Understanding HVAC Issues

« Back to Home

Two Signs of an AC Refrigerant Leak

Posted on

If you have a central air conditioner that is not working properly, then you may be able to troubleshoot the problem before you call in a professional. Sometimes, the problem may be a broken or failing part that needs to be replaced. Maintenance issues and dirty parts can cause issues too, and so can a leak in the refrigerant line. Refrigerant leaks produce some telltale signs that you can look for, like the following. 

Hissing Sounds 

Air conditioners use a refrigerant to help cool air through a process called phase conversion. Phase conversion occurs when liquid coolant turns into a gas. When this happens, the coolant absorbs heat from the surrounding air. Cooled air is then forced through your home's vents. The refrigerant in the AC system is placed under a great deal of pressure to convert it into a liquid form, and a compressor pump helps with this. The pressurized coolant can place a great deal of stress on the coolant lines leading away from the compressor pump. These lines are the most likely to form small holes. Openings around the compressor are common as well as seals start to wear down. As the pressurized coolant releases from the holes, it makes a hissing sound. 

You should be able to hear a hissing sound coming from the outdoor air conditioner condenser unit. However, the fan and fan motor may make a bit too much noise for you to hear the sound. Disconnect the fan temporarily so you can listen for hissing and bubbling noises. Flip the breaker or the switch to turn off the unit completely. Use a screwdriver to release the screws sitting on the top cover of the compressor unit where the fan sits. Look for screws around the fan that keep it in place and remove these as well. Pull the fan up out if the AC housing and set it aside. Locate the wires connected to the fan motor and follow them to the control panel of the air conditioner. Gently pull the wires from the panel. 

Turn the air conditioner back on and lean your head over the open top of the air conditioner housing and listen closing for bubbling and hissing sounds. Try to figure out where the noises are coming from exactly so you can inform your HVAC professional and a repair can be made. 

Ice on Refrigerant Line

If there is more than enough refrigerant in your air conditioning system, then the coolant will be pumped into your house so that heat can be removed from the air. The refrigerant will then retain the heat and dispel it outside as it runs through the coolant coils connected to the compressor pump. If there is not a lot of coolant in the lines, then there will not be enough refrigerant to compress. The coolant may only turn into a partial liquid, and only a little bit of heat will be removed from the inside air. The refrigerant will typically remain lukewarm when this happens, and heat will release quickly from the coolant. The liquid may then become too cool before it passes through the evaporator pump again. Ice can then form on the outsides of the coils.

Remove the top cover from the air conditioner and inspect the copper coils inside for signs of ice. Touch the coils with your hands as well to see if they feel cold. If you see ice or if the lines feel cold to the touch, then you have a refrigerant leak. In this case, the leak may not be large, especially if you did not hear any hissing sounds coming from refrigerant lines. Your HVAC professional may be able to recharge or refill the coolant to help your AC system work efficiently once again. Make sure to locate the manual or the serial number for the AC unit. This will help your HVAC professional choose the right coolant to place in the system, since Freon is rarely used anymore. 

For more information or assistance, contact companies like  Action Air of Florida.