Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leaks
Tampa Homeowners Guide to Detecting, Locating, and Repairing AC Leaks
If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, it most likely has a refrigerant leak. Refilling AC refrigerant will not fix this problem – you’ll need to repair the AC leak to prevent continued problems and keep the situation from worsening.
All American Home Services provide AC leak repair service in Southeast Tampa. We created this guide to help homeowners check for signs of an AC refrigerant leak and learn more about the problem.
Common Signs of Air Conditioner Refrigerant Leaks
Inadequate cooling. If your AC system struggles to cool the home during the hottest hours of the day, a refrigerant leak is likely to blame.
Humid indoor air. When your air conditioner has a refrigerant leak, it loses the ability to remove moisture from the air.
Long cooling cycles. A typical AC cooling cycle is 15-20 minutes. If your air conditioner is running longer and longer, low refrigerant due to a refrigerant leak may be the reason.
Higher utility bills. If your AC is working harder and running longer, you’re going to notice it in your next electric bill.
Ice on evaporator coils. If you see ice crystals forming on the evaporator coil of your outdoor unit during hot weather, you may have a refrigerant leak or other AC problem that needs urgent service.
Bubbling sounds. A bubbling or hissing sound from an outdoor AC unit while it isn’t running could be a sign that it’s leaking coolant.
How to Detect and Locate a Refrigerant Leak
Your All American HVAC technician can detect an AC refrigerant leak using a handheld electronic leak detector. In fact, a leak detector can even reveal the location of a leak in some cases. The most common location for an AC refrigerant leak is in the evaporator coil.
Other times, an AC leak is harder to locate. If a leak detector can’t locate the leak, your technician can locate the leak using the following steps:
- Remove the refrigerant from the system.
- Disconnect the lines from the indoor unit (evaporator coil) and outdoor unit (condenser coil).
- Braze the line – essentially, welding the line shut.
- Perform a pressure test.
- Check the line sets and coils for leaks after 24-48 hours.
Some AC leaks be fixed easily, but others are more complicated:
- Leaks at the valves can usually be repaired on-site.
- Leaks in the lines may be more difficult, depending on where the lines are located. For example, a line that runs through a wall may be more time-consuming and labor-intensive to replace.
- Leaks in the indoor or outdoor coil typically require the coil to be replaced. For newer systems that use 410-A refrigerant, the coils may still be under warranty. If you have an older AC system that uses R-22 refrigerant, you need to replace the AC unit – there’s no sense replacing a coil for a refrigerant that is no longer supported.
What Causes AC Refrigerant to Leak?
Refrigerant does not slowly deplete through normal AC operation. If an HVAC technician has ever said you need to refill AC refrigerant regularly as part of routine maintenance, that was misleading. The only reason AC refrigerant is low is if you have a leak.
Low AC refrigerant levels are typically caused by small puncture holes in your air conditioner’s evaporator coil. This may be caused by:
- Corrosion of the copper tubing over time due to formic acid or formaldehyde
- Factory defects
- Improper installation
Another common area for refrigerant leaks is at the rubber seals near valve stems, which wear out over time.
Does a Refrigerant Leak Mean I Need a New AC Unit?
If you don’t repair the leak, you’ll need to repeatedly refill your air conditioner’s refrigerant. Depending on how severe the leak is, that could mean dozens of refrigerant refills. The cost of refilling refrigerant adds up – in fact, it might be cheaper to make the repair or even replace the AC unit instead of constantly refilling refrigerant.
If you had an older unit that used R22 refrigerant, sometimes known as R22 Freon or HCFC-22 Freon, that coolant was phased out in 2020 and is no longer available. You’ll need to upgrade to a new air conditioner if your unit uses R22.
Health Hazards of AC Refrigerant Leaks
Refrigerant leaks can be harmful to your health and bad for the environment. Freon is a coolant that contains chemicals that can lead to difficulty breathing, headaches, nausea and vomiting, skin and eye irritation, and coughing.
If left untreated, Freon poisoning can lead to life-threatening health problems such as:
- Labored breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Buildup of fluid in the lungs
- Confusion, mental fatigue
- Loss of consciousness
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of refrigerant positioning, call 911 or visit a doctor immediately.
How to Prevent AC Refrigerant Leaks
The best way to prevent AC refrigerant leaks is with routine AC maintenance. An annual AC inspection gives your AC technician a chance to find and fix minor problems before they become major repairs or expensive replacements.
Why Choose All American?
What Our Clients Are Saying
Had some issues at 9pm with my ac acting weird and this company had someone out in less then 30 minutes and it was a simple fix ! Great company , great workers and fast service.
– Charlene Knight
Technicians and staff are well trained, knowledgeable and easy to work with. I'm very happy with services they provided. Always my first call.
– Russy Persad
We had questions concerning our AC unit and the tech came out and checked everything and answered all the questions we had. We called early in the day and got service the same day. Will be using them again in the future.
– Raylin C.
Great people. Very informative. Would definitely recommend and use this company again!
– Nicole Epps