How To Detect And Fix AC Freon Leaks

Posted by: Mas Broto
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If your air conditioner needs to be topped with Freon regularly, you might assume this is normal, but it is not. When an air conditioner is properly working, you should not do that. Adding more Freon frequently is not normal and is likely an AC Freon leak symptom.

Freon, also known as refrigerant, allows the transfer of heat to take place, and so when your Freon levels get low, your air conditioner stops working correctly. A 10% decrease in Freon levels translates to a 20% increase in your overall electrical costs, as your system is forced to work much harder to cool down your home.

Freon is slowly being discontinued and will be completely unavailable by 2020. All units made after 2010 are expected to rely on Puron, a much cleaner refrigerant than Freon.

Here we discuss the Air Conditioner Freon leaks and anything you need to know related to it. Plus, what you can do to keep your AC in perfect working order, free from Freon leaks.

The Causes Of AC Freon Leaks

Rarely does an AC unit begin to leak right away, only if there are issues with the overall installation or production of parts. More commonly, Freon begins to leak around the 4-7 year mark. At this point, the copper tubing tends to develop leaks in joints or points of connectivity.

Some air conditioners are much more susceptible to developing leaks than others. Also, just because your air conditioner is new doesn’t mean it is less likely to leak than an older model.

Newer AC models are often made with thinner tubing, which increases the likelihood of leaks developing, meaning energy-efficient models are still not doing their job if leaks go unchecked.

Several studies have identified that the high rate of leaks has to do with Formic acid. Acid erodes the copper and creates tiny holes large enough for Freon to escape out of.

One of the leading home pollutants contributes to the problem, known as formaldehyde. Most homes have a very small amount of formaldehyde present, which can cause corrosion and Freon leaks over time.

Using aluminum air conditioning coils has so far proven effective at reducing the leaks associated with acid, as the substance does not destroy aluminum.

Other causes of Freon leaks include:

  • Bad installation of air conditioning unit
  • Factory defects
  • Accidental punctures

Why Freon Leaks Need To Be Fixed ASAP

Freon is a toxic substance, all it takes is one drop in your eye, and you can become permanently blinded. The dangerous qualities of Freon make it illegal to purchase unless you are a licensed professional. If you ignore AC freon leak issues, some other problems are sure to arise, including:

  • It reduced the AC efficiency, which translates to higher electricity bills and less overall comfort.
  • Evaporator coils can freeze and ice up.
  • When released into the atmosphere, freon is ranked as a hazardous substance by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In other words, AC Freon leaks directly damage the environment.
  • The refrigerant cools the compressor; low Freon levels will eventually cause the compressor to overheat and prematurely fail. Air Conditioner Freon leaks may result in the complete compressor replacement or the entire unit, a much more expensive repair than simply fixing a leak.

Is A Freon Leak Dangerous?

Freon must be properly disposed of according to standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Freon is not only dangerous to you; it is also dangerous to the environment at large.

Freon has been identified as one of the leading contributors to pollution. This is why the most common type of Freon, R-22, is being tapered out of use in the US and will be completely banned by 2020. Despite these changes, many air conditioners still rely on Freon to operate.

All it takes is one drop of Freon in your eye, and you can become permanently blinded. Freon is commonly used, but it is a highly dangerous chemical substance. If you are exposed to any level of Freon, you should have a checkup with your doctor to safeguard your health.

If refrigerant leaks into your home, it will evaporate into an odorless gas that is harmful every time you inhale it. Health problems associated with exposure to Freon include headaches, nausea, and asphyxiation in only the most severe cases.

Freon is denser than the air, hovering low to the ground. This means anyone who hangs out near the ground is at a greater risk for exposure. Children and pets are naturally lower to the ground, and they are more susceptible to harmful effects.

AC Freon Leak Symptoms

  1. Something Stinks & Hissing Sound
    Freon has a very stink smell. Have your HVAC system inspected if you notice a weird smell and hissing sounds from your AC.
  2. Frozen Evaporator Coil
    A frozen evaporator coil is one sign of a Freon leak. 
  3. High Utility Bills
    Freon leaks reduce the AC efficiency, and you will see the effects on your utility bills.

How To Detect And Fix Freon Leaks

An electronic leak detector can be used to determine if an AC unit is leaking Freon. This will identify the general location of the leak, and with a leak detection mixture, the exact site of the hole can then be identified.

Once the source of the Freon leak is uncovered, the HVAC technician has to fix the problem with a couple of options. If the unit is only 7-12 years old, they can seal the leaks with special treatment. This is the easiest and most cost-effective solution.

Annual Air Conditioner maintenance will help you avoid leaking unnecessary amounts of harmful Freon into the environment. This also helps reduce your electric bill, which can get pretty high if your unit is laden with leaks.

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Mas Broto
Have been in the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry for over 20 years. He is person that will grow and thrive to learn more about the HVAC industry throughout his career. Mas Broto is also a blogger, who's dedicated to bringing you the best knowledge to get ahead in the game of life.