4 Ways to Identify a Refrigerant Leak

A loss of refrigerant in your home's air conditioning system is never good. Liquid refrigerant plays a critical role in the cooling process. A refrigerant leak can compromise the comfort of your interior living space and cause your air conditioning system to develop major mechanical problems.

Addressing a refrigerant leak early can minimize damage and prevent a cooling catastrophe. There are four simple warning signs that you can watch for when trying to determine if your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant.

1. Physical Evidence

The easiest way to spot a refrigerant leak is to find physical evidence of the leak. This physical evidence can manifest in a few different ways. For example, if the leak is coming from one of the hoses responsible for moving liquid refrigerant through your cooling system, you may see a pool of refrigerant collecting beneath your outdoor compressor.

You could also spot pooling water beneath your compressor when a refrigerant leak is present. The coils that evaporate excess moisture inside your compressor can't absorb heat properly when refrigerant levels drop. This causes the coils to ice up and then melt repeatedly.

The water pooling beneath your compressor could be evidence of this freeze/thaw cycle caused by a refrigerant leak.

You should never attempt to clean up refrigerant yourself, as liquid refrigerant has the potential to cause skin irritation and other health problems. Trust an experienced HVAC technician to take care of the cleanup process while repairing your refrigerant leak.

2. Performance Problems

Another way to identify a refrigerant leak within your AC system is to monitor the performance of the system over time. A refrigerant leak will compromise your compressor's ability to chill the air running through your AC system.

Small leaks can result in your system taking longer to bring the temperature within your home down to a comfortable level. As the leak progresses and refrigerant levels drop significantly, your compressor won't be able to generate any cool air.

You should contact an HVAC technician to take a look at your cooling system whenever you notice a change in the performance of your air conditioner. Performance problems that are tied to a refrigerant leak can easily be corrected by having the leak repaired.

3. Hissing Sounds

An AC system that is leaking refrigerant will often emit a hissing sound. This sound is a direct result of refrigerant escaping your compressor.

The refrigerant in your home's cooling system is pressurized. When a leak develops in one of the hoses that transports refrigerant throughout the compressor, the pressurized refrigerant is forced through the hole or crack in the hose. This release of pressurized refrigerant generates a hissing sound.

You may also notice a bubbling sound coming from your compressor when a refrigerant leak is present. Bubbling is a sound that occurs when the source of the leak is larger than a small crack or pinhole.

Any unusual noises coming from your cooling system should be checked out by an experienced HVAC technician. Your technician will be able to determine the cause of the noise and make repairs that will maintain the performance of your air conditioner over time.

4. Increased Cooling Costs

You should monitor your cooling costs as a way to gauge the health of your home's air conditioner. A sudden increase in cooling costs could be related to the development of a refrigerant leak.

A compressor that is leaking refrigerant cannot generate cool air efficiently. This means that your system will have to work harder to maintain a comfortable temperature within your home. The increased workload will be reflected in the jump in your electricity bill.

Any sudden and unexplained increases in cooling costs must be evaluated so that repairs can be made to help bring your cooling costs back down to normal. To learn more, contact an AC repair company near you.