refrigerant leak

When your Tampa air conditioning system stops working, the World’s Smartest Technicians at Air Express are here to help. And no matter what season we’re in, an AC system that isn’t cooling is always a problem. One of the most frequent causes of a “No Cool” is a leaky system– but what does that mean? And is it an indicator of something bigger? Read on to find out.

Different Types of Leaks in Your AC System

First of all, not all air conditioning leaks are created equal. If your air conditioner is leaking water, you likely have a clogged drain line. This is one of the most frequent issues we find at our customers’ homes, and it’s entirely preventable through regular maintenance. If your drain line is clogged and causing your system to shut off, we use advanced tools to clean it and treat it to prevent future clogs. You can see the result of a recent drain line flush below. Read more about our Tampa air conditioning maintenance plans here!

clogged drain line

Of course, there are other reasons why your air conditioner might be leaking water, such as a frozen evaporator coil or a problematic installation. We always recommend that our customers turn off their systems when their AC starts to leak water. This prevents further (and potentially more serious) water damage to your home. Also, if your evaporator coil is frozen, turning your air conditioner off will allow it to defrost so we can service the coil during our appointment.

The most common leak in your AC system is from refrigerant. But… what is refrigerant? Sometimes referred to as “freon,” refrigerant moves within your AC system to remove heat from the air. It’s also what our technician, pictured at the top of this post, is carrying in those pink containers! The compressor pumps refrigerant from the outside system to the inside air handler, where it changes pressure and becomes a gas. This is where it collects heat from the air, AKA cooling it. The refrigerant is then sent back outside, where heat is removed and the refrigerant is turned back into a liquid. It continues to move in a loop like this forever… until your air conditioning system breathes its last breath.

The kicker here is that your AC system is a closed system, so there is no reason why you should experience refrigerant loss… unless you have a leak. Sometimes, these leaks are small and insignificant. But if your system stops working effectively, or it stops working altogether, this might be a sign that you have a major refrigerant leak that needs servicing.

How Can a Refrigerant Leak Be Fixed?

First of all, it’s important for the technician to determine where the leak is coming from. This is best and most effectively done through a dye test, where fluorescent dye is inserted into your air conditioning system and then searched for several days later, after it’s had a chance to cycle through.

uv dye test

A refrigerant leak isn’t always the end of the world. Sometimes, they can be fixed by simply replacing a lineset. If the leak is sourced back to your evaporator coil… you’re in for some bad news. Evaporator coils are large and intricate, and they’re very expensive to replace. If your system is under warranty, you’ll save some money on the repair. But if your system is older or unprotected through a warranty, you might be better off replacing your system.

Yup– replacing your evaporator coil is that expensive.

And here’s the thing. It might seem cheaper to just replace your evaporator coil, but if your system is really old and still using outdated refrigerant, you’re going to need to replace it soon anyways. R22 was limited through the Clean Air Act of 1990, and it will be completely banned in 2020 (this year!). So if you frequently get R22 added to your old, leaky system, the time to replace it is NOW.

Also, a leaking system is always an inefficient system, so you’re likely spending 2-3x more on electric bills per month than someone who has recently installed a newer, high-efficiency system. The energy savings can be even more drastic if you choose to install an inverter air conditioner– think 70% less per month! That alone is enough to cancel out the cost of installation, especially when you carry that cost forward for the life of your new system.

The Bottom Line on Refrigerant Leaks

damaged evaporator coil

Here at Air Express, we have a reputation for doing things differently. We never want to sell you, as a homeowner, something you don’t need. And we frequently run second opinion calls where we help customers save money through AC repair as opposed to replacement. However, we don’t believe in putting a band-aid on a recurring problem, especially if your AC system is old and inefficient. We will always encourage customers to pursue replacement options if it will help them save money in the long run and live more comfortably in the meantime. You can read more about that logic here.

That’s why refrigerant leaks are frequently an indicator that it’s time to replace your AC system. However, if you feel that your system has been incorrectly diagnosed, book an appointment below with the World’s Smartest Technicians. We’ll help you get to the bottom of whatever is going on with your Tampa AC system, and we’ll find cost-effective ways to fix it!

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