My AC is Leaking Freon. What Should I Do?

Ask 20 people about what comes to mind when they think of summer, and you’ll likely get 20 different answers. While the common denominator to many of them may be images of beaches, ice cream cones, or late sunsets, those experiences are going to vary depending on whether you’re asking someone in Nantucket or someone in Fargo, North Dakota.

What we all can agree on is that when it gets really hot outside, we all rely on air conditioners to make life more bearable.

What is Freon?

Let’s start with the basics. Refrigerant is the cooling agent that makes air conditioners around the world emit that wonderfully cool air into our homes, businesses, and pretty much any other enclosed entertainment venue we can visit.

Freon (also known as R22) is the type of refrigerant that’s used in most traditional air conditioner systems. You can find out if this is the type of coolant your AC needs by checking on the nameplate.

However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued new regulations establishing that air conditioners manufactured after January 1, 2010, must use a different kind of refrigerant. This is because Freon depletes the Earth’s ozone layer – and we kind of need it to protect us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

That said, since so many air conditioners were made before that date, R22 is still available for maintenance and repair of AC units. But a regular Joe cannot walk into a hardware store and purchase it. Those same regulations that are attempting to phase it out (also known as the Clean Air Act), state that the only people who are authorized by law to buy Freon are certified technicians. This not only ensures protection of the environment, but also the health of the consumer, since exposure to refrigerant fumes can lead to poisoning.

4 Causes of Refrigerant Leaks?

There are several factors that could cause your air conditioner to leak refrigerant. Some of them are the following:

1. Vibrations. Any time you’re operating an air conditioning unit, there will be vibrations along the system. With the passage of time, AC parts will start to weaken, and these vibrations can sometimes result in cracks along the air conditioner.

2. Corrosion. Air conditioners are made out of different types of metals: Aluminum, copper, galvanized steel, and others. Over time, they’ll start corroding thanks to air pollutants, such as some cleaners, aerosol sprays, and off-gassing from building materials and furniture. In addition, because condenser units sit outside of a building, the elements will cause it to rust at some point.

3. Pin holes. Chemicals in cleaning supplies and off-gassing from furnishings, hardwood floors, and pretty much your entire home can also cause pin holes along the evaporator coils. These holes can also be caused by formic acid, which is an ingredient in many traditional household items.

4. Age of the AC unit. The average lifespan of an air conditioner is 15 to 20 years. If your unit survived all of the issues listed above for most of that timeframe, you might be living on a prayer close to the two decades milestone.

4 Signs of a Freon Leak

Signs you should never ignore include:

1. Air conditioner is not cooling. Now, before you have a freak out moment, sometimes your AC is not cooling simply because you have to clean or replace the air filters or clean the condenser unit. [Side note: if you decide to change filters or clean condensate lines on your own, always remember to turn off your AC and its power source, whether fuse box or breakers]. But if you’re positive both parts are clean, you may have a refrigerant leak.

2. Your air conditioning unit keeps freezing up. Just as when your unit is not cooling, it’s possible that your AC is freezing up due to a need to clean filters or the condenser. And just as with the explanation given above, if you know neither is the problem but your system keeps freezing, you may have a refrigerant leak.

3. You can hear a hissing sound. Refrigerant is pressurized, so if there’s a pinhole or crack on your air conditioner, you might be able to hear a faint hissing as air comes out of the opening.

4. Your electric bill keeps going up. Your air conditioner shuts off once your home’s temperature reaches the setting established on your thermostat. If there’s a leak, your AC won’t cool the air, which means your home will remain warm, and the air conditioner won’t shut off. So, you have a unit that’s working harder (and costing you money), to no avail.

Air Conditioner Freon Leak Symptoms You’ll Feel

Refrigerant poisoning is a serious issue. Although it’s odorless, being exposed to it can cause a lack of oxygen to your cells and lungs, and cause damage to your organs. If your AC unit has been acting up and shows any of the signs of a refrigerant leak listed above, you should call an HVAC technician as soon as possible. As in, stop reading this blog and call now.

If you or your family has already breathed in those noxious gases, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Irritation of eyes
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache

Extended exposure can cause even more serious health ailments, and even death.

Call A+ Air Conditioning for AC Repair Service in Gainesville

Because we know that some issues don’t always happen during regular business hours, we offer 24/7 AC emergency service. If you suspect your AC has a refrigerant leak, let us help you.

Contact us, and let us get your AC back to proper working order.