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When Do I Need to Put More Refrigerant into My AC?

Posted on: June 27, 2016

The above is a question that HVAC technicians sometimes hear from homeowners, and it comes from a common misunderstanding about how air conditioners (as well as other refrigeration equipment) works. People are often aware that an AC uses a chemical blend called refrigerant, or Freon (a trademarked name used for many different blends) in order to supply a space with cooling. But refrigerant isn’t something that needs to be “refilled”—unless there’s a serious malfunction with the air conditioning system, and in that case the only person who should put more refrigerant into the AC is a trained professional who’s licensed to handle these chemicals.

The truth: refrigerant is not a type of fuel

The basic misunderstanding people have about refrigerant is that it is a type of fuel. But it isn’t! Fuel is an energy source that a device consumes in order to power it. What is the energy source for an air conditioner? If you answered, “electricity,” you’re 100% correct. This is what the air conditioner consumes in order to run. The electricity goes to the motors that power the compressor, and the compressor transfer energy to the refrigerant.

What refrigerant actually does

Refrigerant is the heat exchange medium for the air conditioner. It travels through the system, absorbing heat from indoors by evaporating, and then releasing heat to the outdoors through condensation. The refrigerant doesn’t dissipate or become “used up” as it switches between liquid and gas form. If the AC doesn’t suffer from a malfunction, the refrigerant level—which is known as its charge—will remain the same through the system’s life.

Refrigerant leaks

The one time when you’ll need to have more refrigerant put into your AC is if the system develops leaks along the refrigerant lines. When you detect that the air conditioner is losing cooling power or you hear a hissing noise from it, call for professional repair technicians. They’ll locate the leaks, seal them, and then recharge the refrigerant to its proper level (making sure not to put in too much, which will damage the AC).

Bud Matthews Services is here to help you with air conditioning services in Durham, NC.

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