Refrigeration is truly the secret sauce of air conditioning. It absorbs heat from the air and allows your AC unit to exchange the warm, heavy air for something cooler and more refreshing. While AC units don’t simply run out of refrigerant on their own, leaks can occur due to wear and tear, defects, and other damages. When these leaks happen, they not only put your indoor comfort at risk, but they can also become a major health concern. But what are the signs of a refrigerant leak? Can you repair it yourself, or will it require the expertise of a trained professional?
7 Signs of an AC Refrigerant Leak
1. Indoor AC Unit Is Making Hissing Sounds
A hissing sound from your AC unit is one of the most common signs of a refrigerant leak. Cracks and holes in the parts of your AC system that distribute refrigerant will cause the system to hiss when a cycle is running. Larger leaks can even have a more liquidy, bubbling sound, letting more refrigerant escape. As soon as you start noticing unusual sounds from your AC unit, it’s time to call our team to ensure you don’t have an AC refrigerant leak.
2. AC Is On But Not Cooling
With insufficient refrigerant, your air conditioner will be unable to cool the air in your home effectively. If you’ve done basic troubleshooting (like checking your filters) and your AC is still not cooling, it may be due to a refrigerant leak. There’s nothing worse than dealing with this issue during the hot summer months, so make sure you get it resolved as soon as possible.
3. Longer Cooling Cycles
As a consequence of inefficiently cooling your home, an AC unit with a refrigerant leak will cause cooling cycles to take longer than normal to control the indoor climate. A change in cooling cycle duration when other factors (like outdoor temperature) remain stable may indicate a refrigerant leak. Over time, you’ll find that this can become an incredibly frustrating issue to experience, as it will reduce your AC unit’s ability to cool down your home.
4. Indoor Air Is Unusually Humid
Refrigerant is an essential component of your AC unit’s heat exchange process. This process removes warm, heavy air from your home and creates cool, light, conditioned air in its place. Deficient refrigeration in your AC unit will hamper its ability to remove indoor humidity, which can also lead to mold and mildew growth if left unchecked.
5. Higher Electric Bills
All of us are looking to ensure that our bills remain as low as possible, especially following the challenges of the past couple of years. We encourage you to keep an eye on your electrical bills.
If your AC is leaking refrigerant, it will work harder to perform basic cooling operations — often to no avail. This will inevitably drive up your energy costs. If you notice a spike in your electric bill in addition to other symptoms listed here, you may have a refrigerant leak.
6. Evaporator Coils Are Frozen
Without sufficient refrigerant, your system will not be able to absorb hot air effectively. This leads to excess condensation developing on the coils, which can easily freeze. This is something that our team is experienced in dealing with, but the sooner you get it resolved, the less likely you’ll have an AC refrigerant leak.
7. Exhaust Smell in the Air
Since refrigerant is a chemical substance — often Freon — a significant leak can release fumes into the air. These fumes are especially harmful and should be avoided. Stop running your AC system and call a professional for repair immediately.
Are refrigerant leaks dangerous?
A refrigerant leak is not just bad for your energy bill, it’s also dangerous for your health. If you suspect you may have a refrigerant leak, stop running your AC unit and call a professional for repair as soon as possible. If you’ve inhaled refrigeration fumes, you could be in danger of refrigerant poisoning, which can have harmful or even fatal consequences for your health. For anyone living with children and pets, you need to ensure you do all you can to avoid this type of issue, as it could lead to long-term health issues. By learning about the signs of AC refrigerant poisoning, you can ensure you respond immediately if you do experience any of these issues in the future.
Refrigerant Poisoning Symptoms
Call the National Poison Control Hotline or seek medical help immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms of refrigerant poisoning:
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of focus or coordination
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling in the throat or neck
- Severe pain in your throat, nose, or sinuses
What to Do If You Have a Refrigerant Leak
A refrigerant leak is not the only reason your AC unit may not be cooling effectively, but if the signs above seem to fit, it could be the problem. Leaks are not uncommon but should still be taken seriously.
While many AC repairs can be done at home for the savvy DIYer, refrigeration issues should be left up to professionals. Only licensed HVAC professionals are allowed by law to purchase refrigerant, and they are the most qualified to handle the repair safely. Direct contact with chemical coolants can lead to allergic reactions, chemical burns, and even frostbite.
Trained professionals are also able to evaluate your AC system more holistically and determine if further repairs are needed beyond a simple patch and refill. It may also be time to replace your unit if it has been sufficiently damaged or worn. Our team will be on hand at any time to support you with this task and answer any questions you have about the topic. By learning about the signs of an AC refrigerant leak, you can be sure you’ll keep you and your family safe for years to come.
If You Need to Repair or Replace Your AC, We Can Help
At Complete Air Mechanical, our experienced team of HVAC technicians are available to inspect, repair, or even replace your system. If you’re having trouble with your AC, we’ve got you covered. We provide services in Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties, and we offer financing options.