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Why Does My Air Conditioner Need Refrigerant?

hvac-technician-recharging-refrigerantNow, don’t misinterpret that headline. We don’t mean to suggest that your air conditioner needs refrigerant like a car needs gasoline. However, that’s exactly how most homeowners assume it works! But this leaves them vulnerable to some shady practices from less than reputable HVAC contractors.

Don’t worry, though. We’ll clear up all the misconceptions and tell you everything you need to know about refrigerant.

Refrigerant Is Like Blood, Not Gasoline or Oil

We don’t mean to be morbid with our analogies, but it’s much easier to understand how refrigerant works when you think of it like blood in the human body.

The right amount of blood is circulating in our body at any given time. If we lose large quantities of blood, then we need to have it replaced as soon as possible. Likewise, your AC requires just the right amount of refrigerant, otherwise, it won’t be able to do its job. If a leak causes refrigerant to escape from the system, then it will cause big problems.

Refrigerant is not like gasoline or oil in that it doesn’t deplete over time, nor does it need to be regularly changed. If someone tries to sell you refrigerant recharges as a routine HVAC service in Riverside, then you should consider calling another technician.

When Will Refrigerant Actually Be Low?

Now, just because an HVAC technician tells you that your refrigerant is low doesn’t mean you should lift them by their belt loops and toss them onto the sidewalk. There are a couple of cases where your refrigerant might be low:

  • It was never charged properly in the first place. This means that your system has always been low on refrigerant, due to a mistake by the technician who installed it.
  • A refrigerant leak can gradually diminish the amount of refrigerant in your system. But if this is the case, your technician should immediately be talking about fixing the leak! A leak is the only explanation for a continuous loss of refrigerant.

How Do I Know There’s a Refrigerant Issue?

Without any obvious symptoms, the first sign of a problem usually comes from seeing a sudden increase in your energy bill. A loss of refrigerant will directly compromise your system’s efficiency, and that leads to higher energy usage.

If your refrigerant was never charged properly in the first place, you won’t have a reference point to compare it with, so a general maintenance check can solve that problem for you.

Aside from that, there are a few concrete signs that indicate a refrigerant problem:

  • Frozen evaporator coil (located in the AC’s indoor unit).
  • Reduced airflow or warm air coming from the vents.
  • Tiny bubbles found forming on the refrigerant line. This would indicate a pinhole leak.
  • Depending on the size of the leak, you may hear gurgling or hissing sounds.

If you suspect a refrigerant leak, make sure to have it inspected immediately. It can eventually lead to your compressor burning out, and that won’t be cheap to have replaced.

Do you need your AC inspected? Contact RKM Heating and Air Conditioning today to schedule a service.

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