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A Guide to Low Air Conditioner Refrigerant

Before the summer season sweeps the Sacramento area, it is best to make sure your home is ready. One prominent issue that impacts both new and older AC systems is low refrigerant levels. The AC service experts at Bonney are here to tell you everything you need to know about refrigerant. 

The Importance of Exact Refrigerant Levels

Every air conditioner requires an exact amount of refrigerant to function properly. Each system is different, and even just 6 ounces off from your required amount will lead to deficiencies in the cool air your system can produce. So how much refrigerant does your AC system need? It will depend on your coil size, system age, brand, design, and other unique factors. An expert will use professional-grade gauges and processes to determine your refrigerant needs.

Low Refrigerant In New Air Conditioning Systems

Did you have a new air conditioning unit installed this winter? Many homes opt for winter AC installations because it beats the season’s rush. You may even find coupons and discounts during the off-season. Nevertheless, you might find your new air conditioning unit working ineffectively once the summer’s heat starts picking up.

Why do these new AC units struggle? When a new air conditioner is installed, your technician determines how much refrigerant your system needs by using gauges to measure pressure and temperature output. However, accurate air conditioner readings require a heat load. In the winter, the pressure and temperature are different from the conditions your AC system works within. As such, these readings often suggest your system needs less refrigerant. Thankfully, the solution here is simple. Your HVAC expert will re-test and refill your refrigerant to resolve your AC troubles.

Leaking AC Refrigerant

Unlike most system components, your HVAC refrigerant is a sealed system. While you might lose marginal amounts of refrigerant over time, it usually does not require a refrigerant recharge unless there is a leak. Let’s take a closer look at air conditioning refrigerant leaks. 

Why does AC refrigerant leak? 

So what causes air conditioner refrigerant leaks? Over time, the metal of your indoor AC coil can rust and corrode. These vulnerabilities are exasperated by your furnace or heating system in the winter. When your furnace releases its warm air, it will cause the refrigerant inside of your AC coil to expand. This expansion increases the pressure inside of your coil, which is ordinarily a low-pressure system. This excess pressure creates small refrigerant leaks at the most vulnerable points of your indoor coil. 

Air conditioner refrigerant leaks: Are they dangerous?

There are usually no safety concerns with indoor refrigerant leaks. Refrigerants can be harmful when inhaled or ingested. However, this can only occur with extended direct exposure to these substances. 

Refrigerants enter a gas state at room temperature. Any leaked refrigerant will evaporate and naturally ventilate out of your home. Most homeowners do not notice these leaks until their system begins working ineffectively during the spring and summer seasons. Nevertheless, for safety reasons, it is best to keep small children and pets away from your HVAC equipment. You should also contact an expert at the first signs of a refrigerant leak.

Can refrigerant leaks be fixed?

Before refilling your refrigerant, your HVAC expert will need to address the source of the leak. Technicians may be able to repair your indoor coil when the refrigerant leak is caught early. Otherwise, your AC repair service will require an indoor coil replacement. 

Signs of Low Air Conditioner Refrigerant

How can you tell when you have a refrigerant leak? Refrigerant is colorless and mostly odorless, making it challenging to detect. Thankfully, there are a few clear signs of low refrigerant that you can keep an eye out for:

  • Continuously running system: Air conditioners should only need to work intermittently to keep your home comfortable. If your AC is running around the clock, this is often the sign of an issue. 
  • Warm home: Is your air conditioner running nonstop, yet your home is still warm? Ineffective air conditioning might be a sign of low refrigerant. This might not be noticeable when you first turn on your AC in the spring. As the temperatures become more severe, your low-refrigerant AC system will not be able to keep up with the weather. 
  • Higher energy bills: As your system works in overdrive to compensate for low refrigerants, you will begin to see this issue reflected in your energy bills.

Do I have a refrigerant leak? Expert insight and service

One of the most reliable indicators of a refrigerant leak is expert insight. An AC service technician will check your refrigerant levels during your annual AC tune-up. They will also clear any blockages that may be restricting your outdoor unit air intake, chemically clean your system, and test each component to ensure that it is working properly. 

If you suspect you may have a refrigerant leak, contact your local professionals to have it inspected. It is best to schedule your air conditioner tune-up as early in the season as possible. An early tune-up will allow you to address low refrigerant before it becomes a problem—instead of waiting for high energy bills and seasonal discomfort. Early tune-ups can also help you avoid peak-season service wait times. 

Bonney: Local Air Conditioning Repairs, Installation, and Service

If you suspect your AC refrigerant is low, Bonney is here for you. We proudly serve the air conditioning repair, service, inspection, installation, and diagnostic needs of the greater Sacramento area. Our service areas include Rancho Cordova, Gold River, Fair Oaks, Carmichael, Citrus Heights, Natomas, Vacaville, Roseville, and beyond. Schedule your AC tune-up with Bonney today for quick, priority service.