Causes And Dangers Of Leaking AC Refrigerant

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The refrigerant in your air conditioner (AC) isn't meant to be used up; it circulates in a closed system and only reduces if there is a leak. Here are some of the things that cause refrigerant leaks:

Normal Wear And Tear

The constituent parts of your AC are subject to wear and tear such as that caused by vibrations. For example, joint connections loosen and seals degrade. With time, these degradations may open up sections of the coils or refrigerant lines that should always remain closed up, leading to refrigerant leaks. These kinds of leaks are, therefore, only common in old units.


Corrosion is always a danger to metal, and the metallic parts of your AC aren't immune to its effects. Corrosion occurs naturally (but slowly) due to moisture and oxygen in the air. For example, some chemicals in your home (such as cleaning products or formaldehyde from manufactured wood products) form highly corrosive products when they react with water, which accelerates your AC's corrosion. Again, this type of damage is common with old units.

Accidental Damages

An accidental damage can cause even a newly installed AC to start leaking refrigerant. For example, your lawn mower can damage the condenser coils (in the outside unit of the AC) when it throws hard objects such as rocks at it.

Now that you know how refrigerant leaks occur, it's time to know what will happen if you don't plug the leaks. Here are some of the consequences of refrigerant leaks:

Inefficient Cooling

The refrigerant absorbs heat from your indoor air and disposes of it outside. When the refrigerant levels fall, the remaining volume will not be able to handle the heat load in your house, leading to inefficient cooling.

Compressor Damage

The compressor pumps the refrigerant to keep it circulating between the condenser and the evaporator. The compressor is designed to handle a certain volume of refrigerant. When the refrigerant level falls, the compressor will overwork in an attempt to keep an optimal level of refrigerant flowing. Unfortunately, an overworked refrigerant can easily overheat and fail, thereby necessitating a replacement.

Health Dangers

Lastly, you may also suffer some health consequences if your AC is leaking refrigerant. The refrigerant is poisonous; it interferes with the level of oxygen in your body. Complications include lung problems, breathing problems, and organ failure.

Proper maintenance and care of your AC will reduce incidences of refrigerant leaks. Signs of low refrigerant include loss of cooling, ice on the refrigerant line, and hissing or bubbling noises. Contact an AC technician like those at Cape Fear Air Conditioning & Heating Co., Inc. immediately if you suspect a case of leaking refrigerant.