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Why Refrigerant Leaks Are Bad (Really Bad) for Your AC

compressor-in-ac-unit

Refrigerant is the life-blood of an air conditioner. If there’s no refrigerant, there’s no cooling. Pretty simple. But many people who have central air conditioners aren’t certain of what refrigerant does and why it’s so essential. Although we don’t expect all homeowners to be HVAC experts (we’d be out of a job then!), a bit of education about refrigerant can help people understanding what happens when an air conditioner starts to lose refrigerant to leaks.

Leaking refrigerant is always a reason to call for professional air conditioning repair in Indianapolis, IN. Below we’ll explain why these leaks can mean seriously bad news for your air conditioner—it’s more than just losing out on cooling.

What Refrigerant Does in an AC

It’s a common misconception that refrigerant is the fuel an air conditioner runs on. An air conditioner will eventually run low on refrigerant and need to have it “refueled.” But this is incorrect: refrigerant is not fuel or an energy source. An air conditioner has one energy source: electricity.

The refrigerant is a heat transference medium. Which means it’s responsible for the movement of heat from inside your house to the outside. It does this by changing between liquid and gaseous states, evaporating in the indoor coil, condensing in the outdoor coil. As the refrigerant moves between these states, it doesn’t dissipate. Unless an air conditioner has leaks, its original refrigerant level (called its charge) will remain the same for the lifetime of the unit.

What Happens When Leaks Occur

Unfortunately, leaks are a common problem in air conditioners, even the best. Chemical reactions in the air can cause small leaks to start on the copper lines and let the high-pressure refrigerant gas escape. When this happens, the air conditioner’s charge starts to drop and creates multiple problems.

You might think the main problem with losing refrigerant is that an AC would see a decrease in its cooling capacity. That will happen, but it isn’t the most urgent problem. A loss of charge puts the entire air conditioner in danger of a system breakdown. This is because an AC is designed for a specific refrigerant charge, and when the charge drops, pressure in the unit changes and endangers components.

The part in the most jeopardy is the compressor, which is the powerful mechanical component that puts refrigerant under pressure to change it into a gas and then move it through the full heat transfer cycle. Without a working compressor, the AC is nothing more than a large fan. With a lower refrigerant charge, the compressor will eventually overheat and its motor to burn out. A burnt-out compressor must be replaced. Because a compressor replacement is expensive, it’s often recommended to have an entirely new AC put in instead.

Fortunately, repairing a refrigerant leak and recharging ACs back to their original refrigerant charge is a basic job for our technicians. But you must make sure you call us as soon as you notice anything wrong with the air conditioner. The sooner we’re on the job, the less damage the AC will suffer.

Your Comfort Is Vital! So when you need help with your air conditioning in Indianapolis, call on Vital Heating & Air.

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