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Cool Touch Air Conditioning and Heating Blog

The Refrigerant Leak: Why It’s Bad News for Your AC


You probably know that refrigerant is an important part of how your central air conditioner keeps your home cooled down during a roasting Arizona summer. If you don’t know more about it, that’s fine—not everyone can be an expert on refrigerant systems. That’s why you have professionals like us around. We’re here to see you have expert service for your cooling system when you need it. We offer 24/7 emergency air conditioning repair in Tempe, AZ, and throughout the Phoenix Metropolitan Area from NATE-certified technicians.

However, we would like to share some information about refrigerant because understanding refrigerant leaks will help you know why calling for repairs ASAP is essential. Fixing refrigerant leaks is an easy job for us—and the consequences of letting leaks go without repairs are often catastrophic.

Refrigerant Is not a Fuel

First, let’s clear up a common misconception people often have about air conditioner refrigerant: it is not a form of fuel. The air conditioner doesn’t “use up” refrigerant to run. Its source of energy is electricity. The air conditioner circulates the same amount of refrigerant from the time it was installed until the day it’s replaced. Unless there are leaks.

The role of refrigerant an air conditioner is to carry out heat exchange. The refrigerant shifts between liquid and gaseous state to absorb heat from inside the home and then release it outdoors. It never dissipates during this process, remaining at the same amount, or charge.

The Danger of Losing Refrigerant

Because an air conditioner has a set charge of refrigerant, losing any of it puts the performance of the system in jeopardy. Yes, the air conditioner can start to lose its cooling capacity when the charge drops. But this isn’t the worst problem that can happen.

The entire AC is designed for a specific charge and refrigerant pressure. If those levels change, the whole system is in jeopardy. One of the common problems that starts up because of leaking refrigerant is a frozen evaporator coil. Because there is less cold refrigerant moving through the evaporator coil, the coil will not be able to absorb as much heat from the air. The remaining refrigerant won’t warm up and instead stay below-freezing. This will cause moisture along the coil to freeze—which further blocks heat absorption. The moment you see ice on the evaporator coil, call for technicians to see what’s wrong.

The part of the air conditioner that is in the most danger from leaking refrigerant is the compressor. The compressor is the heart of the AC, the place where energy is applied to the refrigerant to change its pressure and make it circulate through the rest of the system. When the refrigerant level is too low, the compressor will start to overheat. Eventually it will burn out, and the air conditioner will deliver no cooling at all. Replacing a burnt-out compressor is expensive, and often it’s more cost-effective to replace the entire air conditioner instead.

Stay alert for signs your AC isn’t working right, then call us for assistance. If you’ve got refrigerant leaks, we’ll seal them and restore the refrigerant charge to its proper level.

Call Cool Touch Air Conditioning and Heating when you need AC help. Kick back and relax—we’ll keep you cool!

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