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What Causes Refrigerant Leaks?

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Air conditioners have experienced leaks since they were first invented. It’s an extremely common problem that can also lead to time-consuming and costly AC repairs. So what causes refrigerant leaks, and how do you identify them?

AC systems all contain a refrigerant circuit. This circuit is typically made of copper and is structured like a loop or coil. It contains dozens of twists and bends that have been soldered together in order to form the coiled structure. The refrigerant is held within the circuit at a high pressure and runs through the coils at a high speed.

There are several causes for refrigerant leaks, including normal wear and tear on the unit. Another cause is pinhole leaks, a type of leak that is caused by formic erosion and only affects copper coils. There are several indicators that you might have a refrigerant leak, including:

  • Little to no cool air comes out of your vents.
  • It takes longer for your home to cool down (if it ever does).
  • Your energy bills have gotten significantly more expensive.
  • Your air conditioning unit has ice buildup.
  • Unusual hissing sounds come from the unit.

Now that you have a general idea of where refrigerant leaks come from and how to identify them, it’s time to explore the topic more in-depth. This way, you can potentially get ahead of the problem before it becomes a major issue. So without wasting any more time, let’s discuss what causes freon leaks in air conditioners in more detail.

What Can Cause a Very Large Refrigerant Leak?

It’s no secret that refrigerant is crucial for the proper functioning of your air conditioning system. During a cooling cycle, this chemical compound will absorb heat from the air inside your home. So when you’re dealing with a leak, it’s easy to see how this can be a major problem.

As we already mentioned briefly, a refrigerant leak will make it difficult to cool your home. As a result, your AC unit will have to work harder to meet your specified cooling needs. In the end, you could be left with an uncomfortable home and higher energy costs — which are some of the most common signs of an AC refrigerant leak.

So if you’re currently dealing with this problem, it’s important to know what causes freon leaks in air conditioners so you can fix it as soon as possible. Fortunately, we’ll go over everything you need to know below.

Wear and Tear

When discussing what causes freon leaks in air conditioners, it’s impossible not to mention wear and tear. Your air conditioning system works hard to keep you cool during the hottest months of the year. Unfortunately, all of the effort it puts into ensuring your comfort can take its toll. Various parts of your AC unit can become worn or start to corrode over time, which can spell trouble for your refrigerant.

For example, your air conditioner’s connections can weaken with time, leading to a refrigerant leak. At the same time, the rubber seals around the service valves can also become worn, resulting in a similar problem.

As you can see, there are many reasons for homeowners to replace their older units. Along with worn-out parts, aging air conditioning systems are known for being much less energy efficient than newer models. This poor efficiency can sometimes make itself known through higher energy bills. So all-in-all, scheduling an air conditioning replacement in Fresno, CA, can be beneficial in various ways.

Pinhole Leaks

Your air conditioner’s refrigerant circuit is made of copper. Unfortunately, naturally occurring formic acid can eat away at these copper tubes, resulting in tiny, bubble-like leaks. These leaks are much more common in older units than they are in systems that are on the newer side, but it can be helpful to be aware of how formic acid can negatively affect your equipment over time.

Although formic isn’t typically something that can cause a very large refrigerant leak, it’s important to recognize that any size leak can be dangerous and should be addressed promptly. You’ll want to call an experienced technician as soon as possible for assistance.

Poor Installation

Did you know that the improper installation of HVAC equipment can be what causes freon leaks in air conditioners? When a trained contractor is tasked with installing your AC unit, they need to take various steps to ensure the job is completed properly. Unfortunately, the technician can make a few mistakes — such as over-tightening the flare connections — that can cause a very large refrigerant leak down the line.

When the time comes to install a new air conditioning system, it pays off to do your research and hire an AC installation company you can trust. Consider looking through reviews and asking your friends for referrals. This way, you can feel confident that the job will be completed with accuracy and that your family’s safety isn’t in jeopardy.

Factory Flaws

Although a poorly-done air conditioner installation can result in leaking refrigerant, it’s important to know that the technician might not be to blame. In fact, the problem may have to do with the equipment that was installed. When air conditioning systems are produced, there’s always the off chance that the equipment will have factory defects.

Unfortunately, air conditioning units with factory flaws aren’t just minor inconveniences. You may experience insufficient cooling, poor efficiency, and, of course, any major problems can cause a very large refrigerant leak. You’ll want to replace your defective HVAC equipment right away.

Why Does It Cost So Much to Fix a Refrigerant Leak?

When it comes to refrigerant leaks, you can’t just slap a patch on the hole. In fact, locating the leak is one of the most difficult parts of the repair process. Most refrigerant leaks are slow, so they can’t easily be spotted. If an AC technician cannot locate the leak with a visual search, he or she must use a refrigerant leak detector, commonly referred to as a sniffer, to “sniff” out the leak. This process is very difficult and usually requires the technician to disassemble large parts of the unit.

How Are Refrigerant Leaks Repaired?

Once the leak is found, the repair process can get underway, but it is quite the process in and of itself. Leaks cannot be soldered closed due to the high pressure of the refrigerant. The hole would reopen before the patch had time to settle. Instead, the technician must release the refrigerant from the system with a recovery machine in accordance with EPA guidelines. After the refrigerant is evacuated, the technician can repair the hole. Before the technician can put new refrigerant in, they must remove the air with a vacuum to prevent further damage. This process can take hours depending on the system and the amount of damage.

When to Invest in a New Air Conditioning Unit

There’s no doubt that installing a new air conditioning system can be a major expense. So as a homeowner, you may be hesitant to rush into a replacement if you can settle for a repair. Of course, you also want to ensure that you’re making the best decision for your family’s safety and ultimate comfort.

There are some instances where refrigerant leaks can be fixed with the help of a professional technician. So at the first sign of a problem, don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted company for your AC repair in Loomis, CA, and the surrounding areas. However, there are also many instances where replacing your cooling system could be the most suitable solution.

Sometimes the damage is so extensive that the unit can’t be fixed — or it would be more cost-effective to replace the AC unit entirely. A competent and trustworthy technician will be able to identify the best solution for you. When you think you might have a refrigerant leak in your AC, call Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating to get honest and knowledgeable air conditioning service.

Don’t Let an Air Conditioning Problem Disrupt Your Comfort

Air conditioner refrigerant leaks are certainly no laughing matter. Although these leaks can have a negative effect on your energy bills, they can also be dangerous and lead to various health problems. When you come into close contact with refrigerant, there’s always the possibility that you can experience headaches, breathing issues, and other conditions that can potentially be life-threatening.

If you think you could be dealing with a refrigerant leak, it’s important that you use caution and don’t try to fix the problem yourself. You’ll want to call an experienced technician that can provide a safe and efficient solution. Fortunately, Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating is only a quick call away.

There are many unforeseen circumstances that can cause a very large refrigerant leak in your home. The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone. At Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating, we offer air conditioning repair and replacement services to get the situation resolved.

You can count on us to have your comfort and safety in mind. Contact us today to request an appointment in Fresno, CA, or the surrounding communities!

Thomas Howard

Written by Thomas Howard

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