How To Tell If Your AC Has a Refrigerant Leak

How To Tell If Your AC Has a Refrigerant Leak

Refrigerant, often referred to as coolant or Freon, is a chemical compound used in air conditioners. The refrigerant’s job is to cool or heat the air coming through the air conditioner so that your home can achieve the desired temperature. Since it plays such a large role in air conditioning, it’s no surprise that an AC refrigerant leak can cause a wide variety of problems. 

Refrigerant leaks can decrease the efficiency and effectiveness of your air conditioner, which can then lead to an increase in your monthly electric bill costs. Additionally, since coolant is a chemical compound, It’s important for homeowners to identify coolant leaks before they cause serious problems. In this article, we’ll teach you how to identify Freon leaks so you can have them repaired as soon as possible. 

If you notice that your AC unit is leaking refrigerant, call the Rockwall air conditioning technicians at Lyons Air & Heat as soon as possible. We can help repair leaks and refill your refrigerant so you can enjoy your time at home. Call us at (214) 432-2859 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced HVAC technicians today. 

What Causes an AC Refrigerant Leak?

A lot of things can cause a refrigerant leak, but first, let’s go over how refrigerant works. Refrigerant runs through copper tubes, called evaporator coils, inside of your HVAC unit, and as your outdoor unit pulls in air from the outside, it passes it over those tubes. The refrigerant absorbs the heat from the outside air, changing the temperature of the air. The coolant is then recirculated through the evaporator coils so it can continue to cool the air over and over again.

When air conditioner refrigerant leaks, the system has less refrigerant to cool the air with, which can make it run less efficiently and cause additional problems. Refrigerant can leak if the tubing is improperly installed, or if the connections and joints between those tubes are loose. It can also be caused by deterioration of the internal metal components and general wear and tear. If the copper tube walls begin to crack, it can cause a refrigerant leak.

Small holes in the tube walls can also cause leaks, often called “champagne leaks,” since they cause the liquid coolant to fill with tiny air bubbles. 

Is a Refrigerant Leak Dangerous?

Yes, a Freon leak can be dangerous. Coolant is a compound that, when inhaled or consumed, can be incredibly toxic to humans and animals and can lead to “refrigerant poisoning.” Symptoms of refrigerant poisoning include headaches, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, confusion, fatigue, and loss of consciousness. Additionally, while rare, holes or cracks in the refrigerant coils can cause them to release fumes, and direct contact with this hot coolant gas can cause chemical burns.

Refrigerant leaks can also be harmful to the environment. The chemicals in Freon are known to generate a large amount of greenhouse gasses, which can damage the ozone layer. If you notice your AC unit has a refrigerant leak, it’s important that you call a trusted HVAC company like Lyons Air & Heat to help repair your system. Our Rockwall air conditioning repair technicians will know how to safely handle coolant leaks to prevent injury and lessen your system’s environmental impact.

How Do You Know If You Have a Refrigerant Leak?

While you may not have the tools to regularly check the coolant levels of your air conditioning system, your AC unit may be exhibiting signs that it’s leaking refrigerant. If you notice your air conditioning system isn’t working properly, you may want to inspect your indoor and outdoor unit for signs of a refrigerant leak.

Signs of Refrigerant Leak

Since a refrigerant leak can be dangerous, it’s important to know the signs of one so that you can stay vigilant and have it fixed as soon as possible. Below are some of the signs that your air conditioning unit may have a refrigerant leak. 

You Notice a Chemical Smell

If you notice a strange, slightly sweet chemical smell near your air conditioner, you may want to have your HVAC system inspected for a refrigerant leak. Some people compare the smell of leaking refrigerant to the smell of chloroform, so if your system begins emitting those kinds of aromas, you should have a professional take a look at it as soon as possible.

Strange Hissing Sounds Coming From HVAC System

When AC units are broken or damaged, they tend to make strange noises. If your HVAC unit is making a hissing sound, it may be leaking refrigerant gas through a hole or crack in the refrigerant coil. If the damage is severe enough, your air conditioner may even make a bubbling or gurgling sound. 

