air conditioner refrigerant leak

Does My Air Conditioner Really Need More Refrigerant?

As HVAC experts, we get a number of questions about refrigerant, such as what its function is and how to tell if it’s leaking. One of the inquiries we get most often is whether or not refrigerant needs to be refilled. Some readers may have encountered technicians from other HVAC contractors who have told them that refrigerant needs to be “topped off” periodically, which is not something you will hear from us.

To educate our customers, we’re going to answer some of these essential questions about refrigerant below.

What does the refrigerant in my air conditioner do?

Without refrigerant, it would be impossible for your central air conditioning system to provide your home with cool air. The refrigerant continually travels between your AC system’s indoor unit and outdoor unit. While inside your home, the refrigerant occupies the part of your indoor unit called the evaporator coil. Your AC system blows warm air from your home across the evaporator coil. The refrigerant in the evaporator coil absorbs the heat from that air, thereby cooling it. The refrigerant will then disperse that heat outdoors.

Does my AC’s refrigerant need to be refilled periodically?

If all is well, you should never need to refill or "top off" your air conditioner's refrigerant. It travels within a closed circuit, which, in theory, means that your AC should never "use it all up."

However, your AC might need more refrigerant if one of these two situations applies:

  • Situation 1: You’re losing refrigerant through a leak. If this is the case, the technician must find the source of the leak and repair it before adding more refrigerant.

  • Situation 2: The installer did not put enough refrigerant in your AC system during the installation. If this is the case, a technician will recharge your system with refrigerant.

How can I tell if my AC needs more refrigerant?

You'll need to look and listen for hints. If your AC's performance is going downhill and driving up your energy costs, that's one sign, but this can also occur if your system hasn't had regular maintenance. Ice or frost on your AC's evaporator coil is another telltale sign. In some cases, you can hear a refrigerant leak. You'll hear a bubbling or hissing sound coming from your indoor unit or the line that connects your refrigerant to your outdoor unit.

If you’re experiencing cooling issues in your home or suspect that your system might have a refrigerant issue, don’t hesitate to contact our friendly experts at Tom's Mechanical, Inc.: (972) 388-3669.