an inoperable heating system.
“Should I really be that concerned? Can a refrigerant leak wait?” These are common questions we get, and we want to stress just why refrigerant leaks are such a big deal. So, read on as we uncover some refrigerant facts.
The Importance of Refrigerant
Do you know how refrigerant functions in an air conditioner or heat pump? Heat pumps do not “generate” coolness or heat in the way that a furnace generates heat (by combusting fuel or using electric resistance). Rather, when you feel cool air coming from your vents in the summertime, you’re feeling the absence of heat. The refrigerant cycle is what allows the heat to be removed from the air.
With a heat pump system, the refrigerant process removes heat from one area and deposits it into another. In the summertime, it draws heat out of the home and expels it outdoors. In the wintertime, it draws heat from the outdoors and deposits it inside.
Why a Low Charge Matters
As you can probably guess, a low level—what we refer to as a “charge” in the HVAC industry—seriously impedes the performance of your heat pump. These systems are designed to work with a specific refrigerant charge, and a low charge doesn’t allow them to function as they should. Refrigerant isn’t consumed like fuel as some homeowners think, but rather recycled throughout the system over and over, in a closed-loop.
If your heat pump is low on refrigerant, it either means it wasn’t properly charged to begin with, or as we mentioned, you have a leak. In either case, you need to have a professional address the problem and fix the leak.
Too many unscrupulous “service professionals” will try to convince you that refrigerant is something that naturally depletes and you’ll need to have it recharged every once in a while. In the meantime, your heat pump will be incapable of keeping you as comfortable as it should, and it will wear down faster since it will have to work so hard to do its job. You’ll very likely find yourself replacing the system far sooner than you should have to.
If you suspect you have a leak or a low charge, the best thing you can do is to call in a trained pro!