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Why a Refrigerant Leak in an Air Conditioner Is a Serious Problem


Refrigerant is a heat transference fluid that is at the center of how your home’s air conditioning system does its job. Refrigerant (in most cases, a blend known as R-410A) moves through the air conditioner and absorbs heat from the indoors through the evaporator coil and then releases the heat to the outdoors through the condenser coil. The AC does not “use up” refrigerant like a fuel: as long as there are no leaks along the refrigerant line, the refrigerant will remain at the same amount for the duration of the air conditioner’s service life. This fixed level is called the AC’s charge.

Yet… leaks can happen. And when they do, you need to call for professional repairs as soon as possible to locate the leaks, seal them, and recharge the refrigerant to its factory-set level.

Why is this so important? Can’t my AC operate on lower refrigerant?

No, it cannot. An air conditioner and its compressor are designed for a specific charge. Too much or too little refrigerant will cause damage to the system. The most vulnerable parts are the evaporator coil and the compressor. Because the lower amount of refrigerant in the coil cannot absorb sufficient heat to warm it up, the cold refrigerant will cause water moisture to freeze across the coil’s surface. This will further restrict heat absorption, leading to more ice and less cooling until the AC cannot perform its job at all.

The situation with the compressor is even more serious. The compressor is the literal heart of an AC: the pump that creates the pressure that moves refrigerant through the components. An insufficient refrigerant charge will threaten to make the compressor overheat and burn out. Cold liquid refrigerant may also enter it from the evaporator, and the compressor isn’t designed to handle liquid refrigerant. If the compressor fails, only a costly repair—or perhaps a full system replacement—can restore it.

Do you suspect that your AC is losing refrigerant? Call MK Russell & Abbott to schedule expert air conditioning repair. We have helped homes in the Maryville, TN solve their cooling problems since 1977.