Written on: May 19, 2020
Most people don’t pay much attention to their cooling systems’ inner workings until they suddenly stop working. While it’s true that you need properly working parts, like a blower motor or compressor, for cool relief, without refrigerant — the lifeblood of the AC unit — the cooling process won’t function at all. For that reason, it’s critical to place a spotlight on this seemingly minor part of your cooling system.
In this blog post, we break down everything you need to know about refrigerants and your cooling system.
Roughly three-quarters of all homes in the United States have an air conditioner, according to the Department of Energy.
Your AC unit works to cool your home by moving the heat inside your home, outside. The unit consists of a cold indoor coil (the evaporator), and a hot outdoor coil (a condenser). The pump, also known as the compressor, moves the heat transfer fluid (refrigerant) between the evaporator and the condenser.
The refrigerant evaporates in the indoor coil, extracting the heat from inside your home, and cooling it down. The hot refrigerant then moves outside via the condenser.
Refrigerant is a general term used to refer to a mixture that undergoes state changes, changing from a liquid to a gas, and back to a liquid. When first introduced, refrigerants were toxic and combustible. Luckily, in 1928, a non-toxic blend was created, Freon, that brought AC units into residential homes.
You may not realize there are many types of refrigerants. And, not all are used in modern home AC units. These are the most common refrigerants:
You can read more here on the complete phase-out of R22 refrigerant.
If your AC unit has stopped producing cold air, then it may be a sign that you are low on refrigerant. You should always call a licensed technician to help you check the charge (amount) of refrigerant in your unit.
There are, however, a few signs that will tell you it’s time to call a tech:
Whatever the signs, be sure and call a trained AC technician to inspect the unit and the lines, and especially if you suspect a leak. They will need to fix the leak, test the repair, and charge the system to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Due to concerns about untrained homeowners purchasing and handling refrigerants, the Environmental Protection Agency has placed restrictions on who can purchase refrigerants.
While HFCs are safer for the environment, unnecessary venting of these refrigerants into the atmosphere is still harmful. By limiting sales of refrigerants to certified technicians, any inadvertent venting will be reduced.
This has significantly cut down on the number of novices who are purchasing refrigerants and then recharging their AC units. These types of instances often lead to broken cooling systems, or worse, damage to the environment.
The time to start thinking about your home’s cooling system is before you actually need it. If it’s been a few months since you last turned it on, it’s always a good idea to prep your AC unit for the summer months ahead.