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How Leaking Refrigerant Affects an Air Conditioning System

air-conditioner-unit-being-repairedOne of the more common problems that affects residential air conditioning systems is refrigerant leaks. An AC is designed to work with a specific amount of refrigerant, known as the system’s charge. The AC doesn’t use up the refrigerant as it runs, so under ideal circumstances, the refrigerant will remain at the same charge for the life of the system.

But circumstances are rarely ideal. Leaks can occur along refrigerant lines because of corrosion, and this will allow the refrigerant to escape. When the charge of an air conditioner drops, it will have negative effects on the AC, eventually leading to a complete breakdown. Below are the main ways refrigerant loss affects an air conditioning system.

Ice on the Evaporator Coils

This may sound strange at first. Why would losing refrigerant cause the coil to become too cold and freeze over? The problem is that a lower amount of refrigerant means less heat absorption. When refrigerant enters the indoor evaporator coil, it can be as cold as 10°F, far below freezing. But as the refrigerant moves through the coil, it draws heat from the air and warms up past freezing. If there is too little refrigerant, it won’t draw enough heat and will remain below freezing. The cold causes the moisture along the coil to turn to ice. If you see ice along the indoor coil, call for HVAC technicians right away, since you probably have refrigerant leaks.

Loss of Cooling Capacity

When enough refrigerant has escaped from the air conditioning system, the cooling capacity will decline. This is because very little heat exchange is occurring between the indoor and outdoor coils. Loss of refrigerant can explain why an AC isn’t doing the job you normally expect from it.

Damage to the Compressor

Most dangerous of all to an air conditioner is the damage a drop in refrigerant will do to the compressor. The refrigerant cools down the electric motor housed inside the compressor, and if there isn’t enough, the motor will overheat. At first, this will trip a circuit breaker, and eventually the motor will burn-out entirely—and the compressor must be replaced. This is an expensive repair, and for an older AC systems it’s often more cost-effective to have the entire system replaced.

Call for HVAC Professionals If You Suspect Refrigerant Leaks

As soon as you notice symptoms of refrigerant loss—or anything else about your AC system that doesn’t seem right—call for air conditioning repair in Fresno, CA from licensed professionals. Along with the warning signs mentioned above (iced over coil, tripped circuit breaker, loss of cooling), you may also notice a hissing sound from the air conditioner’s cabinets.

If your air conditioning system has leaks, professional HVAC technicians will locate the leaks and seal them up. Afterwards, they’ll recharge the air conditioner with the correct amount of refrigerant. (Too much refrigerant is as destructive to an AC as too little, which is why you must never allow an amateur to recharge the cooling system.)

You can trust to our experienced air conditioning repair technicians to have whatever is wrong with your cooling system fixed fast and right.

Fix your malfunctioning air conditioning system with a call to Purl’s Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning. Quality Is the Cornerstone of Our Success Since 1952.

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