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Speaking of Copper: Watch for Refrigerant Leaks from Your AC!

Posted on: May 2, 2017

In yesterday’s blog post, we took a closer look at why copper is ­the metal of choice when it comes to plumbing systems. But copper isn’t only popular for plumbing pipes. It’s also a key part of heating systems and air conditioners. The air conditioner that provides cooling to your house has many key components made from this ductile, durable, and safe metal.

There’s one component we’re going to take a close look at today, the refrigerant lines, where copper is both a blessing—and sometimes a curse.

Refrigerant leaks in an air conditioner

Copper isn’t perfect, no matter how many great benefits it provides. It’s the best available metal for transporting refrigerant around an air conditioning or heat pump system because copper is thermally conductive and can handle the high temperatures of the refrigerant when it changes into hot gaseous form and easily absorbs heat from the outside when the refrigerant is in cold liquid form. Copper also is corrosion resistant, giving the refrigerant lines a long service life.

But… corrosion-resistance doesn’t mean copper will never corrode. There are specific types of corrosion that can affect copper. One of these is corrosion from formaldehyde in the air, and unfortunately formaldehyde occurs in homes from a number of personal care and cleaning products. An air conditioning system that is around 4 to 5 years old is in danger of suffering from corrosion along its refrigerant lines, and this may allow refrigerant to leak. The consequences of this for the AC are enormous: a drop in cooling power followed by iced-over coils and eventually a failed compressor.

If you notice a cooling power decline in your AC, hear a hissing sound from it, or notice ice on the indoor coil, you may have a system losing refrigerant. A professional HVAC repair technician will need to find the leaks and patch them up, then recharge the refrigerant. To help prevent the problem from starting in the first place, make sure you always have annual maintenance in the spring for your air conditioning system.

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