Air conditioning systems usually rely on refrigerant to cool the air: cycling it endlessly through a series of valves and coils that allow it to do its job. Many people falsely assume that the refrigerant is consumed as part of the cooling process, just like a car consumes oil or gas. In fact, the refrigerant isn’t consumed. But it can leak, and when it does, it can cause huge problems with your system. Here’s a breakdown of how it all works.
What Does Refrigerant Do?
Refrigerant exists in a very set amount in your air conditioner (the exact type and amount of refrigerant depends on your particular system). That’s important to its ability to cool the air efficiently. The refrigerant starts out in gaseous form before shifting to liquid form and being placed under a great deal of pressure.
The pressurized liquid then enters the expansion coils, where it shifts back into gaseous form. That process pulls heat from the surrounding air, which is the key to air conditioning. The cool air can then be blown into your home with a fan, and the gaseous refrigerant can then return to the start of the cycle.
What Happens When There’s a Problem?
Ideally, refrigerant would never leak and continue providing balanced air cooling indefinitely. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world, and leaks are bound to spring up. When that happens, frost or ice will form on the AC coils. That may not seem like a problem at first – aren’t air conditioners supposed to be cold – but in fact it can be a serious issue.
Why? For starters, it forms an insulating layer between the remaining refrigerant and the air it needs to cool. That in turn, means your home won’t get as cool as it should without a lot of additional energy: raising both your monthly bills and the strain on the rest of the system (which increases the risk of repairs). Furthermore, as the leak continues, the ice will become thicker, causing the problems to cascade. Eventually, it will either stop cooling the air completely, or result in a major breakdown (or perhaps even both in the worst cases).
Don’t Try to Solve the Issue Yourself
It can be tempting to attempt to resolve the ice on the coils yourself, usually by scraping it off. In most instances, that can be a huge mistake. In the first case, the problem lies with the leak, not the ice, so scraping it off will do no good. (It will just re-form.) More importantly, your efforts can very easily damage the coils themselves, and while sealing a leak and recharging the leak is a fairly easy repair job, replacing a broken set of coils is an expensive proposition indeed.
Instead, the moment you spot the signs of a refrigerant leak, turn the air conditioner off and call in a repair service.
For quality AC services in Salt Lake City, UT and throughout the surrounding area, call on the friendly pros of At Your Service at anytime!