Not only can you not add refrigerant to your air conditioner on your own, but you should never have to! Air conditioners are either factory charged with the right amount of refrigerant before being shipped out to retailers, or they are charged at the time of installation in a dry charge scenario. Because refrigerant is not consumed by your air conditioner at any point in the system’s operation, a low refrigerant charge means that it was either charged insufficiently at the factory—highly unlikely—insufficiently charged by your installation technician—not if you worked with us!—or you have a leak.
Unfortunately, that last point is the one that most homeowners run into. A refrigerant leak is one of the most serious air conditioning problems that you may encounter with your system. Not only will a low refrigerant charge put your comfort and your budget at risk, but continuing to run an air conditioner that is low on refrigerant can result in severe damage to your system. Given the opportunity, it can even ruin your compressor. In such cases, a full AC replacement is usually the result.
What Function Does the Refrigerant in My Air Conditioner Serve?
A vitally important one. Without refrigerant, your central air conditioning system would literally be useless. Refrigerant is a heat transfer fluid. It is able to change its physical state with ease, from a gas to a liquid, and back again. When refrigerant is evaporated in the evaporator coil, it draws heat out of the air passing over that coil. That refrigerant then goes outdoors, where it is compressed and releases its heat. The cycle continues until desired temperatures are met in your home.
How Do I Know if I Have a Leak?
If you suspect that you have a refrigerant leak, you need to schedule prompt HVAC services with qualified professionals. Before you can do that, of course, you need to recognize that you have a refrigerant leak, to begin with. This is where the “good” news comes in. While a refrigerant leak is a serious problem, there are actually quite a few warning signs that can tip you off to such a leak in your system.
- Your home just is not cooling down like it used to. Because the entire cooling process hinges on refrigerant’s ability to remove heat from the air in your home, it only makes sense that a low refrigerant charge will leave your home feeling less comfortable than it used to.
- Your system is running in short bursts. If your air conditioner is struggling to keep up with your cooling demand due to a low refrigerant charge, then it can overheat. The system may wind up short cycling as a result, attempting to avoid damage by giving itself a cooldown period.
- There is ice on/in the system. When you have a low refrigerant charge, the evaporator coil and even the refrigerant lines themselves can start to freeze up. You may notice frost on the lines, or a casing of ice on the evaporator coil due to condensation freezing upon it. If you do, or if you notice water dripping out of the system, contact us right away.