Refrigerant is one of the most essential parts of an air conditioner. It is responsible for cooling the air that circulates back into the room, and for expelling the warm air out of the unit. Refrigerant travels through the entire air conditioner, and changes states from gas to liquid and back to gas to cool the air properly.
Refrigerants rarely need a refill as the substance is not consumed by the AC unit as it is used. Adding more refrigerant than needed won't make air conditioners cool more efficiently either, so the only reason to add refrigerant into air conditioners is when the gas leaks out.
Diagnosing a Refrigerant Leak
Refrigerant is used in all air conditioning units, whether it's a window air conditioner or a central AC system. Thus, all models from the simple portable unit and window AC unit to the ducted HVAC system can be susceptible to refrigerant leaks. Here are the most common signs of leaking refrigerant in and air conditioner unit:
#1 Sweet Chloroform Smell
Refrigerant gas does not have a scent on its own, but manufacturers often add scents to the gas as an indicator of a leak. Refrigerants generally smell of sweet chloroform, which is a slightly sweet, chemical aroma.
If you notice this smell, turn your AC unit off immediately, and open your windows. Avoid inhaling the refrigerant gas as this may be harmful to your health. Check the refrigerant gauge to see if the gas levels are decreasing to know whether the smell is coming from your AC unit.
#2 AC Unit Not Working
Refrigerant leaks can cause a number of problems with the AC unit, such as short cycling, warm air conditioner, or an air conditioning unit that won't turn on. To properly pinpoint the refrigerant leak, it is important to have a licensed HVAC technician check the unit.
If the AC unit is not working, and you notice a smell or hissing noise, then the problem is most likely with the refrigerant leak. Unplug the unit, and open the windows to avoid inhaling the leaking gas.
#3 Hissing Noise
Your AC unit may emit a hissing noise as gas leaks out of the refrigerant lines. This is a common symptom of a refrigerant leak with ductless mini split units and window AC units, but may also be present in other models as well.
How to Add Refrigerant to AC Unit
Step 1: Check for Signs of Leaking Refrigerant
Check for the tell-tale signs of a refrigerant leak, such as a unit that blows warm air, the smell of sweet chloroform, a loud, or hissing noise. Check the refrigerant gauge to see if the refrigerant is empty.
Step 2: Turn Off Your Air Conditioner
Turn off your air conditioner, and remove it from its power source for safety. This is to prevent the refrigeration components from breaking, and to avoid further damage to the freon lines. Take all the necessary precautions when handling a refrigerant leak.
Step 3: Contact a Licensed HVAC Technician
Contact an air conditioner repair service to diagnose and fix the leak for you. Refrigerant leaks cannot be dealt with by inexperienced individuals, and will need a trained eye to properly find and fix the leak. The HVAC technician should:
Check the Leak
The technician will check for the source of the leak by adding a brightly-coloured dye. The dye should travel at the same flow as the leaking gas or liquid Freon, presenting the source of the leak. There can be multiple leaks in a refrigerant line, and at this point, the technician should be able to recommend a repair or replacement option to the homeowner.
Patch Up the Leak
The technician will then patch up the leak. If the crack or hole in the refrigerant line is small, then they may patch it up with a special sealant or strong tape. If there are multiple, large leaks in the line, then the technician may opt to replace the refrigerant canister.
Once the leaks have been patched up, the technician will begin pumping Freon. However, refilling refrigerant is not a straightforward method. To ensure proper pressure is maintained between the evaporator coil and the condenser coil, the technician should use the high pressure and low pressure valve, as well as the tap valve for refrigerant regulation.
Step 4: Test Your Air Conditioner
The last step is to test your air conditioner. The technician should do an electronic leak test to make sure that all the leaks have been patched up, and that there is adequate refrigerant in the system. If the system lacks Freon, then the technician should add more refrigerant into the AC unit.
At this step, notice whether there is an improvement in the cooling efficiency of the AC unit. The unit should cool the room faster, and should not short cycle, make noises, or emit smells. Always text your AC unit after repairs to finish off the process.
Air Conditioner Refrigerant Refill Cost
Refrigerants can be expensive at around $100 to $350 each top up. Repairs for refrigerant leaks average $550, but is a more durable and permanent solution to the problem. Scout for the best prices in aircon repairs, and go with AC repair companies with fairly good reputations for quality workmanship.
Where to Buy Refrigerant
Refrigerants can be bought from various suppliers online and in most home improvement stores, but we recommend purchasing refrigerant from a licensed air conditioner repair shop instead. Low-grade refrigerants can be cut with other ingredients, which will damage your air conditioner in the long run, and may emit harmful vapor when in use.
Always stick to quality materials and components when it comes to your air conditioning unit, especially as you expect the unit to last for years to come. Our HVAC technicians at Luce Home will be more than happy to assist you in any aircon needs, and can help you get your AC unit back in good condition.
Give us a call, or send us a message to schedule an appointment!