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Low Refrigerant in a Heat Pump Is a Danger in Winter as Well!


Refrigerant leaking out of an air conditioning system is one of the more common AC troubles, and it requires professional repair work right away.

Here in winter, however, you may not think that you need to concern yourself with refrigerant at all. If you use a heat pump, it’s easy to think that loss of refrigerant won’t affect your comfort. It’s refrigerant after all—it’s supposed to keep things cooled down, and what you need during the winter is heat.

But this is a misunderstanding of both refrigerant and how heat pumps run. If a heat pump loses refrigerant during the winter, it will have just as serious consequences as during the summer.

What Refrigerant Actually Is… And Does

Refrigerant is a chemical blend that can easily make the transition between liquid and gaseous states, i.e. evaporation and condensation. There are many different blends of refrigerant, but the type used in new heat pumps and air conditioners is called R-410A, which doesn’t cause ozone depletion. (It is replacing R-22, which is set to be completely phased out by 2020.)

Because refrigerant shifts easily between gas and liquid form, it’s effective at heat exchange. This is the movement of heat from one place to another. This is the key thing to know about refrigerant: it doesn’t create cold, it moves heat. If refrigerant evaporates indoors, it draws thermal energy from the air, making the air feel cooler. It then releases that heat elsewhere through condensation.

The Heat Pump and Refrigerant

A heat pump uses refrigerant the same way an air conditioner does, with one important exception. The heat pump’s compressor places refrigerant under pressure so it moves around the indoor and outdoor components, removing heat from inside and releasing it outside. But the heat pump can also reverse this direction and remove heat from outside and release it inside.

So a heat pump operates almost identically to an AC when in heat mode—it’s just swaps the roles of the indoor and outdoor coils. Refrigerant is vital to the heating process, and any loss of refrigerant can put the system in jeopardy.

It’s Not Just the Danger of a Loss of Heating

A drop in the refrigerant level (known as a heat pump’s charge) will make it harder for the heat pump to provide warmth indoors. But this isn’t the only problem, or even the worst one. A heat pump is designed to work on a specific charge, and if it drops, it can mean devastating problems for the system. Coils will freeze over and the compressor can overheat. This might even lead to needing to replace the whole heat pump.

Should you notice a drip in heating power from your heat pump, or you hear a hissing noise or see ice on the coils, contact repair professionals immediately. For repairs for your heat pump in Wake Forest, NC, you don’t have to look far for help. We have skilled HVAC technicians waiting to come to your assistance. They’ll find the refrigerant leaks, seal them, and recharge your heat pump.

Comfort Master Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. offers comfort from our family to yours!

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