Many types of malfunctions can cause your home’s air conditioning system to fail or stop working altogether. A fan motor burns out, and that means no air circulating through the house. Bad wiring to the thermostat means you can’t turn the AC on. But there are some malfunctions that can mean the end of your air conditioner—the point where the only repairs that may fix it will cost more than the price of getting a new AC.
One of the big air conditioning-ending disasters you may run over summer is leaking refrigerant.
Doesn’t the AC Use Up Refrigerant As It Run?
Not at all! Refrigerant isn’t a fuel source. It’s a bit more like the oil in the engine of a vehicle: it circulates in a closed loop. But unlike oil, refrigerant doesn’t degrade over time and need to be changed. The charge of refrigerant in an air conditioner when it’s installed should last the system for its entire life, with no need to charge it with more.
Low Refrigerant Is a Major Danger to an AC
Because your AC is designed to run on a set charge of refrigerant, if it loses any of that charge to leaks, it means trouble. A reduced amount of refrigerant makes it harder for the AC to cool down your house. The refrigerant is what’s responsible for transporting heat from inside your home and releasing it outside—a process called heat exchange. The less refrigerant circulating in the AC, the less heat is removed from your home’s air. If your air conditioner is struggling to keep up with the heat when it never had a problem before, leaking refrigerant is a potential cause.
But lower cooling power is the lesser problem. A drop in refrigerant charge endangers the air conditioner’s compressor. The compressor is the heart of a cooling system—it’s the pump that supplies the energy that makes the refrigerant circulate and exchange heat. Because the compressor is manufactured to handle the pressure from a specific charge of refrigerant, it’s in danger of overheating and failing if that charge drops. A burnt-out compressor means no cooling power at all. A burnt-out compressor must be replaced, and this is an expensive repair. In most cases, it’s more cost-effective to have the entire AC system replaced rather than spend the money on rescuing the compressor.
Why Is Refrigerant Leaking in the First Place?
The main cause of refrigerant leaks is corrosion on copper refrigerant lines. Copper is corrosion-resistant, but there’s a specific type of corrosion that affects it: formicary corrosion. Chemicals in the air, such as formaldehyde, trigger this weakening of copper, creating small pinhole leaks. This is enough to allow the high-pressure refrigerant gas to begin to escape.
It’s difficult to eliminate the chemical compounds that cause formicary corrosion from indoor air because they come from numerous household products and building materials—so we recommend you keep a close watch on your AC’s performance. If you notice it losing cooling power, call for air conditioning repair in Staten Island, NY right away. Our experts can seal the leaks and recharge the refrigerant before the situation turns into a dead compressor.
Rescue your faulty air conditioner! Call on Bob Mims Heating & Air Conditioning—Serving Staten Island’s Heating and A/C needs since 1955.