The 6 Signs Of Low Refrigerant Levels In Your AC

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Does your home feel warmer than it should even with the AC turned on? Or does it take ages before you can feel indoor temperatures coming down?  If you changed your air filters recently and the thermostat at the correct setting, then chances are the AC is running low on refrigerant (freon).  Even the slightest drop in refrigerant levels reduces the AC’s efficiency significantly, as it will have to work harder (consume more energy) to keep your home cool and comfortable.

Most AC systems will start to show signs of low refrigerant levels many days or even months before it (freon) dries out completely. You, however, ought to be keen to identify some of these signs. This article outlines the most common reasons for low refrigerant levels and the top signs to look out for.

Reasons For Low Refrigerant LevelsLow refrigerant levels can be a result of: 

  1. Flawed/incorrect installation: The AC system uses a refrigerant (e.g., Freon) that absorbs heat, producing the cooling effect.  The refrigerant needs/has to be fed into the condenser and sealed off to prevent a leak. Failure to properly charge the condenser and ensure the entire system is sealed (to prevent a leak) can cause the refrigerant to leak or evaporate.
  2. A gas leak: Leaks within the condenser unit (the compressor and evaporator fins) are some of the most common reasons for low refrigerant levels in both air conditioners and refrigerators. Although the leak might be due to poor installation, aging and worn-down components are mostly to blame for this. Joints may/can deteriorate and even loosen over time, causing the leak.
  3. A neglected (unmaintained) system.  A neglected or poorly maintained AC system can and will most likely have lower refrigerant levels. With the AC running continuously for hours, days, or even months, there are high chances of the system suffering a leak.  It is thus for this reason you should have the AC system serviced regularly.

The Top 6 Signs Of Low Refrigerant Levels In Your AC

  1. Higher Than Normal Energy Bills: As mentioned earlier, low refrigerant levels will cause your AC system to work a lot harder to maintain the preferred (set) indoor temperatures. The fact that the system will always be in overdrive increases its energy demand, translating to higher energy bills at the end of the month. Simply put, the refrigerant can also be termed as the life/blood of your AC system.Low levels of the same means the system will tire more easily, hence need more energy to run and keep your home cool.  This is because enough refrigerant is required to help absorb and transfer heat outside in each cooling cycle. Less than enough refrigerant means the system has to cycle severally before the set temperature can be attained. This makes the system more energy-hungry and inefficient. If you have been noticing a sharp increase in energy bills over the recent past, then chances are your AC system is struggling and needs AC servicing
  2. It Takes Longer To Cool Your Home: The refrigerant plays a vital role in absorbing ambient heat indoors, which is then released off outside. Low refrigerant levels thus mean the system will take longer than it used to, to absorb all the excess heat.  The standard (properly-sized) AC system takes approximately 3 hours to cool a regular household by around 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  Although factors such as the unit’s age, size, and power should be considered, there’s a reason for concern if your unit takes more than 4 hours before you can feel the cooling effect.  This is conceivably the first sign and reason to call an HVAC expert for servicing.
  3. Warm Air From The AC Vents: The AC system works by blowing cold air into the room/space. Low refrigerant levels, however, mean the air conditioner won’t absorb as much heat as designed.  This is one of the reasons the air blowing from the vents will feel warmer than it should.  There are also times when less air will come out of the air vents. This mainly happens when blocks of ice block the vents reducing the system’s efficiency.
  4. Ice On Refrigerant Lines: HVAC experts recommend/advise consumers to physically inspect their outdoor units every once in a while, and for a good reason.  Should you walk outside to inspect the outdoor unit and see ice forming on the refrigerant lines, there’s a good chance that refrigerant levels are at the lowest point. Ice on the refrigerant lines is a definite cue for you to immediately call your HVAC technician for an inspection and probably have the refrigerant recharged.  The technician will also check to ensure air vents are open and that the air filter is in a working condition (not dirty or clogged).
  5. Water Leaking Around The Heater: Low refrigerant levels will trigger an ice buildup on and around the refrigerant lines. The ice will melt off from time to time, forming a puddle near or around the furnace area. Puddles around the furnace are the first signs of terribly low refrigerant levels, hence calls for immediate servicing and repair. No ice or water puddles will form around the refrigerant lines and the furnace, hence a tell-tale sign of an AC system screaming for help.
  6. Bubbling Or Hissing Noise: This is one of the first signs to look out for if suspecting a leak within the system. The refrigerant will produce a hissing or bubbling sound as it escapes from either a joint or a tiny hole along the lines. You might, however, want to turn the AC system off to see if you can catch the hissing sound. This is the same unmistakable hiss you’d get from a leaking gas pipe.  Catching the leak on time can save you hundreds of dollars in repairs.
    Related: How to repair a noisy aircon?

A leaking or low refrigerant level in your AC will attract high energy bills and costly repairs in the long run.  You, however, shouldn’t let this ruin your summer. Simply schedule routine maintenance from aircon expert near you. These experts will catch and fix a leak before it causes further damage to your system and pockets. The best aircon experts are armed with professional tools that can help detect a leaking refrigerant and even check to see if your system needs a top-up.

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