This is a question homeowners often have about their air conditioning systems. They know that refrigerant (aka “Freon,” which is a brand name) is an important part of how an air conditioner runs. Without refrigerant, there’s no way for an AC system to cool down a house. But what happens if the refrigerant runs out? And when will it start to run out?
The simple answer: You shouldn’t need to put more refrigerant in an air conditioning system because the AC doesn’t consume refrigerant.
A longer answer is necessary, because it helps explain how air conditioners operate and the times when refrigerant will need to be added.
Refrigerant Isn’t Fuel
An air conditioning system uses refrigerant to run—but it doesn’t run on refrigerant. The power source of an air conditioner is electricity coming from a home’s electrical system. This is the energy the air conditioner uses up, drawing on more and more to convert it into mechanical power to run the fans and compressor.
Refrigerant, on the other hand, is an energy transfer medium rather than an energy source. It’s what allows an air conditioner to absorb heat from the indoors (cooling the air) and release it outdoors. Refrigerant goes through a process of evaporation and condensation to carry about the heat exchange. The refrigerant doesn’t dissipate as it does this, so the charge of refrigerant in an air conditioner (i.e. how much refrigerant is put in the AC when it’s installed) should last for the entire service life of the system.
There’s an Important Exception, However
We used the word should in that last sentence—because there is an important exception. Although an air conditioner will never start to consume refrigerant, the air conditioner can lose the refrigerant to leaks. Corrosion in an AC can lead to small holes opening up along the refrigerant line that allows the chemical blend to escape. This is a major issue: not only does a drop in refrigerant cause a loss of cooling power, an air conditioner is designed to run at a specific charge and will break down at a lower one.
When an air conditioner loses refrigerant because of leaks, it requires professionals to fix the problem. They’ll seal the leaks, and afterward replace the lost refrigerant to restore the original charge. (It’s important to restore the factory-set charge and not put in more refrigerant necessary. An overcharged air conditioner is also in danger of breaking down.)
We want to stress that you won’t ever need to put more refrigerant into your air conditioner—because if your AC ever needs to have refrigerant replaced, only licensed professionals are permitted to do the work. Not only do they have the equipment and knowledge, but they also have the licensing required to handle refrigerant.
Think Your AC Is Losing Refrigerant? Call Our Professionals!
If your central air conditioning in Clearwater, FL isn’t living up to expectations, is making a hissing sound from its cabinets, or has developed ice along its coils, it needs repair experts to see if it’s leaking refrigerant. You can depend on our repair professionals to have the problem solved.
Balanced Air, Inc. has served the Tampa Bay Area since 1988. Reach us for 24-hour emergency AC repair work.