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7 Signs Your Air Conditioner is Leaking Refrigerant

Refrigerant is a substance that plays a vital role in heat exchange and cooling process your air conditioner goes through every time you turn on the thermostat. From its home in the compressor, it absorbs heat from its surroundings and evaporates into a gas in order to make the air cooler, before it is pressurized back into a liquid for the next cooling cycle. When refrigerant leaks occur, your air conditioner won’t be able to do its job and cool your home effectively. Here are seven signs that your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant.

1.      The air conditioner is short cycling

Short cycling is the official term for an air conditioner that turns on, off, and back on after a short amount of time.  An air conditioner that’s short cycling will fail to complete a normal cooling cycle, leaving the home feeling warmer and stuffier than you want it. Short cycling also wastes an enormous amount of energy, which you’ll see reflected in the form of higher energy bills. Because it has potential to cost you more in the long run, and risk permanently damaging vital components like the compressor, short cycling is a problem that should be fixed as soon as possible.

2.      Warm air is blowing from the air conditioner

When your air conditioner blows hot air, something’s going wrong during the cooling cycle. Hot air indicates that the air conditioner doesn’t have enough cooling power, and one cause of this is refrigerant leaking from the compressor. Since other problems can cause decreased cooling, it’s important to have a technician provide an accurate diagnosis. When it comes to timely repairs and high quality work, you can trust Hays Cooling, Heating & Plumbing to get your system back up and running as it should.

3.      The air conditioner is making hissing noises

Air conditioners aren’t always quiet, but certain noises can be a sign that something’s wrong. Refrigerant leaks occur when holes and cracks develop in the coils that circulate and distribute the refrigerant. When air blows through those holes and cracks, you may notice an audible hissing noise coming from your air conditioner. If the leak is especially large, you may notice a loud gurgling noise instead.

4.      The thermostat is malfunctioning

The thermostat can be linked to the control center of your HVAC system. It’s where your inputs dictate how long the system runs, and what temperature it reaches. Refrigerant leaks make it harder for your system to respond to the thermostat’s commands and execute a cooling cycle correctly. But, other problems can also cause a thermostat to malfunction. To determine what’s causing your thermostat woes, start by resetting the thermostat.

There are two ways to reset your thermostat. The first is to go straight to your home’s main circuit breaker and flip the breaker that controls the thermostat from on to off. The other is to reset the system by setting the thermostat to 85 degrees. After about 30 minutes, turn the temperature down to 60 degrees to kick start the system and make it start cooling again.

If the system turns back on and cold air starts flowing, then it’s safe to assume the reset fixed the problem. If not, then you may be experiencing a refrigerant leak.

5.      The evaporator coil is frozen

Did you know your air conditioner can freeze, even during high temperatures? When refrigerant levels are very low, evaporator coils can’t absorb enough heat, causing them to freeze. Ice can often be seen on the evaporator coil, and sometimes puddles of condensation can accumulate on the floor around the indoor unit itself. If the leak is large enough, the refrigerant lines that serve the outdoor unit can freeze as well.

6.      Your energy bills are higher than usual

It’s always good to keep a close eye on your monthly energy bills. Some variance is normal, especially in the heat of the summer when you can expect to pay more. But, a sudden increase with no discernible cause could mean that your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant. Less refrigerant means less cooling power, which means your air conditioner has to work harder and run longer to reach your desired temperature. This uses more energy, which you’ll end up paying for at the end of the month. If your energy bills look abnormal for any reason, it’s best to work with an HVAC technician to get to the bottom of it. You’ll save money, and energy,  in the long run if the problem is fixed quickly.

7.      It takes a long time for your home to cool down

When temperatures are high, having a cool and comfortable home is important. If your home takes an uncomfortably long time to cool down, a refrigerant leak may be compromising your air conditioner’s ability to do its job. You may also notice that the air feels more humid than usual. Along with cooling the air, your air conditioner is responsible for removing moisture from it as well. A refrigerant leak compromises both the cooling and dehumidifying abilities of an air conditioner.

Along with refrigerant leaks, your home may be taking a long time to cool down due to actions you’re taking without realizing it. Using the stove, oven, or other large appliances can make the home warmer and impact your air conditioner’s ability to cool down the room. Also, keeping your blinds open during the day can create a greenhouse effect within the home, so it’s best to keep them closed when the sun is at its brightest.

Think you’ve got a refrigerant leak? Call the experts at Hays

Refrigerant can’t simply be “topped off” like oil in a car’s engine. A technician will need to identify and repair the leak before adding refrigerant according to manufacturer specifications. This is referred to as “recharging” the system. If you think you’re dealing with a refrigerant leak, it’s important to leave your system in good hands. At Hays, we strive to provide superior customer service and results we can be proud of. From repairs to routine maintenance, our experts know air conditioners inside and out. Contact us or schedule service online to get started.

About the Author

Chris Hays

Founder of Hays Cooling, Heating & Plumbing

Chris and Stacia Hays, are the owners of Hays Cooling, Heating & Plumbing; a family owned and operated HVAC company in Phoenix founded in 2001 that services both commercial and residential customers. Chris leads a team of certified technicians who have over 45 years of combined experience and has earned and A+ rating with the BBB and a strong five star rating online. Hays Cooling and Heating focuses on providing support to their customers every step of the way, with exceptional service and competitive prices. If you are looking for top-notch air conditioning and heating service, contact Chris or Stacia today.