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A Beginner's Guide to Refrigerant

Frequently Asked Questions About Refrigerant Answered

Refrigerant or coolant is the substance behind many modern inventions such as the freezer, the refrigerator, and, of course, the air conditioner. It absorbs heat to cool off the air going into a home and releases the heat back outside. This is the basic principle of refrigeration, but it doesn’t help the average person with everyday air conditioning problems. Hopefully, this article will provide a bit of understanding about how the average homeowner should deal with coolant or refrigerant.

Does It Matter Which Refrigerant a System Uses?

Simply put, yes, the type of refrigerant does matter. Using the wrong refrigerant can cause damage to an air conditioning unit. If a home has an older unit (one built before 2010), it is likely filled with R22 refrigerant, or Freon, which is no longer in production due to its being harmful to the environment. This is not necessarily hazardous because refrigerant works in a closed system of coils and does not need to be replenished unless repair is needed. 

However, if there is a leak, it might be impossible to find R22. Alternatively, if it is available, it would likely be prohibitively expensive. With a unit that is more than ten years old, replacement is the best solution.

Why Do Refrigerant Leaks Happen?rust

Since refrigerant operates in a closed series of coils, what causes the coils to leak? Of course, there are multiple answers to this question, but they all boil down to the same answer: wear and tear. Normal entropy will cause a breakdown of the coils and the release of the refrigerant. A few specific examples include the following:
  • Rust
  • Corrosion
  • Accidental puncture
  • Physical damage
  • Exposure to acidic substances

Though this may be a practically inevitable process, professional HVAC technicians do have solutions to even this problem.

What Are the Signs of a Refrigerant Leak?fridgerant

How will a homeowner know when there might be a refrigerant leak? The signs are fairly easy to identify and include:
  • Lack of Cooling: The first sign most homeowners notice is that the temperature within the home is getting past the point of comfort. A thermostat will usually verify this theory.
  • Frozen Coils: If homeowners investigate their HVAC unit, they may see ice on the coils. This is a clear sign that there is a coolant leak.
  • Bubbling or Hissing Sounds: Sometimes, the refrigerant makes audible sounds when it is escaping. Obviously, this would be coming from the unit itself.
  • Constant Cycling: If the AC is turning on but does not seem to be getting any cooler, it is a problem.

A word of warning, though: homeowners may be able to identify the problem, but fixing it is another matter entirely. A person without the proper training should never attempt to repair coils or replace refrigerants. This can be detrimental not only to the AC unit but to the person attempting the repair. 

About Air Comfort Service, Inc.

For more than 50 years, Air Comfort Service, Inc. has served residential and business customers in the Greater St. Louis Area. Their commitment to being on the cutting edge of new technology and to the rigorous training of their technicians make them the company to call for any HVAC services.