This is an important post, because it addresses a common misconception people often have about how air conditioning systems work. Most misunderstandings about how ACs operate can lead to problems, but this is a major one that can end up with a completely broken-down air conditioning system.
So, The Short Version …
- The Misconception: Refrigerant is a kind of fuel the air conditioning system consumes as it runs and must have occasional refills in order for the AC to continue operating.
- The Truth: Refrigerant is not a fuel source and the AC does not consume it. An air conditioner only needs to have more refrigerant in case of leaks.
The Detailed Version
We understand why people may mistake refrigerant as a fuel source. If it allows an air conditioner to cool off a house, it might be the power behind the system. But it isn’t. The power behind an air conditioner is electricity—that’s what provides energy to run the motors that power the compressor and the fans, the main components that make an air conditioner work.
What is refrigerant? It’s a heat transference medium: a blend of chemicals that can easily shift between liquid and gaseous states. As refrigerant moves between these two states, it either absorbs or releases heat. The refrigerant absorbs heat from the air inside the house to cool it for distribution around rooms and releases this heat through the outdoor unit. The compressor is responsible for putting the refrigerant under pressure so it moves through the system and can make the shift between temperature extremes.
Here is the important part: in going through the heat transfer process, the refrigerant does not dissipate. The AC system should maintain the same amount of refrigerant (called its charge) through its entire service life.
Unfortunately, you may end up in a situation where you do need more refrigerant for your air conditioning in Lake Oswego, OR. This isn’t a regular occurrence, but the result of leaks in the refrigerant lines. Each air conditioning system is designed for a specific refrigerant charge. If the charge drops, it puts the system in jeopardy. The AC will start to lose cooling power, short-cycle, develop ice on the evaporator coil, and eventually, its compressor will overheat and burn out—usually the end of the line for the whole AC.
If you suspect you have leaking refrigerant (you notice any of the above problems, or you hear a hissing sound from the AC), call for our technicians right away. We can locate the leaks, seal them, and then recharge the refrigerant back to its factory levels.
Please, do not let amateurs do this work, because it’s common for an inexperienced “technician” to put too much refrigerant into the system. This is as bad for the AC as too little refrigerant. Also, be on the watch for anybody who claims to be an HVAC technician who tells you it’s time for a refrigerant “refill” or “top-off.” Those are not things!
Schedule your vital air conditioning services with Clawson Heating & Air Conditioning. “Connecting people to Comfort” is our business!