If you were to cut open your air conditioner’s evaporator or condenser coil, you’ll find a special kind of fluid called refrigerant. You may recognise it from one of your science experiments in high school. This fluid is the main catalytic agent in the refrigeration process, which enables your air conditioner to cool off the warm air circulating in your house.
Conventional refrigerants contain fluorocarbons, particularly chlorofluorocarbons, which are considered hazardous to the environment due to their ozone depletion effects. Thankfully, this type of refrigerant is almost completely phased out. Modern residential air conditioning systems now use refrigerants that contain more environment-friendly concoction, such as hydrofluorocarbons.
Regardless of how safe today’s refrigerants are, they are not to be taken lightly. Handling them requires extra care as they may still pose certain health risks. Therefore, it is crucial to check your air conditioner for refrigerant leak every now and then not only to ensure that your equipment is performing optimally, but also to prevent any hazards to your family and home.
Causes of Refrigerant Leak
The components of an air conditioner are tightly fit together and sealed to prevent refrigerant leak. Therefore, it is safe to say that when a refrigerant leak occurs, one of the components that convey refrigerant may be broken or slackened up. Here are three situations that could lead to that scenario.
The unit is creating too much vibration
Poor installation or when a foreign object is present in the system, unnecessary movement may occur when the air conditioner is running. This extra vibration may seriously affect sections of the air conditioning system that have low shudder tolerance. Over time, the shaking can cause refrigerant to gradually leak from the system
The unit is nearing the end of its life expectancy and its parts are already worn down
Like any other machine, your air conditioner also deteriorates as it ages. All its parts will eventually sustain wear and tear even with regular maintenance. If your unit is already too old, there’s a good chance its parts are already starting to crumble, steadily releasing refrigerant in the process.
Formicary corrosion has significantly damaged the copper in your unit
Many parts of your air conditioner, particularly those that contain and convey refrigerant, are made of copper, and for good reasons, of which the most critical is copper’s high corrosion resistance. In spite of this, copper is not invincible. It has its own vulnerabilities, too. For instance, it is weak against formicary corrosion caused by pollutants from common household products such as hair spray, cleaners, and air fresheners. If you’ve been using these products for a long time, chances are your air conditioner has already sustained major formicary corrosion and its refrigerant must have been leaking from more than one location for a while.
Effects of Refrigerant Leak
Some homeowners make the mistake of treating refrigerant leak in their air conditioners as a simple problem that requires simple remedy. As a result, they fail to identify the dangers it can bring to their home. Here are some of the potential problems you may encounter if you fail to detect and fix your air conditioner leak immediately.
Inefficient Air Conditioning Operation
The amount of refrigerant in your air conditioner is usually just enough to produce the maximum cooling capacity specifically set for the unit’s type and size. There’s no extra supply that can compensate for the reduction caused by a leak. Therefore, any ounce of refrigerant escaping the system also reduces your air conditioner’s cooling power.
Shortened Lifespan of Air Conditioner
Every component or substance that makes up your air conditioner is in harmonious sequence and connection with the rest of the system. Reducing or damaging one may have a domino effect that could destroy the harmony and increase the rate by which the air conditioner is deteriorating.
Perhaps the most horrific effect of refrigerant leak has to do with your family’s health. While today’s refrigerants may be safe for the environment, they are not safe for the human body. Inhaling refrigerant vapour could result in a number of life-threatening issues, such as difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, fluid build-up in the lungs, and seizures.
How do you fix a leaking air conditioner?
Although time is of the essence when it comes to dealing with an air conditioner leak, you first need to calm down and familiarise yourself with the proper and safe way on how to stop air conditioner from leaking. Unlike other air conditioning issues, this may require more complex fixing techniques. In most cases, you will need to call in a technician from a certified HVAC company like Port City Air Conditioning to do the job just to be safe.
If the leak is caused by cracks or holes on the evaporator or condenser coils, you may need to solder to patch the damage before resupplying the system with fresh refrigerant. In case the damage is too severe, replacing the entire evaporator or condenser coil may be the only solution. To carry out the replacement safely and successfully, the system must be cleared of the old refrigerant as well as other types of contaminants.
There are commercially available refrigerant recharging kits that you can purchase and use but those may only be applicable in situations where major repair isn’t required. To make sure that your attempt to fix the refrigerant leak will not do more harm than good to your air conditioner, better leave the job to the experts. Not only do they have the right set of tools for each leak problem, but they also have experienced hands, which are critical in performing all the tricky steps in the repair. Whether the leak is occurring in your ducted or split system air conditioner, they can definitely handle it with care.
Contact the team at Port City Air Conditioning Sunshine Coast today to organise professional repair of your leaking refrigerant.