Signs You May Have a Freon Leak
If your air conditioner is blowing air that is less cool than you’d like, or the AC is blowing warm air all together, there is a chance that you could have a refrigerant leak in your AC system. Keep in mind, though, this issue could also be caused by other simple problems like needing to change your furnace filter.
A professional HVAC contractor can use an AC leak detector to determine if you have an AC refrigerant leak in your system. However, sealing that hole with a product like AC Leak Freeze is not a permanent fix.
Why is this not a long-term solution? More than likely, you’ll develop another Freon leak in the future as your system weakens from the first leak. We’ll discuss here when it makes sense to try to repair the leak or recharge the system.
Freon Leak Repair Options
If you’re looking for freon leak repair, you have a few options.
1. Adding Refrigerant/”Charging” Your Air Conditioner
The first option is recharging your central AC unit. Adding refrigerant to your air conditioner is a short term, and sometimes expensive, solution and will not fix the problem forever. If there is a Freon leak in your air conditioner, in most instances it will eventually leak out again and will need to be recharged. The only time this is not the case is if the leak is due to a loose part that can be tightened. This is usually the case when the leak is occurring on a newly installed system. If the source of the leak can be found and easily fixed by tightening a part or a small solder, then it absolutely makes sense to repair and move on! If finding the source of the leak is difficult or impossible, if it is likely that there is more than one leak or if you have an old unit using expensive R22 refrigerant, then we would not recommend wasting money on recharging the AC.
How Long Will My AC Charge Last?
If you do choose to go with the option to recharge the refrigerant in your air conditioning system, there is no way to tell how long this recharge will provide you with cool air. It would depend on if the leak was found, if it was the only leak (often there are many small leaks) and how well the leak repair holds up (if you chose to have the technician put in the additional time to find the leak). Most HVAC companies do not provide any warranty for charging refrigerant for this reason, although all of our other repairs at Quality Comfort come with a lifetime guarantee.
2. Find the Source of Leak and Repair It
If your system is newer, it may be easier for your technician to find the leak and repair it before adding refrigerant back into the system. Here are general steps that a professional HVAC technician would take to repair a freon leak in a central AC system:
Locate the Leak
Use specialized tools such as a refrigerant leak detector or UV dye to locate the source of the leak. Common areas for leaks include joints, connections, and coils.
Assess the Severity
Determine the severity of the leak. Small leaks may be repairable, while larger leaks may require more extensive repairs or component replacements.
Isolate the System
Before making any repairs, the technician will isolate the AC system to prevent further loss of refrigerant. This often involves shutting off the power to the unit and closing the service valves.
Repair Small Leaks
For small leaks, the technician may use epoxy or solder to seal the leak. The damaged area may need to be cleaned and prepared before applying the sealant.
Replace Damaged Components
If a component such as a coil or tubing is damaged beyond repair, it may need to be replaced. This could involve recovering the remaining refrigerant, removing the damaged part, and installing a new one.
After making the repairs, the technician will typically pressurize the system with nitrogen to check for any additional leaks. This helps ensure that the system is properly sealed before adding refrigerant.
Evacuate and Recharge
If no further leaks are detected, the technician will evacuate the system to remove any air and moisture, and then recharge it with the correct amount of refrigerant.
Check for Proper Operation
After recharging the system, the technician will check the AC unit for proper operation. This includes monitoring the refrigerant pressures, checking temperatures, and ensuring that the system is cooling effectively.
Monitor for Leaks
The technician may recommend monitoring the system for some time to ensure that the repairs are effective and that no new leaks develop.
Remember, working with refrigerants is hazardous. If you suspect a freon leak in your central AC system, it’s best to contact a licensed HVAC professional to assess and repair the issue.
3. Replace the AC System
When a central air conditioning (AC) unit is over 10 years old and experiencing refrigerant leaks, it often makes more economic and practical sense to consider replacing the entire system rather than investing in repairs. Firstly, older AC units, especially those surpassing the decade mark, may use outdated refrigerants like R-22, which is being phased out due to environmental concerns. The scarcity and increasing costs associated with such refrigerants make repairs costlier. Additionally, advancements in technology have led to the development of more energy-efficient AC units. Newer models not only offer improved cooling performance but also contribute to reduced energy consumption, resulting in lower utility bills. The aging components of an older AC unit may become more prone to failures, and the cumulative cost of frequent repairs can quickly surpass the expense of a new system.
R22 Refrigerant Phased Out in 2020
Depending on the age of your system, your air conditioner needs a R22 or R410A type of refrigerant (or what you may know as “Freon.”) R22 stopped being produced in 2010 and is extremely expensive, as much as 3 times the cost of R410A. The stock of R22 was slated to last until around 2020. While some stock is still available, it can be hard to come by. R410A refrigerant is the standard for all air conditioners made after 2010 and is much more affordable and better for the environment. The use of CFCs in R22, which are harmful to the environment, is one of a few reasons why the government mandated a halt to its production.
When it’s Best to Repair A Refrigerant Leak or Replace Your AC
It all comes down to cost and what you are comfortable with on whether you should proceed with an air conditioner replacement or a refrigerant repair. With older systems, the cost to repair the Freon leak is going to be high due to the cost of refrigerant. With newer systems, this will be less expensive. The other factor that must be taken into consideration is what type of leak you had. Is this something that could only be repaired with Leak Freeze or was it as simple as tightening a part? If you have a refrigerant repair with a leak sealant, you can probably assume this won’t last more than one season and you’ll need yet another charge soon. However, you may decide it’s more cost effective for you to continue sealing the leak and recharging for a period of time if the charge seems to be lasting an entire cooling season and you’re using a newer, less expensive refrigerant.
If your system is older and uses R22 and Leak Freeze and adding more refrigerant are your only options for repair, it may be time to consider an AC replacement. The cost for repairs could be up to 1/3 the price of your new HVAC installation, so replacing your air conditioner with a fully-functioning, higher-efficiency model would save hundreds in future repair costs as well as energy bills.
Choose an honest AC service professional and rely on them to recommend the best course of action for your home and budget as well as provide you with all the information and options available to you.