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Understanding Air Conditioning Refrigerant


In a perfect world, an air conditioner should never need more refrigerant. Unlike a car, which consumes gasoline to run, air conditioning refrigerant circulates throughout your home’s HVAC system providing you and your family with a cool and comfortable inside environment during those hot and muggy Jacksonville days.

When does refrigerant need replacing? If your air conditioning unit’s refrigerant continually needs to be topped up, it’s generally due to a leak somewhere in the system. That’s when it’s time to call in an HVAC specialist to get to the bottom of things.

Air Conditioning Refrigerant Basics

Refrigerant exists in either a fluid or gaseous state. When used along with compressors and evaporators, it provides air conditioning for your home by absorbing heat from the indoor environment. The refrigerant in air conditioning units is located inside copper coils. As the refrigerant absorbs the indoor air’s heat, it transforms from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid. When the refrigerant enters your outside unit, a fan blows hot air over the coils and exhausts it to the exterior.

Signs Your Systems Has a Leak

There are several ways an air conditioner might develop a refrigerant leak.

  • Older AC units often wear down and the older parts leak.
  • Long-term, extended use can knock components loose, which allows leakage.
  • Natural disasters can damage a unit.

How do you know if your A/C unit is low on refrigerant? Aside from the telltale sign of not getting any cool air, these conditions might also exist:

  • A condition called short cycling occurs when your system isn’t able to finish a full cooling cycle which typically lasts about 15 minutes. If your system runs for less time, it’s likely not having any effect on the inside temperature.
  • Low refrigerant makes it difficult for the unit to effectively cool the air passing over the evaporator coil. That in turn causes the coil’s exterior and refrigerant lines to ice over. This is a serious problem and the unit should be inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
  • When your A/C unit works harder due to low refrigerant, you’ll likely notice higher energy bills.

Is it Time to Upgrade Your HVAC System?

Many air conditioning refrigerant leaks can be repaired, but there comes a time when you just have to replace the unit. Some units age out. Others have multiple malfunctioning components that either can’t be replaced or are too expensive to repair. Also, if your unit is older, it’s possible the refrigerant in it is R22, an outdated, environmentally hazardous product. In that case, you’ll likely need to upgrade your unit, as the new, approved refrigerant, R410A, is not compatible with the parts in R22 units.

One of the smartest ways to prevent refrigerant leaks and other HVAC system problems is to schedule regular preventative maintenance to measure and test airflow, clean or replace filters, coils, and fan blades, and inspect and adjust motors and ductwork.

Whether your unit has a refrigerant leak problem or you’re ready to explore upgrading to a new model air conditioning unit for your Jacksonville, FL home, get in touch with David Gray Heating & Air today.