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How To Tell If Your AC Unit Has A Refrigerant Leak

How To Tell If Your AC Unit Has A Refrigerant Leak

On a hot and humid South Florida day, we got a call from a customer. Their AC was acting up. The family hadn’t slept much the night before, and you could hear the tiredness in the caller’s voice. While booking a service call, our team asked a few questions to get a better idea of what may be happening. The answers were familiar.

A common problem, especially with older units, is refrigerant leak. Sometimes it leaks out gradually and you only notice when the air isn’t as crisp and fresh as it should be. Other times it goes quickly, and you immediately feel the difference.

Your unit will only cool that South Florida air if there is refrigerant in the system. Getting ahead of a refrigerant leak is vital to keeping you fresh in this glorious part of the world we call home. Spotting a leak isn’t always easy, as refrigerant is a chemical which disappears into the surrounding atmosphere.

To tell if your AC unit has a refrigerant leak use our checklist:

  • Is the AC air cool?
  • Check the air coming from the vents
  • Listen for a hissing sound from the unit
  • Is the electricity bill higher than usual?
  • Look for ice on the coils

Let’s take a closer look at each point.


Is the AC air cool?

The air coming from your unit should be as cold as you want it to be. In our hot climate we like it to be very cool, especially during those muggy, humid nights of the summer. If you find the air isn’t as fresh as it should be, then you may have a refrigerant leak.

Check thermostat, and if it’s at the correct setting, the one you really like, then you have a problem. Refrigerant cools the air flowing through the coils of your AC unit. It the levels in the coils are depleted, then the air will not cool or may take longer than usual to do so.

If you’re still feeling sticky while running the AC, then a refrigerant leak is an obvious culprit.


Check the air coming from the vents

This is a very simple one.

Put your hands in front of the air vents. If the air coming through is warm, then the unit is not working correctly. Drop the thermostat by a few degrees and maybe run the AC at a higher speed.

If the problem persists then you are looking at a refrigerant leak somewhere inside.


Listen for a hissing sound from the unit

With older AC units the coils begin to deteriorate over time. Cracks and holes appear, and the seals may start to wear away with use. In the early stages of a leak you may hear a hissing coming from the coils. Sometimes it is easy to hear, while other times it may be just a slight hiss, which gets lost in the running of the unit.

Turn off all radios, music players and TVs. Get as close as possible to the AC unit. Run it at a standard setting and keep an ear open. If you hear a hissing, it can only be one thing, a refrigerant leak.

If you don’t hear the hissing, you may still have a hole, or the refrigerant may be gone.


The electricity bill is higher than usual

Take a look at your electricity bill.

Is it higher than the same time last year? If so, you may have a refrigerant problem. When the refrigerant leaks the AC unit will run more often, trying to meet the temperature set by the thermostat. You may also be running the AC more than usual. Either way you’ll get those higher bills.

An efficient, regularly maintained AC unit would save you money on the electricity bill; an inefficient one will do the exact opposite.


Look for ice on the coils

A surefire sign that you are running low on refrigerant.

If you can access the coils take a look for ice. The hot air usually flows through the coils, being cooled as it goes. When the levels run low the air condenses on the pipes, which then freezes.

The ice can cause many problems inside the AC unit, which may cost you a lot of money to repair. It may also melt, and puddles will gather on the surface beneath the machine.

Ice isn’t usual for us in South Florida, so call a technician as soon as you see some on the AC coils.


Give us a call

If you see one of the above signs get professional help immediately.

Our technicians know what to do with a refrigerant leak. If they can repair a machine they will; they can also advise if you need a replacement.

Call today and schedule an Engineered Air technician to visit your home.

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