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Michall Daimion Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. Blog

Is a Small Refrigerant Leak in an AC Really a Big Deal? (YES!)


Refrigerant is the life-blood of an air conditioning system. In fact, it functions in a way similar to how blood works in the human body: a pump circulates it through the system, allowing it to carry out vital functions. But while blood carries oxygen, refrigerant carries heat. 

Of course, there are differences between how refrigerant works in an AC and how blood works in the human body, and there’s one important one to point out because it helps to answer the question in the title. The human body makes more blood if any is lost. An air conditioner doesn’t make more refrigerant if it’s lost. And when refrigerant levels start to drop, it means trouble.

The “Small” Refrigerant Leak

Most refrigerant leaks are quite small. They’re due to a type of corrosion along the copper lines that creates pinhole-sized leaks. But those leaks are big enough to allow a lot of the high-pressure refrigerant gas to escape. You might even be able to hear it escaping as a high-pitched whistling noise. We recommend you call for technicians to examine your AC if you hear this sound—the sooner a refrigerant leak is caught, the better.

The Danger of Refrigerant Loss

An air conditioning system is designed to run on a specific amount of refrigerant, which is referred to as the unit’s charge. This is the amount put into the system when it’s installed. If there are no leaks, this same charge should last for the lifetime of the air conditioner. Refrigerant isn’t “used up” like an energy source; instead, it shifts between liquid and gaseous states in a cycle that allows it to move heat from inside a house to release it outside. 

If the refrigerant charge drops, it will start to affect the AC’s cooling ability and eventually put the entire system in jeopardy:

  • Lower refrigerant means the AC won’t be able to absorb as much heat through the evaporator coil, causing a loss of cooling capacity. This will also lead to a rise in indoor humidity.
  • The evaporator coil will freeze over because the remaining refrigerant in the coil won’t warm up enough to rise above freezing, leading to the moisture on the coil surface turning to ice. 
  • The drop in refrigerant will change the pressure throughout the system, harming energy efficiency.
  • Finally, the compressor will overheat and burn out. This usually means the whole air conditioner must be replaced.

Call for Repairs for Leaking Refrigerant

If you notice any indications of refrigerant loss (a drop in cooling, rise in humidity, frozen evaporator coil, hissing sound), call for professional repairs for your air conditioning in West Chester, PA. Technicians must locate the leaks and seal them, and then replace the lost refrigerant to its factory levels. (A common amateur error is to put too much refrigerant in, which is just as damaging to an AC.) 

We have expert technicians who’ll help rescue your AC from leaks, and we offer 24-hour emergency service.

Call Michall Daimion Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. when you need AC repair. The Main Line’s Premier Service Provider since 1976.

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