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How will you know if your central air conditioner is leaking refrigerant? Professional HVAC technicians have a way of diagnosing and tracking down refrigerant leaks. Keep in mind that it’s best to call in a professional to take care of this task; it’s definitely not something you should try to DIY. 

However, you can learn more about your HVAC unit by understanding what the professionals do. Here are some of the ways to find out if your HVAC is leaking refrigerant:

  • Your HVAC unit is running longer than it used to. Inside your air conditioner  are evaporator coils that absorb heat from the air. In the outdoor unit, condenser coils disperse that heat. If your AC is running longer than normal, it may be because one or both of those sets of coils is blocked so hot air remains in your home. Ice and dirt can cause a blockage.
  • The air coming from your vents isn’t cool or warm enough. This is a common problem when the compressor or outdoor unit is running low on refrigerant. A broken or disconnected return duct may also be sucking in outdoor air.
  • Your HVAC unit never seems to reach the temperature set on your thermostat. This could mean your thermostat has lost power. Check if the screen on your thermostat is turned off. 
  • You notice an increase in your energy bills. As your AC is forced to work harder and longer than normal, it will start using more energy, which you’ll notice when you receive your energy bills.
  • When you call a professional who provides AC and refrigeration services, they’ll check the following: Evaporator coils. Your technician will check the evaporator coils’ capillary tubes. When your AC is running, these little tubes vibrate, causing them to rub against each other or other objects positioned close to them. The constant vibration and rubbing can cause holes to develop over time. 

Condenser coils. The U-bends in your condenser are held together by tubular sheet metal. This metal may rub against the copper tubes when your AC is running. This rubbing can also lead to the development of holes. 

Refrigerant line sets. Your AC’s refrigerant line sets have flare connections and joints. A number of things can cause a leak in the line sets. For example, if someone trips over them, or if you’re mowing the lawn and hit them by accident. A worker could also hit them with nails if you ever have drywall work done. All of these actions could cause punctures and leaks.

To further understand how technicians diagnose a refrigerant leak, check out the following:

Electronic detection. A professional technician uses an electronic leak detector in most situations. This device is capable of detecting signs of refrigerant that has leaked onto the system’s exterior components. However, the electronic leak detector should be in contact with the component to work properly.

Dye testing. In some cases, your technician might use a special kind of dye. This dye is added to the AC unit, and the technician then uses UV light, which illuminates the dye. Wherever the refrigerant is leaking, the dye will be found too.

Nitrogen leak detection. The technician will put compressed nitrogen in your AC instead of refrigerant. If there’s a leak, the escaping compressed nitrogen will create a sound that helps pinpoint the location of the leak. Your technician also has the option of adding soapy water so bubbles will form wherever the unit is leaking, making detection even easier.

It’s not a good idea to try to fix a refrigerant leak yourself. Call a professional instead so they can find the problem immediately. AC & Refrigeration Works offers residential and commercial AC and refrigeration services. We can diagnose your HVAC for refrigerant leaks and other problems. Call us today at (956) 255-7227 or use this form to get an assessment and estimate.