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What Causes Refrigerant Leaks in an Air Conditioning System?

One of the more common repair problems that an air conditioning system might encounter is refrigerant leaks. The refrigerant in an AC, as we’ve discussed before, does not dissipate during operation. The air conditioner should use the same amount of refrigerant (referred to as its charge) for its entire service life. The exception is when leaks start. When an air conditioning system loses refrigerant through leaks, it will result in frozen coils, a drop in cooling power, and possibly a burnt-out compressor.

But what causes leaks to start in the first place? The answer to that is an interesting one.

The culprit behind refrigerant leaks

Loss of refrigerant charge in an AC almost never occurs because of lose connections or anything that the owner did. The most common cause is formicary corrosion, which is a kind of corrosion that affects the copper refrigerant lines. Copper is often used for piping because it is corrosion-resistant. However, it cannot resist this specific type of corrosion, which is caused by formic acid across the copper surface. Formicary corrosion is hard to detect; usually it is only noticeable after it has weakened copper to the point where small holes have developed along it.

But where is this formic acid coming from? The answer is formaldehyde, which is a common chemical found in the air of homes. It is difficult to eliminate formaldehyde completely from a house, although there are some air cleaner and air purifiers that can help.

There is no simple method to prevent formicary corrosion in your air conditioning, since it is hard to detect in its early stages. The best way to protect your AC from refrigerant leaks is to make sure that it receives regular maintenance from experienced professionals. During the air conditioning system’s annual maintenance check, a technician will look for locations where refrigerant might be escaping; this way you can have the problem stopped early before it can create much larger problems for your AC.

Purl’s Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning offers air conditioning repairs in Fresno, CA. We are on call 7 days a week.

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