AC Refrigerant Leak Signs

How To Tell if Your AC Has a Refrigerant Leak

When those hot Texas Panhandle summers hit, having a working air conditioner is of top priority. If you notice that your unit has started to fail or is no longer cooling your home, the problem may be caused by an AC refrigerant leak. Keep reading to discover the signs of leaking air conditioner refrigerant and what to do if you notice a leak.

What is an AC Refrigerant?

Air conditioner refrigerant, also known as Freon, is a compound typically found in a fluid or gas state. It is used in refrigeration, freezing, and air conditioning as it’s able to absorb heat from the environment. The most common refrigerants used in air conditioning are chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

Refrigerant is used in the refrigeration cycle of your air conditioner. It starts as a low-pressure gas inside the copper coils of your air conditioner. It absorbs heat from the indoor air and turns into a high-pressure liquid. Your air conditioner then moves the refrigerant outside of the coils as a fan blows hot air over them. The refrigerant is then turned back into a low-pressure gas as it cools. Another fan then blows air over the cooled coils, sending cold air out into your home. 

Signs You Have a Freon Leak

As Freon is a colorless and odorless gas, you won’t be able to see or smell a leak coming from your air conditioner. However, there are a few key signs of leaking AC refrigerant that you can look for:

  • Your air conditioner has a decreased cooling ability: If you notice your AC isn’t working as it used to, you might have a leak. The level of refrigerant in your unit will decrease if there is a leak, causing its cooling ability to decline.
  • You notice warm air coming from your vents: Similar to the previous sign when your refrigerant levels decrease due to a leak, you may notice that warm air is starting to come from your vents even though your AC is turned on.

  • It takes longer to cool your home: When you have a refrigerant leak, it takes your AC longer to reach the desired temperature.

  • There’s weak airflow coming from your vents: If you hold your hand in front of the vent and notice the airflow has dropped, you may have a leak. With lowering refrigerant levels, your AC unit isn’t able to produce as much cold air.

  • High electricity bills: If your energy use has stayed the same, but your electricity bills are skyrocketing, take note. Leaking refrigerant will cause your AC to work harder than normal, causing your energy use and your bills to rise.

  • Water is leaking from your AC unit: Water leaking from your AC unit can be a sign that it has stopped running and the frozen condensation from the evaporator coils is melting.

  • You hear hissing or bubbling sounds: Refrigerant leaks through small holes or cracks in the coils of your AC. As it has high pressure, it can produce a hissing or bubbling noise as it escapes.

Is a Freon Leak Dangerous?

Freon leaks can have harmful effects on your health and the environment and damage your HVAC unit. An air conditioner refrigerant leak may cause refrigerant poisoning. If you’re exposed to refrigerant for a long period, you may notice these symptoms: 

  • Headache and dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Congestion or irritation

If you suspect you may have a refrigerant leak, it’s important to contact an HVAC professional right away to reduce the impact on your health.

Freon leaks can also have a significant effect on our environment. Freon is made from hydrofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which are very strong greenhouse gasses. They can have over 3,400 times the global warming effects as carbon dioxide, causing serious damage to the environment if they are released.

Refrigerant leaks can also cause damage to your air conditioning unit. If you have low levels of Freon in the unit, it strains the components and causes the unit to work harder. This can result in compressor failure, freezing coils, and inefficient cooling.

How To Check for Refrigerant Leaks in Your Home AC

You can perform a DIY assessment in your Amarillo home to determine if you have a refrigerant leak. Follow these steps to detect a leak in your AC unit:

Step 1: Find your condenser. Check to see if you have a large, metal box outside of your home. If you cannot find it, your condenser unit is most likely near your furnace.

Step 2: Locate the refrigerant lines of your unit. If you have a solo unit, look for a thin tube that connects to the cylindrical adapter. If you have a stacked condenser unit, you should see a pair of thick and thin tubes coming from the bottom right corner.

Step 3: Create a soapy solution in a spray bottle. Mix half a teaspoon of dish soap into a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water and shake it thoroughly.

Step 4: Locate the joints that attach the refrigerant lines to the condenser. Spray these with your soapy solution and wait to see if any bubbles form. If you see bubbles, you likely have a refrigerant leak. 

What To Do if You Notice a Refrigerant Leak

If you’ve discovered a refrigerant leak or notice the common Freon leak symptoms, contact one of our certified HVAC professionals right away. Refrigerant can leak through even when your AC unit is turned off due to the pressure that it’s under, so it’s important to get it checked out as soon as possible. 

Refrigerant leaks can be very dangerous and should never be dealt with on your own. A trusted air conditioning technician will be able to identify the leak and advise if a repair or AC unit replacement is needed.

Join Frank’s Diamond Club to Keep Your AC Running Smoothly

Stay ahead of air conditioner leaks and other issues when you join the Frank’s Repair Plumbing Diamond Club. Members benefit from perks including discounted pricing, no after-hours fees, priority scheduling, and a free seasonal HVAC inspection. With regular inspections, we’ll be able to detect signs of refrigerant leaks before they become a problem in your home.

With over 70 years of experience, Frank’s is ‘simply the best’ for all of your air conditioner needs in Amarillo and surrounding areas. We offer honest and up-front estimates and around-the-clock service. When you call Frank’s you can rest easy knowing we’ll get the job done right and on time. Contact us today for all your heating and cooling needs.