What should you do if your refrigerant level is low?

November 1, 2023
What should you do if your refrigerant level is low?

Why Low Refrigerant in Your Air Conditioner Is a Problem

When it comes to maintaining your central air conditioner, the refrigerant level is one of the most important factors to keep an eye on. Knowing when to call a professional for a refrigerant recharge will help you avoid being caught off guard when your home is suddenly no longer cool and comfortable.

When your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, it loses the ability to transfer heat from inside your home to the outside. This means that the air that is blown over your AC coils will no longer cool properly, so your vents will start to circulate warm air through your home. If low refrigerant is to blame for poor cooling, your air may start out cool but gradually get warmer as the AC runs.

What Can Go Wrong When the Refrigerant Is Low?

Frozen evaporator coil.
When the refrigerant charge is too low, it creates a low-pressure environment within the refrigerant lines, causing the external temperature of the evaporator coil to drop below freezing. When it fails to warm up again, the remaining refrigerant will stay unreasonably cold and moisture will freeze along the coil.

Broken compressor.
The compressor, often referred to as the heart of the air conditioner, is responsible for raising the temperature and pressure of the vapor refrigerant that escapes the evaporator coil. This is to create the pressure difference needed to convert the refrigerant into a hot gas that will circulate throughout the system. It’s important to understand that the compressor is designed for a specific charge. If there’s not enough refrigerant, the compressor will overheat and burn out.

Reduced cooling.
When the refrigerant level is too low, the air conditioner won’t be able to absorb enough heat through the indoor coil each cycle, leading to an obvious cooling problem inside the house. In more severe cases, the unit won’t be able to produce any cold air at all, potentially causing warm air to blow from the supply vents instead.

Increased indoor humidity.
When there’s a reduced refrigerant charge, the humidity level in the house will naturally increase. High levels of humidity can cause all sorts of health risks, so it’s best to schedule regular air conditioning service visits to prevent them.

High energy bills.
If you haven’t made any significant changes to your home’s temperature settings but your energy bills are still skyrocketing, you may have a refrigerant leak. This means your unit will have to operate longer and harder in order to sufficiently cool your home. A longer runtime directly translates to increased energy consumption and therefore greater costs.

Noisy operation.
Most times, a hissing or bubbling sound coming from the outdoor air conditioning unit or condenser is an indication that there’s a refrigerant leak. If you hear hissing, this usually means the compound is escaping in its gaseous state. If you hear bubbling, on the other hand, the compound is probably leaking in its liquid state.

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