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Refrigerant Leaks

May 2, 2013 | Blog

What Causes Refrigerant Leaks?

Air conditioners have been getting leaks since air conditioners were first invented. They are extremely common problems, but they can also lead to time-consuming and costly repairs. So what causes refrigerant leaks and how do you identify them?

AC systems all contain a refrigerant circuit. This circuit is typically made of copper and is structured like a loop or coil. It contains dozens of twists and bends that have been soldered together in order to form the coiled structure. The refrigerant is held within the circuit at a high pressure and runs through the coils at a high speed.

There are several causes for refrigerant leaks, including normal wear and tear on the unit. Another cause is pinhole leaks, a type of leak that is caused by formic erosion and only effects copper coils. There are several indicators that you might have a refrigerant leak, including:

  • Little to no cool air comes out of your vents
  • It takes longer for your home to cool down (if it ever does)
  • Your energy bills have gotten significantly more expensives
  • Your air conditioning unit has ice buildup
  • Unusual hissing sounds come from the unit

Why does it cost so much to fix a refrigerant leak?

When it comes to refrigerant leaks, you can’t just slap a patch on the hole. In fact, locating the leak is one of the most difficult parts of the repair process. Most refrigerant leaks are slow, so they can’t easily be spotted. If an AC technician cannot locate the leak with a visual search, he or she must use a refrigerant leak detector, commonly referred to as a sniffer, to “sniff” out the leak. This process is very difficult and usually requires the technician to disassemble large parts of the unit.

How Are Refrigerant Leaks Repaired?

Once the leak is found, the repair process can get underway, but it is quite the process in and of itself. Leaks cannot be soldered closed due to the high pressure of the refrigerant. The hole would reopen before the patch had time to settle. Instead, the technician must release the refrigerant from the system with a recovery machine in accordance with EPA guidelines. After the refrigerant is evacuated, the technician can repair the hole. Before the technician can put new refrigerant in, they must remove the air with a vacuum to prevent further damage. This process can take hours depending on the system and the amount of damage.

When to Invest in a New Air Conditioning Unit

Sometimes the damage is so extensive, the unit can’t be fixed or it would be more cost-effective to replace the unit entirely. A competent and trustworthy technician will be able to identify the best solution for you. When you think you might have a refrigerant leak in your AC, call Lee’s Air to get honest and knowledgable air conditioning service.

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