Understanding the Signs of Low Refrigerant

low refrigerantLow refrigerant in your central air conditioner may begin with an assortment of initially insignificant symptoms.

As the refrigerant charge drops, however, these minor issues can turn into major dysfunction, eventually shutting down the system completely. Refrigerant absorbs heat from the airflow inside your house at the system evaporator coil, then conveys it to the outside condenser coil where it’s released into the air. The level of circulating refrigerant is a very precise specification.

If it declines below that amount, you may note any of the following signs:

  • Cooling shortfalls. When the refrigerant charge drops, the air conditioner can’t extract enough heat to keep the house cool. The unit will run increasingly longer cycles to meet thermostat settings, eventually running non-stop.
  • Higher costs. Extended A/C cycles mean increased electricity consumption, which typically shows up in higher monthly bills. If other causes are ruled out, an air conditioner running too many hours per day due to low refrigerant may be the reason.
  • Increasing humidity. Humidity extraction is an important part of the A/C cooling process. As the refrigerant charge drops, the evaporator coil doesn’t condense water vapor effectively and indoor humidity rises. The comfort level in the house, meanwhile, declines as moist air doesn’t cool as efficiently.
  • Coil ice. When refrigerant is low, it can’t absorb sufficient heat to keep the evaporator coil temperature above freezing. Ice begins to form as condensation freezes, eventually completely blocking system airflow through the coil passageway. This may cause severe compressor damage and/or trigger an automatic safety switch that shuts down the air conditioner.

What To Do

Contact a qualified HVAC contractor to check the refrigerant charge. If it’s low, the culprit is usually a small leak somewhere. The service technician has the special tools to locate the leak and the expertise to make a permanent repair. After the leak is resolved, the refrigerant level can be restored to manufacturer’s specs and full cooling performance and efficiency returned to normal.

Are you seeing any suspicious signs of low refrigerant? Contact the professionals at Powers Heating & Air for prompt diagnosis and repair.

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