May 22, 2019

Low Refrigerant


Is your Air Conditioner low on refrigerant?

A commonly reported issue by customers regarding their underperforming air conditioners is that they are low or out of refrigerant. Many people do not know that refrigerant does not get used up. It exists in sealed coils and does not become “low” unless there is a leak.

Leaking CoilOften this leak is not detected until the air conditioning system is no longer blowing cold air. By then there is often damage to the coil (multiple leaks) and possible damage to the system from over work.

Just adding refrigerant can exacerbate the problem and you do not want refrigerant leaking out into the atmosphere. If you suspect a refrigerant leak, you should have it looked at right away. Ignoring a refrigerant leak can cause damaging wear and tear on your system. The system will keep trying to meet the cooling levels dictated by the thermostat and will keep working harder and harder to do that. In the process it can wear out the other components such as the compressor.

If you suspect a refrigerant leak, call your HVAC professional to inspect. It is important not to touch the refrigerant as it may cause burns. The gas should not be inhaled.

What is a Coil

The air conditioning coil has a most integral function in your air conditioning system. It holds the refrigerant which is a liquid chemical such as Freon (R22) or 410A. The coil converts this refrigerant into a gas used to cool the air. It functions as a heat exchanger, absorbing the heat from the air and cooling it.

Causes of Coil Leaks

Corroded Coil Joints

There are many factors that can cause leaks in the coil which can form as small holes, cracks at the joints and general wear:

  • Old age of the coil- It will degenerate over time.
  • Dirt and grime- No professional maintenance, cleaning.
  • Vibration over time- There is some degree of vibration in all systems.
  • Corrosion due to exposure to contaminants, pollutants which accumulate over time. Failure to have routine maintenance done often leads to this.

A single coil leak where there is a loose joint is sometimes a repairable issue. Though often by the time you discover a problem with the air conditioner that has leaked refrigerant, there can be multiple compromises and the coil will need to be replaced.

A refrigerant leak from the coil is perhaps one of the most common problems. It is also one of the most preventable with regularly scheduled maintenance.

Coil Leak Fixes

Coil Repair

This is one of those topics where there is much more that you should not do than do. As mentioned previously, by the time you realize there is a problem the coil may require replacement. Certainly if there are multiple holes or cracks it probably needs to be replaced. If there is one or two sites of damage it may be repairable by a professional.

Sealants should not be used. They are an extremely short term remedy and do not actually fix the problem. Sealants can also cause blockages in the coil which can damage the coil further. With the high cost of refrigerant and the damage it does to the atmosphere, sealants are not an appropriate solution.

Just adding refrigerant is also not a solution. If the original refrigerant leaked out, so will the replacement refrigerant.

Oftentimes it is just going to come down to replacing the coil. Sometimes with an older unit, it may be wise to consider replacing the entire air conditioning system. At Air Doctor Heating and Air we can provide a Free Estimate and with Rebates, Discounts, our 10 Year Warranty on Parts and Labor in addition to many financing options, it is worth considering.


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