What Should You Know About Condenser Unit Refrigerant Leaks?

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The basic parts of your air conditioning system are the condenser (outdoor) and evaporator (indoor) units. While there's much more going on in practice, the essential role of your air conditioner is to move the refrigerant between the condenser and the evaporator. As a result, both units should have refrigerant flowing through them at all times during normal operation.

Since refrigerant travels through your condenser, leaks can develop at several locations. These leaks can harm the environment by releasing refrigerant into the atmosphere and, of course, will impact your system's efficiency and operation. Given enough time, any refrigerant leak will stop your system from functioning or even cause damage to components such as the compressor.

How Can You Spot a Refrigerant Leak?

Any refrigerant leak will typically cause the same symptoms, regardless of its location. Surprisingly, there's a direct relationship between temperature and refrigerant pressure. In other words, low refrigerant pressure won't cause your system to produce warmer air. Instead, refrigerant pressure drops will result in lower temperatures at the evaporator coil.

These lower temperatures and pressures may initially cause your air conditioner to produce surprisingly chilly air. Standard single-stage air conditioning units should always produce relatively consistent temperatures, so a drop in air temperature at your vents may be an early warning sign of trouble. Over the long term, low temperatures will cause condensation to freeze on the evaporator coil.

Once your coil begins to freeze, you can expect your system to start short cycling. A frozen coil prevents the refrigerant cycle from functioning as it should, overloading your compressor and, in most cases, triggering a safety shutdown. Your system will most likely lock out and attempt to run again after the evaporator coils defrost.

Where Do Condenser Units Leak?

The condenser unit consists of a large set of coils with refrigerant lines running through them. In addition to the coils, you can also find your compressor inside the condenser box. The condenser unit will also typically include the capacitors, relays, contactors, and wiring necessary to run the condenser fan and the compressor.

Condenser units can develop leaks in numerous areas. Punctures, physical damage, and corrosion can cause leaks inside the coils, which are often challenging to repair. Other common locations include the service port used for checking and refilling refrigerant and the refrigerant line connections to the compressor.

Finding any refrigerant leak can be time-consuming and difficult, and this repair is unsuitable for the typical do-it-yourselfer. Professional HVAC contractors will use various tools, including ultrasonic leak-finding devices, to narrow down the precise location of the leak. These tools allow them to offer the quickest and most cost-effective solution to get your system running correctly again.

For more information, reach out to HVAC services near you.