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Can I Put More Refrigerant Into My AC on My Own?

air-conditioning-manometer-pressure-refrigerantWe can answer this question in two simple responses:

  • No, you can’t
  • You don’t need to*

Homeowners often ask this question about refrigerant because of a basic misunderstanding about what refrigerant is and what it does. We’re going to go into more detail to address the question because it helps people grasp how air conditioning systems work, and because it can help alert to a serious AC repair issue.

Refrigerant is NOT a fuel source

Here’s the fundamental misunderstanding that non-professionals frequently have about the way an air conditioning system works: air conditioners run off refrigerant.

This isn’t true! Refrigerant is not a type of fuel. It isn’t what powers the components inside the air conditioner. The AC already has a source of energy, which is electricity. This is what the AC consumes as it runs, as you can see each month when you look at your electrical bills. Because refrigerant isn’t anything the AC must consume to run, refrigerant will not be gradually lowered over the air conditioner’s service life.

Refrigerant is a heat transference medium

Now that we’ve established what refrigerant isn’t, what actually is it? What job does it perform in the air conditioner?

Refrigerant is a chemical blend that allows for heat transfer, which is how an air conditioner provides cooling to a space. Refrigerant is manufactured to be able to change easily between liquid and gaseous states. As it changes from one to the other by evaporating and condensing, it absorbs heat from indoors and then releases the heat to the outdoors. No refrigerant is lost during these phase shifts, so the original amount of refrigerant in an air conditioner (referred to as the AC’s charge) won’t lessen.

*But sometimes professionals need to add more refrigerant

To deal with the asterisk we placed up front, there are situations where an air conditioner can lose refrigerant. It’s possible for an AC to develop leaks along the copper refrigerant lines due to corrosion, or for loose connections to allow refrigerant to escape. This is a serious problem for an air conditioner, since it not only lowers its cooling power, the drop in pressure in the system will lead to catastrophic damage to the compressor. An AC is designed to run at a specific charge: too much or too little refrigerant can mean the end of the AC.

In this situation, more refrigerant must be added to the AC. Only professionals can handle the tools for the job and know the right amount of refrigerant to add into the system so that it doesn’t end up overcharged. (Amateurs often overcharge refrigerant.) Another reason professionals are needed for this job is because the refrigerant leak must be fixed as well. There’s no point in adding refrigerant into the system only to have it leak right out again! Finally, because of potential environmental hazards, only licensed professionals are permitted to handle refrigerant.

When you need a Plainfield, IL, HVAC contractor to solve an air conditioning problem, we’re the professionals to call.

Rely on Johansen & Anderson Inc when you need AC repair work. Call J&A Today, Sleep Tight Tonight!

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