Signs Of A Central AC Refrigerant Leak
A key component of any central AC unit is the refrigerant. It goes by many names, such as Freon, but it all serves the same purpose – to cool the air. Refrigerant cycles through the air conditioner in a closed system, so you may never need to replace it. Problems occur when there is a leak and the refrigerant slowly dribbles out. The following are a few signs of low refrigerant, along with what you can do about it.
Sign #1: Poor cooling
If your home isn't cooling down as quickly as it used to, then low refrigerant could be the cause. First, make sure that the filter is clean in the AC, then check that all windows are closed and that the vents are open. Finally, double check the thermostat. If everything checks out and the AC is running but the house isn't cooling down, then you may need to have the refrigerant levels checked.
Sign #2: Icy outdoor condenser
The condenser unit outside houses the AC's evaporator coil. This is what the refrigerant flows through. When the refrigerant level drops too low, the inside of the coil becomes too cold and the condensation on the outside of the coil begins to freeze. This leads to the unit icing up visibly on the exterior. Depending on the extent of the icing, damage can happen to the motor and fans if they can't turn due to the ice. If you notice icing, promptly turn off the unit and allow it to thaw before performing any further troubleshooting.
Sign #3: Hissing noises
A refrigerant leak makes a very obvious sound, similar to the hissing sound of air escaping a pinhole in a blown-up balloon. Wait until the motor and blower isn't running, and then listen to the outside unit for this noise. If you hear this sound and your unit is no longer cooling sufficiently, then chances are that you have a leak.
What can you do?
Unfortunately, fixing the problem isn't as simple as adding more refrigerant. A leaking unit poses an environmental hazard and topping it off will just allow the problem to continue. Instead, a repair technician, like one from HomeSmart From Xcel Energy, will need to fix the leak, which may require the replacement of the entire evaporator coil unit. Then they will be able to add more refrigerant. Depending on the age of your AC and the reasons for the leak, they may also recommend that it is time to install a new central AC unit.