High Contrast Mode:

Should I Top-Off the Refrigerant in My AC Before Summer?

Should I Top-Off the Refrigerant in My AC Before Summer?

May 15th, 2023


The simple answer to this is, “No, unless your air conditioner has a refrigerant leak.”

The more complex answer involves talking about what refrigerant is and what it does for an air conditioner. We recommend you read further, since having a better understanding of the refrigerant in your home’s air conditioner can help you avoid costly mistakes and the problems that come from amateur work. 

When you need air conditioning repair in Alpharetta, GA, or elsewhere in Metro Atlanta, always trust the best professionals—like those at the Dayco team!

Refrigerant isn’t supposed to “run out”

The reason that people sometimes believe they need to top off the refrigerant in their air conditioners or get refills is because they’re making the mistake of thinking of refrigerant as a type of fuel that the AC consumes as it works. Or perhaps it’s like the oil in a car engine, which doesn’t run out but degrades over time. 

This isn’t the case with refrigerant. It isn’t a fuel source—an air conditioner runs off electricity, not refrigerant. The refrigerant is a heat exchange medium that goes through a process of evaporation and condensation as it works to move heat from one place to another. Because the refrigerant is inside a closed-loop system, it doesn’t dissipate during this process. It also doesn’t degrade over time. The initial amount of refrigerant in an air conditioner, which is called its charge, is supposed to last for the full service life of the AC. 

If you hear someone tell you that you need to have the refrigerant regularly topped off or refilled, they’re either mistaken or they’re trying to sell you something you don’t need.

Refrigerant can be lost through leaks

Low refrigerant levels are still a frequent problem, but not because an AC consumes it. Air conditioners can lose refrigerant to small leaks along the copper lines or at connection points. An air conditioner doesn’t even need to be old for this to happen: a chemical reaction called formicary corrosion can cause leaking to start in an AC as early as five years into its service life. 

A lowered refrigerant charge is a serious problem. It will affect the air conditioner’s efficiency, create higher indoor humidity, and reduce cooling capacity. Worst of all, it will eventually lead to the compressor overheating and burning out. 

If you notice problems with your air conditioner, call technicians right away to inspect the unit. They’ll look for leaks, as they’re a common source of trouble. If they find any, they’ll seal them and then restore the refrigerant charge to its factory level. It’s extremely important to leave this job to experts since an overcharged AC is just as big a problem as an undercharged one.

Your best defense against refrigerant leaks, as well as a good way to catch them early, is to always schedule routine maintenance for the AC in spring. Our technicians will carefully inspect your cooling system and check the refrigerant pressure to ensure that it doesn’t have a lowered refrigerant charge.

Dayco Systems has been Metro Atlanta’s choice for more than three generations. Rely on us for all of your AC repairs.