Having a working AC in your home is a joy, especially when the weather gets a bit too hot. However, the air conditioner might start underperforming due to various reasons. If it starts to feel water than it should or takes ages to lower the indoor temperatures, even after changing the air filters and setting the thermostat correctly, chances are it is running low on refrigerant.
AC specialists say that the slightest drop of the AC’s refrigerant level will reduce its efficiency, causing it to consume more power while not cooling the indoors. Air conditioners often start showing signs of low refrigerant levels weeks or months before the refrigerant (freon) runs out. The trick is keeping this from happening is in identifying some of the red flags.
Reasons For The Refrigerant Running Low
1. Incorrect Installation
The freon in an AC unit is meant to produce a cooling effect that dissipates heat. It should be securely fed into the AC condenser and sealed off to ensure it does not leak. If the sealed system is damaged during a repair, like when fixing the condenser, the refrigerant will start leaking or evaporating.
2. A Leak
While leaks in the condenser because of poor installation is one of the common reasons for the AC to be low on refrigerant, the problem could also stem from other things. For instance, it can occur due to aging with the components worn-down and ready for retirement or deteriorated joints that come loose, causing the leak.
3. Unmaintained System
A neglected or poorly maintained air conditioner will soon start malfunctioning with low refrigerant levels, which are likely issues that develop. If the AC runs for hours or days on end, it should be serviced to ensure everything is working as it should. Failure to do this increases the chances of the system suffering a problem like a leak.
The 6 Signs Of Low Refrigerant Levels In Your AC
While the reasons for the AC being low on freon have been stated, the signs could manifest slowly. Knowing how to identify them will make a difference in enjoying a comfortable environment indoors and having a system that only runs your energy bill high. Some of the notable signs that your AC has low refrigerant levels include:
- Increased Energy Bills
When the AC system is low on refrigerant, it will work harder to maintain the set indoor temperatures. It means the AC will be running on overdrive, increasing its power consumption, resulting in higher energy bills than normal each month. The refrigerant is more of the air conditioner system’s lifeblood if you think about it.
When the freon levels are low, the AC will tire quickly, causing it to demand more energy to keep up with your home’s cooling needs. The refrigerant is essential in the absorption and transfer of heat during every cooling cycle. When the refrigerant is low, the AC has to cycle severally because it takes longer to attain the set indoor temperature. The result is an inefficient air conditioner that is energy-hungry. If your power bills have shot up over the recent past, chances are your AC is running low on refrigerant and need servicing.
- Takes Longer To Cool Your Home
If the AC is struggling to absorb ambient heat inside the house, it most likely has a problem with the condenser or is low on refrigerant. The average-sized air conditioner should take less than 3 hours to cool an average household by a cooling temperature drop of roughly 10 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it would be best to consider some standing factors such as the house and AC system’s size, age of the AC, and performance output. You should be concerned if it takes 4 or more hours before you start feeling the cooling effects of a running air conditioner.
- Blowing Air From The AC Vents
An AC works by generating and blowing cold air into a room while sucking up the hot indoor air to discharge it outdoors. With the low freon levels, the unit will generate heat, which some people discover as they walk past the outdoor condenser. They encounter a blast of hot air discharging from the condenser vents, meaning there is excess heat inside the AC unit, which indicates low or no refrigerant. The heat comes from overpowered condensing lines and overworked motors, as the AC struggles to attain the preferred indoor temperatures.
- Frost Layers On Refrigerant Lines
You should inspect the outdoor components of your Air Conditioning system once in a while. Check to see if ice forms on the refrigerant lines. If you frost layers on them, your AC is likely to be at its lowest point of freon levels. It is a sign that you should schedule a recharge and comprehensive inspection done by an HVAC specialist to ensure all is well with every other component for an AC that will run smoothly.
- The AC Shuts Down Entirely
It is rare to hear cases of too much refrigerant, but a higher amount of freon can damage the AC. That is why most units are fitted with a safety switch that detects pressure changes and shuts off the system. If that happens, the AC will not switch back on until it is checked and serviced so that the switch is reset. That same thing can happen if the AC system detects the refrigerant is at the lowest levels, or the compressor is burnt out, or another part is damaged, causing the unit to overcharge.
- Bubbling Or Hissing Noise
It is a sign that might manifest early on but can also go unnoticed if the sound is muffled. But when the refrigerant lines start leaking, the unit will have a bubbling or hissing noise as the freon escapes from the point of weakness on the lines. The wise thing to do is turn off the AC once you discover such a sound in your AC. If you suspect a leak, you should measure the pressure levels checking for any unevenness if you have the measurement equipment. Otherwise, call an HVAC technician to inspect & repair your air conditioner.
From the above information, it is evident that low refrigerant levels in your AC cause it to be an ineffective and energy-hungry system that attracts higher power bills. And if the problem is unresolved, it will lead to costlier repairs. That is why you should schedule a comprehensive refrigerant gas inspection and services at least once a year to ensure your home has a comfortable indoor temperature all year round.