Air conditioner refrigerant lasts forever. Refrigerant is made from unique substances (such as chlorofluorocarbons) that the air conditioner can force to change state from a gas into a liquid without using too much energy. When the refrigerant changes, it becomes cold, allowing the air conditioner to create cold air.
This cooling quality is a natural feature of the refrigerant, and it won’t “wear out” no matter how many times you use your air conditioner. HVAC professionals who offer “refrigerant” re-charges may be trying to pull the wool over your eyes. There are only four specific circumstances when you might need more or new refrigerant.
1. Your Refrigerant was Leaking
Your air conditioner’s refrigerant is in a closed system of coils inside your air conditioner. If one of the coils gets punctured or warped, you could have a leak on your hands. While your air conditioner will still work, it will output less and less cold air, as there is less refrigerant to use to make cold air. Depending on which kind of refrigerant your system runs on, a leak could be a safety concern and environmental risk. If you have a leak, you’ll need an HVAC technician to come in to fix the leak first before they add more refrigerant.
2. Improper Installation
When an HVAC technician is installing your air conditioner they need to add the refrigerant in, or “charge” it. Sometimes they fail to add the full amount needed. If your air conditioner is low on refrigerant it may:
- Have ice build-up on the back
- Make a distinct hissing noise
- Make less cold air than it should
- Use more energy than it should
If you have suspicions that your air conditioner was not correctly installed, we can test its refrigerant levels to find out for sure.
3. Your Refrigerant is Being Phased Out
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has slowly been phasing out a refrigerant called chlorodifluoromethane, or “R-22” since 2004. This refrigerant is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) which contributes to the depletion of our Ozone layer. Most recently, in 2015, the EPA outlawed the production of R-22 on U.S. soil. In 2020 it will become illegal to import the substance.
That’s fine because there are many other useful refrigerants which don’t affect our Ozone layer. However, if you still have an air conditioner that uses R-22, you’ll need to upgrade to a new air conditioner that relies on a new refrigerant. Also, don’t throw your old air conditioner out, the EPA requires you to follow a safe disposal procedure to prevent damage to the Ozone layer.
4. There’s a Better Refrigerant
The only other reason you may want to change your refrigerant is that there is a new, better refrigerant on the market. Even then, it’s most likely that you’d need a whole new air conditioner unit to take advantage of a new marvel in the refrigerant world.
So, don’t get your refrigerant re-charged without asking your HVAC technician precisely why you need the service.