This is a misunderstanding we often run into with customers: the idea that the refrigerant that circulates through an air conditioning system must be regularly “refueled.” (The actual correct term is “recharged,” because, as we’ll discuss below, refrigerant isn’t a fuel.) The truth is that as long as your central air conditioner doesn’t have leaks along the refrigerant line or at any of connection points, it should never need to have any more refrigerant added to it. The amount of refrigerant in it when it’s installed should work for the rest of the system’s service life.
Refrigerant isn’t an energy source
The first thing to know about refrigerant is that it isn’t the source of the energy an air conditioner uses to run. I.e. it’s not a fuel that the air conditioner consumes as it runs. (An air conditioner runs on electricity.)
So what if refrigerant isn’t an energy source, what is it and why is it important to the AC? It’s the medium that allows the air conditioner to move energy, specifically thermal energy … heat. Refrigerant is a blend of chemicals that is able to easily shift between liquid and gaseous states, absorbing and releasing heat as it changes from one state to the other. Along the indoor evaporator coil, the refrigerant evaporates and absorbs heat from the air, which is why the indoor air cools down. The refrigerant then travels through an outdoor coil where it condenses and releases heat. This process is called heat exchange, and it’s the basic way that refrigeration equipment of any kind operates. The refrigerant doesn’t dissipate as it goes through this process, so the amount of refrigerant in the system when it’s installed—known as the AC’s charge—will remain the same.
Refrigerant loss does happen, however
There are two cases where refrigerant needs to be added to an AC. The first is if the air conditioner was improperly installed and the system was undercharged from the start. If you have a new AC and it isn’t doing the cooling job it should, undercharged refrigerant might be the problem—especially if the system wasn’t put in by trained professionals. (This is one of the many reasons to only trust licensed HVAC technicians with installation work.)
The other case, which is more common, is an older AC that has started to leak refrigerant. Corrosion along the refrigerant lines can lead to tiny leaks allowing the high pressure refrigerant to escape. When this happens, you may hear a hissing noise from the AC. Other signs of the problem are a drop in cooling capacity, ice developing along the indoor coils, and the compressor struggling to start.
Never delay calling for AC repairs when you suspect refrigerant leaks. Technicians will seal up the leaks and then add the right amount of refrigerant to the system to restore its original charge. They’ll make sure not to overcharge the system, which will also cause problems.
Whenever you need repair service for your air conditioning in Hoboken, NJ or elsewhere in the Tri-State area, you can count on our technicians to take care of the job. We have 24-hour emergency service for those times when you need your cooling back ASAP!
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