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5 Signs Your Air Conditioner Is Low on Refrigerant

April 27, 2015

Refrigerant is the blood of your air conditioner.

Without enough refrigerant, your AC can’t cool your home properly, leaving you sweaty and uncomfortable.

Not only that, but a low level of refrigerant can severely damage your air conditioner, just like a low blood count damages your body. We’ll explain why in more detail.

Here are the signs your AC is low on refrigerant...and what you need to do to get things back to normal.

1) House takes forever to cool off

If your AC is taking longer than normal to cool the home, you may be low on refrigerant.


Because refrigerant is what absorbs the heat in your air. So without enough of it, your AC can’t absorb enough heat to cool the air well.

In other words, think of refrigerant like a heat sponge: the smaller the sponge, the less it can absorb.

2) Supply vent is blowing lukewarm/warm air

If you’re really low on refrigerant, you’ll notice that your supply vents are blowing lukewarm/warm air.

Now it makes sense why your home is taking forever to cool off!

3) Higher than normal electric bills

Due to lack of refrigerant, your AC runs much longer than needed to cool the home, increasing your energy bills as a result.

4) Ice buildup on refrigerant line

Go to your outside AC unit (the one with the spinning fan). If you see ice building up on the copper refrigerant line, then you may be low on refrigerant.

When low on refrigerant, the inside AC unit’s evaporator coil (the part that cold refrigerant flows through) gets too cold, causing cold liquid refrigerant to flow back the refrigerant line.

This causes the surrounding moisture on the refrigerant line to freeze up.

Oh, but there’s more.

Eventually the liquid refrigerant will make its way to the outside unit’s compressor (the “heart” of your AC).

This flowback of refrigerant will damage the outside unit’s compressor. You see, liquids can’t be compressed, so when the refrigerant flows into the compressor, it’s quickly converted into thousands of pounds of hydraulic pressure, and something (valves, rods, plates) will break.

Compressors are extremely expensive to replace and, if yours doesn't have a valid warranty, you’ll probably end up replacing the entire outside AC unit since it’d be more cost efficient.

5) You hear a hissing/bubbling noise

The only reason you’d be low on refrigerant is due to a refrigerant leak (refrigerant isn’t used up like gas in a car, so escape through a leak is the only conclusion).

And if you have a bad refrigerant leak, the refrigerant makes a hissing or bubbling noise as it escapes.

Next steps: How to fix this problem

If you suspect you have low refrigerant (and thus a refrigerant leak) call a professional AC technician for a diagnostic check.

If they find a leak, they should repair it (if possible) before adding more refrigerant. Adding refrigerant without fixing the leak will cause the refrigerant to escape again, and you’ll have this problem all over again. And older R-22 refrigerant is super expensive now.

If you have any other questions about the refrigerant in your air conditioner, ask one of our experts for help.

If you think your system needs refrigerant and you want a refrigerant leak check, schedule an appointment time online with Cool Today.

Cool Today provides award-winning air conditioning service to Sarasota, Florida and the surrounding cities and counties.

Posted in: Troubleshooting

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