We’re glad you’re asking this question, because understanding refrigerant and how it works inside an air conditioner is an essential part of understanding when an AC may need to have repairs.
The short answer to “When do I need to put in more refrigerant?” is “Never.” Because
- you shouldn’t need to replace refrigerant because the AC doesn’t use it up, and,
- even in the event of a loss of refrigerant because of leaks, you must have licensed professionals handle the job of putting new refrigerant in.
Let’s take a look at both these points to give a fuller answer to the question.
1) An Air Conditioner Doesn’t Consume Refrigerant
Or, to be it another way, “refrigerant is not a fuel or energy source.” An air conditioner doesn’t run on refrigerant the way a car runs on gasoline. What does an air conditioner run on? That’s right, electricity.
So what is refrigerant? It’s a chemical blend that allows for the movement of energy from one location to another. Specifically, thermal energy. Heat. Refrigerant is manufactured so that it can easily shift between liquid and gaseous state, absorbing heat and releasing heat as it does so. Heat absorption through evaporation occurs in the indoor unit of the AC, and heat release through condensation occurs in the outdoor unit. The refrigerant isn’t lessened as it moves between these two states: it remains at the same amount, known as its charge, inside the refrigerant lines and coils. As long as no leaks occur in the refrigerant lines, the charge will remain the same for the system’s service life.
2) Refrigerant leaks need professional repair service
Unfortunately, refrigerant leaks are one of the more common types of air conditioner malfunctions. Any lessening of the refrigerant charge puts the AC in danger of many different problems. We’ve already written about one of them, which is ice developing along the evaporator coil and a general decline in cooling capacity as a result. But the biggest danger is that the compressor will overheat. The entire air conditioner is designed to handle a specific refrigerant charge, and if it changes the AC will eventually suffer a breakdown.
HVAC professionals solve these problems by locating the leaks with special equipment and then sealing them up. Afterwards, they recharge the refrigerant by adding back in the lost amount. Technicians must have certification to handle refrigerant, and training is necessary to make sure the right amount is put back in. (An AC with too much refrigerant will also be in danger of a breakdown.)
If you suspect your air conditioner is losing refrigerant, call on our technicians for air conditioning repairs in Raleigh, NC. Look for a number of warning signs that this has happened, including: hot spots appearing around the house, ice and frost on the evaporator coil, hissing sounds from the cabinet, and short-cycling (the compressor turning on and off rapidly during a short period of time).
Comfort Master Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. offers 24/7 emergency service to take care of your air conditioner in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.