One of the most common questions that HVAC contractors get about refrigerant is, “how often does it need to be refilled?”
The answer might surprise you, though—it’s “hopefully, never!”
No, AC refrigerant shouldn’t need to be refilled on a regular basis. This is actually a common myth among homeowners, that refrigerant is something that depletes over time, sort of like gasoline does from a car or an oil-powered appliance in your home. This just isn’t the case with refrigerant, however, which continuously cycles through your cooling system or heat pump, transferring heat rather than generating it like other types of heating systems do.
Read on to learn more about this heat transfer fluid!
Refrigerant Should Last Your Air Conditioner’s Entire Lifespan
In an ideal world, this will be the case. Of course, there is always a chance that at some point, you might need a refrigerant refill—known as a recharge. But if you do, it’s because you have a leak in the system, which needs to be repaired.
The source of the leak must be accurately located by a trained and experienced professional, so that we can adequately repair it and ensure the problem doesn’t just continue to repeat itself. When your air conditioner leaks refrigerant, it can lead to a host of problems, including:
A Loss of Cooling:
When leaks happen in your refrigerant line, your cooling system’s output will drop along with it. Eventually, the refrigerant level in your system will decline to a point that it causes your air conditioner to completely break down.
If you notice less cool air coming from your system, or even less airflow, then you should call for professional repairs right away. We might be looking at an air handler problem rather than a refrigerant problem. However, the only way to tell for sure is with thorough examination.
So, what if the problem isn’t necessarily the power of the air coming from your vents, but the fact that you feel lukewarm air coming from your vents? Well, when there is too little refrigerant in your air conditioner, it puts a large amount of stress on the entire system, and you could wind up doing pretty serious and irreversible damage to the compressor.
Ice Forming on the Evaporator Coil:
During the refrigerant process in your cooling system, fluid shifts from a gaseous to a liquid form, where it is placed under intense pressure before entering the evaporator coils. There is a valve that releases an exact amount of refrigerant into the coils, where the refrigerant then shifts back to gaseous form. As this all happens, it pulls heat from the nearby air, cooling it in the process.
But if you have a refrigerant leak, ice or frost will form on the outside of the evaporator coil. This ice serves as an insulating barrier between the refrigerant and the air that it is meant to cool, meaning your cooling system has to work even harder to do its job—until the problem gets so severe that the air conditioner cannot do its job at all.