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Does Your Air Conditioner Have a Refrigerant Leak?

outdoor-ac-unitWhen the heat of summer is back in full swing—and it really gets swinging around here—you need your air conditioner to do more than step up to the plate. You need it to hit one right out of the park, time and time again, again the weather finally cools down once more. Unfortunately, the fact is that even the best air conditioning systems on the market will run into trouble eventually.

Investing in great air conditioning equipment, having your system professionally installed, and scheduling routine maintenance will definitely keep your system repair needs to a bare minimum. Considering the high demand for air conditioning in Farmington, NM, though, it should come as no surprise to hear that no system is 100% reliable. Of the various problems that you may encounter, the refrigerant leak definitely ranks as one of the most troubling.

First of All, What’s Refrigerant and What’s It Doing?

Okay, so it really doesn’t make much sense to be telling you how serious a refrigerant leak is if we’re not first explaining what refrigerant itself is, as well as why it is so vital to the overall cooling process. Refrigerant is a heat transfer fluid, and without it, your air conditioner would truly be useless. While swamp coolers do not use refrigerant in their operation, split central ACs, heat pumps, and ductless mini splits all require it.

Basically, refrigerant is evaporated in your indoor coil (the evaporator coil) in order to draw heat out of the air outside. Once it has, the warmed refrigerant then travels outdoors to the condenser coil in the outdoor unit. There, as it is condensed, it releases its heat into the air outside. The cycle is repeated over and over until desired temperatures in your home are met.

So What Happens If It’s Leaking?

It is important to realize that refrigerant is not consumed by an air conditioning system, like the gas in a car. It is recycled throughout the system over and over again, in a closed loop.  That means a low charge means 1 of 2 things. Either your system is leaking, or it was improperly charged to begin with. The latter is very, very unlikely if you had us install your system. But what can you expect if your system is leaking refrigerant?

  1. Increased cooling costs. If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, it is going to have to work harder than it should in order to remove heat from your home.
  2. Short cycling. That added strain can overwhelm the system and cause it to overheat. In a show of self-preservation, the system may shut down in order to protect itself, resulting in short cycling. This adds more strain to the system, as it has to restart again and again.
  3. Ice on the evaporator coil. You may not see this, but it is a big problem. You may notice water around the indoor unit as the ice thaws.  The evaporator coil gets cold enough for condensation to freeze, creating an insulating barrier that makes matters worse.
  4. Compressor failure. Or, as it’s otherwise known: time for a new AC! Do not continue to run a system that is low on refrigerant. We are not exaggerating when we say that it can result in catastrophic, irrevocable damage.

Schedule your AC repair services with Robbins Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. Don’t waste your time with the run-around. Give us a call and let us do it right the first time!

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