What can a low refrigerant charge cause?
A loss of refrigerant is one of the most common causes of a nonoperational HVAC system.
Even more, an under or overcharged system is at risk of damaging some very expensive components, such as a compressor! And if you have ever replaced a compressor before, you know they are not cheap!
Refrigerant loss can be caused by a number of things, but there is one thing that they all have in common… A leak!
How & where do refrigerant leaks happen?
Refrigerant leaks can happen anywhere in the refrigerant circuit!
Some of the most common leaks a technician may run across are at the evaporator coil, condenser coil, joints of a line set, or even the caps on the service valves of your equipment.
If you are low on refrigerant, the first thing you should check is if your system has caps on the service valves.
Simply walk out to your Condenser (outdoor unit) and where the line set connects to the unit, verify the unit has caps. If the unit does not have caps, put them on!
Another thing you can verify if you already have caps on the unit is that the caps are flared caps, if they are not flared, verify that they have gaskets and are tightly secured to the valves.
How does a technician find a leak?
There are many ways a technician can go about finding a leak. In today’s world, most technicians are equipped with electronic leak detectors, which are handy tools to have when trying to locate a leak. However, there are other ways to find a leak such as spray bubbles, a soapy water-like liquid that forms bubbles when it comes into contact with a leak on a pressurized system. Another form of leak detection can include UV dye that is injected into the refrigerant system, making it easier for the technician to spot.
Lastly, another one worth mentioning is simply sound! On larger leaks, a technician can pressurize the system with nitrogen and listen to see where the leak is coming from.
What should you do if you have a leak?
The answer is simple, repair it!
If you choose not to repair the leak, you could end up spending more money on refrigerant over the years then it would cost to simply repair the leak. This is even more crucial to customers with R22 refrigerant systems. As you may already know, after this year R-22 refrigerant will no longer be available. The limited supply on the market currently is already costing consumers a ton of money! Nonetheless, if you have a leak with any type of refrigerant, the statement still stands. It is a much better solution to simply repair the leak, and then continue to add refrigerant on a regular basis.