High Humidity Levels

Your HVAC system is designed to cool the air in your home as well as pull moisture out of the air. When a part of your air conditioner is not functioning properly, it may be unable to pull that water vapor out of the air. If you notice that your home has a higher-than-normal humidity level, your air conditioner’s refrigerant may be leaking. Dehumidifiers can help temporarily solve the problem, but your refrigerant leak may only get worse over time, so call a Rockwall HVAC company like Lyons Air & Heat to take a look at your system and diagnose the problem.

Mold or Mildew Growth

When refrigerant leaks from your air conditioner, it can cause more problems than a decrease in cooling ability: it can cause a decrease in indoor air quality. When a coolant leak causes high humidity, it can also cause mold and mildew to grow in your home, decreasing the indoor air quality and potentially causing respiratory issues. If you notice mold growth on the walls and other surfaces of your home, you should check your unit for signs of a refrigerant leak.

Cooling Cycles Take Longer

When an air conditioner has less refrigerant circulating through its coils, it can increase the length of the cooling process. Long cooling cycles could indicate that your AC has a coolant leak.

High Electric Bills

Not only can it cause harm to your physical health, but an air conditioner refrigerant leak can also increase your monthly power bill, potentially harming your financial wellbeing. Refrigerant leaks decrease the efficiency of your air conditioner, and inefficient cooling systems require more electrical power than they should. If you suddenly begin to experience higher electric bills, you may want to have your AC system inspected for Freon leaks.

Frozen Evaporator Coils

Evaporator coils carry the refrigerant through the air conditioner, allowing the refrigerant to absorb heat from the air and cool it down. When an evaporator coil has less refrigerant than it should, however, condensation on the coil can freeze and form ice crystals, which can cause the indoor coil to deteriorate faster than normal. 

Additionally, when the frozen condensation begins to melt, it can increase the amount of water coming through the condensate line, which is made to expel any accumulated condensation. If your condensate line seems to be expelling more water than it used to, your air conditioner may have frozen evaporator coils, which can indicate a Freon leak.

Lack of Cool Air

Low refrigerant levels can cause your air conditioning unit to function less effectively, which can make it impossible for your air conditioner to bring your home to the desired temperature. Texas experiences hot weather throughout a good portion of the year, so when an AC unit isn’t blowing cold air, it can be very apparent. If your system isn’t pushing conditioned air into your home, you should inspect it for a refrigerant leak.

What To Do If You Have an Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leak

If your air conditioner isn’t blowing cold air, is making hissing noises, has a frozen evaporator coil, or is experiencing any of the abovementioned signs of a leak, you should call an HVAC professional right away. A licensed technician will be able to check your refrigerant levels, repair damage to your refrigerant coils, and replace parts damaged by normal wear and tear.

Timely repairs can help prevent your air conditioning system from suffering additional damage, especially in the case of a refrigerant leak. Air conditioners degrade over time, but scheduling repairs and air conditioning tune-ups when needed can help extend the life of your AC unit. This can prevent you from paying for costly repairs as well as prevent you from buying a new HVAC system sooner than you should. 

Additionally, inefficient AC units can increase your monthly utility bill, so scheduling repairs for a suspected air conditioning refrigerant leak can actually save you money over time. 

If You Suspect an HVAC Refrigerant Leak, Call Lyons Air & Heat As Soon As Possible

While Freon leaks may seem like minor issues, they can cause serious health problems as well as increase your monthly electricity bills and permanently damage your evaporator coils. If you notice your air conditioner exhibiting signs of a Freon leak, call the Rockwall HVAC experts at Lyons Air & Heat ASAP. We will examine your refrigerant lines, repair any broken or damaged evaporator coils, and refill your system’s refrigerant levels. 

In addition to serving residential and commercial Rockwall residents, we also provide heating and air conditioning services to communities all across the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Call our experts today (214) 432-2859 to schedule repairs with us today. 

Want to ensure your system runs at peak efficiency year-round? Take a look at our yearly maintenance plan, so we can prevent problems like refrigerant leaks before they happen.


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