There are many components that allow your air conditioning system to do its job. One of the essential elements is the refrigerant that moves from the compressor and through the two sets of indoor and outdoor coils. Without refrigerant, there isn’t cooling for your home.
This probably isn’t new information for you. But we find that most homeowners don’t know much more about refrigerant beyond the basics. This is why we sometimes hear questions like, “When will my AC run out of refrigerant?” and “When should I top-off the AC’s refrigerant?”
Unfortunately, some less scrupulous people who pose as “HVAC technicians” often spread misinformation about air conditioners and refrigerant refills. We’re here to give you the truth that will help you understand your air conditioning in Mount Pleasant, SC.
Refrigerant is not a fuel
This is the mistake people most often make when thinking about refrigerant. If they think of refrigerant as a fuel source for the air conditioner, something that “creates cooling,” then it sounds sensible that the AC will eventually use up the refrigerant and need more.
But refrigerant is not a type of fuel and an air conditioner doesn’t consume it as it runs. Your home’s AC already has an energy source: electricity. Refrigerant doesn’t power the air conditioner. It’s a medium of heat exchange that allows the air conditioner to move heat from inside the home to the outside.
The simple explanation of how refrigerant works is that it’s a chemical blend that can change easily between liquid and gaseous states. As it evaporates (liquid-to-gas) it absorbs heat. As it condenses (gas-to-liquid) it releases heat.
At no point in the switch between modes does the refrigerant dissipate, as it’s inside a closed system of copper loops. It picks up the energy necessary to change modes and move around the AC inside the compressor, where electricity powers the motor to put it under pressure.
The big takeaway: under normal conditions, your air conditioning system will keep the same refrigeration amount (referred to as the AC’s charge) for its entire service life.
Refrigerant can be lost and will need to be replaced
Yes, an air conditioner will occasionally need to have more refrigerant put into it (i.e. recharged). This only happens if there are leaks in the AC that allow the refrigerant to escape. This is a common repair issue that air conditioners encounter, often after five or more years in service. Scheduling regular maintenance for your AC is the best way to catch this problem early so technicians can repair it. Failing to fix this will eventually cause an AC’s compressor to burn out.
If HVAC experts find that your air conditioner has lost its refrigerant charge, they’ll locate the leaks, seal them, and recharge the refrigerant to its proper level. It’s essential that only professionals do this work, since an air conditioner that gets too much refrigerant (overcharged) will be in just as bad shape as one that has too little.
If your air conditioner is struggling or behaving oddly, low refrigerant is a possibility. Call our techs right away to find the problem and correct it.