How Do I Know If My Air Conditioner Has A Refrigerant Leak?

In the heat of summer, the last thing your family needs is to deal with a problem involving your cooling system. Unfortunately, problems can occur no matter the season. Failures and breakdowns happen for a variety of reasons. One of the most common issues involving air conditioning systems is an AC refrigerant leak. The coolant leak may or may not be obvious, but it does do damage to the home environment. It affects the efficiency of your air conditioning system. Furthermore, if the leak is not caught and fixed quickly, it can even affect the health of your family.

Understanding air conditioner refrigerant leaks and knowing what to look for is necessary for all homeowners with an air conditioning system. Here you will learn the what’s, why’s, and how’s of refrigerant leaks and the importance of having a professional heating and cooling company on your team.

In the next few paragraphs, you will learn what air conditioning refrigerant does, why it could be leaking from the unit, and how to find solutions for dealing with a suspected leak.

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The Function Of Refrigerant In Air Conditioning Systems

charging refrigerant on a cooling system

Air conditioner refrigerant, such as R-22, comes in a gas or liquid form. When used in an air conditioning system, the compressor pushes it around and then compresses it. The molecules are pushed together and produce heat when they collide. The coolant continues its journey to the condenser, where it is cooled by the condenser and assisted by fans. When refrigerant cools, it condenses and becomes a liquid. It makes its way through the evaporator, where it continues to be cooled. Air flows through and over the evaporator coils, where it is cooled by the refrigerant before it is pushed out through the air vents into the home.

Refrigerant is an integral part of a cooling system. Without the refrigerant, the air does not cool. So when there is not enough refrigerant due to leakage, your air conditioning system is not able to cool the area as it is supposed to do.

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Four Reasons For Refrigerant Leaks In An Air Conditioning System

Some of the causes of an air conditioner coolant leak are:

1. The Connections In The Cooling Unit Have Weakened

Over time and use, the connections inside the system become eroded. As the joints and connections thin out, cracks and holes may result, causing the refrigerant to leak.

2. The HVAC System Was Not Installed Properly

image of an air conditioner installation depicting ac coolant leak

When the parts of a central air conditioning unit are not fitted in the right manner, refrigerant leaks through the joints and connections.

3. The Air Conditioner Is Defective

Sometimes AC units are not assembled or handled correctly. The resulting defects result in refrigerant leaks.

4. Time and Use Takes A Toll On The Air Conditioning System

As with anything else, age and use causes wear and tear. There are rubber seals around connections and joints inside air conditioning units. As the seals thin and wear out, the coolant begins to leak around them.

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What Happens When There Is A Leak In The Cooling System

image of a homeowner covering ears due to AC unit making noise

  • The air conditioner works harder to cool the air. Since AC’s work with a temperature gauge, the system will continue to run in order to reach the threshold. Because of this continuous running, it uses more energy, and you will see your electric bills get more and more expensive.
  • You will notice that your home does not cool as quickly as it should. It takes the air conditioner longer to cool the air and it may be hours before it reaches a comfortable temperature.
  • Humidity levels increase. Dehumidifying is one task that can only be accomplished when there is enough refrigerant in the system. If there is a leak, the air conditioner will take longer to lower the humidity levels, or it may not be able to do so at all. If your home humidity is high, it could be caused by a refrigerant leak.
  • Frost and ice build up on the evaporator coils. When refrigerant levels are too low, evaporator coils are unable to absorb heat as they are supposed to. Rather than condensing and cooling, the refrigerant condenses and freezes in the coils.
  • Refrigerant drips from the air conditioner and forms puddles on the floor. This can happen when condensed and frozen refrigerant melts and drips from evaporator coils.
  • Your air conditioner is hissing. If there are cracks or holes in the system, you may hear a hissing sound coming from the unit. If the leaks become bigger, the hissing will become a gurgle, which indicates a need for immediate attention
  • Air does not flow through as it should. Low amounts of refrigerant make it difficult – even impossible – for the refrigerant to cool the air. This results in low air flow and inadequate efficiency.
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Air Conditioning Refrigerant Leaks Can Be Very Dangerous

When refrigerant leaks through the vents in your home, the exposure can make your family sick. Symptoms may include the inability to concentrate, loss of balance, a feeling of dizziness, feeling short of breath, and poor coordination. Residents may experience skin rashes, and if the refrigerant has touched skin, frostbite and even chemical burns could occur. High refrigerant levels can cause a loss of consciousness, seizures, and have even been known to result in death.

Do Not Try To Repair Or Replace Your Air Conditioner Yourself

Like many homeowners, you may think that taking the project on yourself will save money. However, refrigerant leaks are usually caused by situations only certified techs should handle. If you have a new model air conditioning unit, working on it yourself can void the warranty, resulting in expensive bills. It is always best to contact a certified HVAC technician.


Out With The Old: A Look At R-22

R-22 was the most used type of refrigerant in older model air conditioning systems. R-22 has been phasing out since the first of January in 2020. The coolant is no longer being produced, supplies are dwindling, and the prices are going up. If you have an older model AC that uses R-22 and it is starting to fail, it probably makes more sense to have the unit replaced by a newer model than to have the old one repaired.

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Should You Repair It Or Replace Your Cooling System?

A leak in an older AC unit can become more than just a leak. Repairs and refills on an old system can be almost as expensive as purchasing a new air conditioner. The newer ENERGY STAR certified models are more efficient and will keep your family comfortable much longer. Your new ENERGY STAR unit should have a high SEER rating to ensure long-lasting comfort and efficiency.



In conclusion, if an air conditioning coolant leak is an issue for you, replacing your old model with a new one can be a wise decision. Smaller, simple problems are easily fixed, but some damages call for a more radical approach. A certified professional can advise you of the options available to you as well as the pros and cons of each.

Tevis Energy’s sister company, Modern Comfort, performs HVAC installations, heating and cooling replacements, tune-ups, and more. Our technicians can provide you with expert HVAC services to ensure that your system provides you with the comfort and efficiency you deserve. Call now to schedule an appointment.

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Contact Tevis Energy For Your Air Conditioning Requirements

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Tevis Energy provides high-quality HVAC services in central Maryland and southern Pennsylvania. Rest assured, we only have the best professionally certified technicians for all your heating and cooling service needs, including replacements, repairs, installations, and maintenance. All our techs are highly knowledgeable and experienced in servicing your HVAC system correctly and promptly.

For the most competitive HVAC service rates in the area, call Tevis Energy. Our tune-up services increase energy efficiency and improve your comfort while lowering your energy costs. When you need to replace or repair your HVAC system, we can recommend the most fitting solution for your home within your budget. All our work is guaranteed to ensure your satisfaction. Book your next air conditioner tune-up or service appointment with Tevis Energy today. We offer free, in-home estimates.

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