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Refrigerant 101 – Everything You Need to Know

Refrigerant 101 – Everything You Need to Know

July 5th, 2021

If there's anything you are sure of when it comes to air conditioning in the greater Atlanta area, it's that it's absolutely vital for you to have a fully effective and efficiently operating cooling system in place.

You can help ensure this is in the case in a couple of ways-by only trusting trained and experienced professionals to service your system, and by scheduling routine preventive maintenance each year.

One of the things we check during HVAC maintenance, is your refrigerant level. Wonder why this is so important? Read on!

Topics We Cover:

What is Refrigerant in Air Conditioning?

Refrigerant is the substance in your air conditioner that actually makes the cooling system possible. It shifts from gaseous to liquid form and back, while compressing and evaporating in order to take the hot air from inside your home and convert it into chilled air to be returned back through your ductwork and vents.

How Often Should You Recharge Your Refrigerant?

"Recharge" is another name for "refill." Your air conditioner is charged with enough refrigerant upon manufacturing to last its entire lifespan. Despite common misconceptions, refrigerant isn't something that "runs out" like gasoline does from a car.

If you're told that your air conditioner needs a recharge, then that means you have a refrigerant leak. Yes, you need a recharge, but that leak must also be located and repaired so your air conditioner can function as it should.

HVAC tech fixing an issue with refrigerant
HVAC Technician Troubleshooting an Issue with Refrigerant

What Are Signs Your Refrigerant is Leaking?

There are a number of signs you can watch and listen for that indicate you may have a refrigerant leak. Keep in mind, some of these signs can indicate a different type of problem with your AC, but the point is you should give us a call if you notice any of these!

  • Poor Cooling - When there isn't enough refrigerant in your air conditioner, it's going to struggle to actually keep you cool.
  • Higher Utility Bills - When your energy bills seem to spike in correlation to your air conditioner use, even though they weren't this high last summer, it usually means something is causing the AC system to work inefficiently. It could very well be due to a refrigerant leak.
  • Humid Indoor Air - When an air conditioner is working as it should, it has some dehumidification properties. Note, air conditioners aren't designed to be dehumidifiers too (unless they have a humidistat installed with them), but if you notice your indoor air seems more humid than usual when you run your AC, it may be because you have a refrigerant leak.
  • Longer Cooling Cycles - When refrigerant is leaking, your air conditioner will run longer to try to reach the temperature you set on the thermostat, and it will struggle to do so.
  • Ice on Evaporator Coil - Ironically, an evaporator coil cannot absorb heat if there isn't enough cold refrigerant going through the component. Therefore, ice can form on the evaporator coil. This has to be removed and the problem addressed by a professional.
  • Bubbling or Hissing Noises - Depending on if it's in liquid mode or gaseous mode at the time, leaking refrigerant may make a bubbling or hissing sound.
frozen air conditioning unit due to leaking refrigerantFrozen AC Unit Due to Leaking Refrigerant

What Does Refrigerant Smell Like?

Refrigerant has a somewhat sweet, chloroform scent-it smells slightly chemical. However, the amount that would be leaking may not emit a strong smell, which is why it's so important to be aware of the above-mentioned signs.

If you do notice this smell in conjunction with any of the above-mentioned signs, it's definitely time to give us a call.

Is Refrigerant Toxic?

Refrigerant is "moderately toxic." That means, you can get sick if it gets on you or if you're exposed to it for a prolonged period of time. Limited exposure, however, such as a spill on your skin, is only mildly harmful

When was R22 Banned?

R22, also called Freon, is a type of refrigerant that was used up to the beginning of this year. It started getting phased out a few years ago because of how harmful it is for the environment.

Manufacturing of R22 was banned in January 2021. Sometimes you can still find recycled R22 to recharge older air conditioners with, but it makes the most sense to upgrade your air conditioner if yours is still using R22 refrigerant.

What Refrigerant Replaced R22?

R22 has been replaced by R-410A, which is a much safer substance, and is compliant with what HVAC professionals are allowed to manufacture and install.

Contact Dayco Systems when you want reliable air conditioning repair in Atlanta!