How Often Does a Central Air Conditioner Need Refrigerant?
May 19, 2017
If everything is working properly, your AC should never need refrigerant.
In fact, a central air conditioner should never need refrigerant added unless there’s a refrigerant leak.
We’ll explain how an AC uses refrigerant and what to do if you think your system is low on refrigerant.
A quick look at the AC refrigerant process
Most ACs nowadays come shipped from the manufacturer with the exact amount of refrigerant that it will need for the duration of its life.
So, unlike a car, your AC won’t ever need to “fill up” on refrigerant unless something goes wrong with the system.
You see, refrigerant, a special chemical used to absorb and release heat from the air, is contained within copper coils that travel in a giant loop from your indoor AC unit (the evaporator) to the outdoor AC unit (the condenser).
Because the coils run in a closed circuit (seen above), refrigerant can’t escape. Which means, if your refrigerant levels are low, refrigerant is somehow escaping those copper coils.
Signs of a refrigerant leak include:
What to do if you think you have a refrigerant leak
Step 1: Call a professional
If you think you have a refrigerant leak, you’ll need a professional to locate and repair the leak.
Sorry, even if you’re a handyman, don’t attempt to DIY this repair.
Because refrigerant is a toxic substance that can cause all kinds of harmful issues, including breathing problems and even sudden death. So, unless you’re certified to handle refrigerant, leave a refrigerant leak to the professionals.
Step 2: Beware this common refrigerant scam (that can cost you $$$)
If a tech ever tells you that you’re “low” on refrigerant then promptly recharges your system, charges you and leaves, you just got ripped off.
Here’s why: The tech never actually bothered to fix the root problem: the leak in your refrigerant coils.
So all that refrigerant that you just paid for will eventually leak right back out of the system. Which means in a short time, you’ll be calling the tech to refill your AC. And he’ll just keep taking your money every time.
But here’s the really bad news: Refrigerant is expensive. In fact, if your system uses Freon (a brand of R-22 refrigerant), you can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to over $100 per pound of refrigerant (a 2-ton AC needs over 5 pounds of refrigerant).
So, if you have a refrigerant leak, always make sure the tech repairs the leak before adding more refrigerant.
Need help from a Denver AC tech?
Think you might be low on refrigerant? Just contact us.
We’ll send over a tech you can trust to repair your leak and recharge your system—the right way.
- Tips and definitions