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When it’s a hot day and your air conditioner suddenly isn’t pumping out the icy cold air you’re used to and need, a Freon leak just might be the culprit.
When your air conditioner or HVAC unit is running low on essential refrigerant, it simply doesn’t have what it takes to cool your air. It is not normal for your coolant system to be low on refrigerant, unlike gasoline in your car; it is not meant to be depleted with ongoing use. When you have low Freon, it is likely that your unit has a Freon leak, something that will have to be diagnosed and fixed to return your home to the cool and comfortable environment that is preferred.
The In’s & Out’s of Air Conditioning
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Many modern air conditioners no longer use Freon due to the risks that the substance poses to the environment. It is often recommended that you upgrade to a newer model, if possible, especially if environmental concerns are a motivating factor in your purchase. When it comes to keeping your home cool, if your unit uses Freon and is leaking, the leak must be fixed to bring your unit back to top performing condition.
Your air conditioning unit uses power to circulate the refrigerant, in this case, Freon, through the coils in the unit that become cold. In turn, such chills the air that is released through the air conditioner blower. It is the coils and the ongoing circulation of Freon that provides the cooling effect. If the blower is putting out warm air when the dial is set to cold, a lack of Freon is the reason. The coils will be explored more in-depth below. However, if the unit is powering on, the blower is working and warm air is coming through the unit, a refrigerant leak is most likely the issue.
It is important to address a Freon leak quickly because the more you lose, the less efficiently your air conditioner will function. When you set a temperature that your air conditioner is struggling to meet due to a lack of Freon, it consumes more energy. Higher energy consumption consequently means an increase in your electricity bill. With a 10 percent drop in Freon levels, your air conditioner may consume 20 percent more energy. This disparity increases the less Freon you have, so if you are running on 50 percent Freon, your system is consuming double the electricity.
There are health and safety implications to the successful repair of your Freon leak. Freon is a chemical that can have detriments not only to the environment (due to its status as a pollutant), but can also affect your health. In terms of refrigerant disposal, the Environmental Protection Agency has established handling and disposal regulations. When it is leaking from your air conditioning unit, it evaporates into the atmosphere and pollutes. It may even contribute to global warming. Leaking Freon that has evaporated into the air can also damage your lungs. If you come into direct contact with the chemical, it can cause burns to your skin.
Tools & Supplies
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The tools that are required here are not particularly extensive. First and foremost, you will need a screwdriver to gain access, a water hose, spray nozzle, and leak sealant or compound. Additional coolant to add back into the system may also be necessary depending on the specifics of your air conditioning unit. Be sure to complete the repair before adding more fluid to prevent ongoing leakage. If your unit does not provide for refills, knowing how to identify and fix Freon leaks is nevertheless useful to stop further malfunction of your system, and the pollution and health risks that result from leaks.
As mentioned above, leaking Freon can be dangerous to your lungs and skin. Make sure to power off the unit before beginning to work on it to ensure that any leaking Freon fumes are not actively being pumped out when you are in close proximity to the coils. Wear a respirator mask if you’d like to minimize the risk of such inhalation. Most importantly, wear chemical-proof gloves. Also, when repairing the cracks in the coils once you’ve located them, try not to come into contact with the Freon.
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Air conditioner repairs can be difficult and pose some danger due to the risk associated with the chemical Freon. For systems installed within a year, the guarantee often covers any shortcomings in workmanship. Outside of this, consult your manual and determine the process of repairs, and whether they fall within your skill-set. The most effective way to troubleshoot a repair is to know what you are doing and be prepared.
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When your air conditioner is leaking, you’ll have the option of consulting with a professional, using any active manufacturer or vendor warranties, or giving the repair a try yourself. Safety is first. The following are the primary steps you need to take to repair your air conditioning system.
Remove the Unit from Your Window
The first step in servicing your air conditioner is to remove the air conditioning unit from the window. Once you’ve done that, place it on a solid, firm surface such as concrete or your wooden floor. Don’t place your unit on the ground with dirt or leaves to keep it free of debris.
Remove the Outer Cover
Next, use a screwdriver to remove the outer housing of the air conditioner. Place the cover off to the side, taking care not to damage it, while also maintaining the screws. A helpful way to ensure this is to use a piece of tape to secure the screws to the cover so they are not lost during the repair process.
Remove Debris and Bacteria from Drain Tray
While the air conditioner is open, you will be able to clean it out to provide for a cleaner and smoother use after fixing the Freon issue. Remove all debris that has collected in the drain tray by the vent coils, and then spray the air conditioner with water. Your hose and spray nozzle will work just fine.
Locate and Seal Freon Leak
How to identify and fix a Freon leak begins with finding the source of the leak. After removing any air filters that are inside of the air conditioner unit, locate the air compressor. Finding the location of the leak is generally not difficult. There will be physical indicators of where the leak is present causing the Freon to escape through the coils from your system into the air.
Refrigerant leaks develop when there are holes or cracks in the coils, thereby causing the refrigerant leak. The metal coils will age and wear with time, leading to the development of such leaks. They are often found at the joints and connections, which can be caused by the ongoing vibrations of the system. Corrosion can also contribute to such leaks and is something to watch out for.
Once you’ve located a crack or suspect area in the coils or at the joints, carefully apply the sealant to the site of the Freon leak. Different brands and types of leak sealant or compound have different specifics in terms of application procedures and drying time. Make sure to follow the instructions on the sealant or compound to achieve the ideal results that you are looking for.
Wait for a sufficient amount of time to elapse before attempting to refill the coolant in your system, should it have the capacity for more added Freon. Refer to the manual of your air conditioning unit for specific details to ensure that your intended repair is possible.
Replace the Cover and Test the Unit
To wrap up how to identify and fix a Freon leak on your air conditioning unit, place the cover back onto the front of the air conditioner and return it into its place. This could either be in the window or outside. Once sufficient time has passed to ensure the sealant has dried, power on the unit and watch. See if any further leaks have developed and, if so, remove the cover again to identify leaks and seal them, reinforcing any seals you performed the first time around. Should ongoing sealing attempts prove unsuccessful, it may be time to call a professional or to consider replacing the unit.
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Knowing how to identify and fix a Freon leak is important knowledge to keep your home cool over the summer. Some systems may require professional assistance, while others can be repaired by you with the exercise of sufficient care and the right tools. Freon can be dangerous to the environment and to your health, so be careful during the repair, and make sure the leak is entirely fixed before placing the unit back. This is important to prevent any risk to your health and to stop environmental pollution.
Whether you need to know how to identify and fix a Freon leak, or other important issues related to your home environment, check Heat Cool Repair for more information.