Russell's Heating & AC
Jul 17 2018

How Is Additional Refrigerant Put into an AC?

Russell's Heating and Air ConditioningBefore we attempt to answer this question, we’d like to know the reason you’re asking it in the first place. Are you curious about how professional HVAC technicians do the job of putting more chemical refrigerant into an air conditioner? Or are you wondering how to do it because you think you might as well know how since you’ll have to do it on occasion?

If it’s the second reason, then we need to have a discussion about refrigerant and how it works in an AC. This is important because what refrigerant does and how it does it are critical for system operation.

Air conditioners do not (usually) need additional refrigerant

Why people wonder when an air conditioner needs to have more refrigerant put in, is because they’re thinking of refrigerant as a type of energy source, like gas in a car or batteries in a remote control. Both gasoline and batteries are energy sources that are used up as a device drains them, and eventually they need to be replaced.

However, what type of power does an air conditioner run on? That’s right: electricity. The electricity coming from your home’s electrical system. This is what powers the components and gets used up. Refrigerant, on the other hand, isn’t an energy source but a means of transferring energy. Specifically, transferring heat (thermal energy). Refrigerant evaporates inside to absorb heat, and then condenses outside to release it. No refrigerant dissipates during this process, so the initial amount of refrigerant put into the AC when it was installed (referred to as the AC’s charge) will remain the same for the system’s lifetime.

Why might an AC need additional refrigerant?

Yes, we said “usually” ACs don’t need more refrigerant. It’s possible—indeed, it’s a common repair issue—for leaks to develop along refrigerant lines and allow the high-pressure gas to escape. This is a serious situation since an air conditioner is designed for a specific refrigerant charge. If it has less than that, it will damage the system and eventually lead to the compressor failing—and that is usually the end of the AC.

(By the way, too much refrigerant is just as damaging! This is one reason only professional should ever handle putting refrigerant into an air conditioner.)

If you detect your AC losing its cooling power, or you notice ice forming along the indoor evaporator coil, there may be refrigerant leaks in the system. Call for professionals to recharge the refrigerant to its proper level and seal up the leaks that caused the problem.

How do you put the refrigerant in?

Now that you’re asking out of curiosity about how we do the job (or perhaps you were asking that in the first place) it requires special tools to hook up a canister of compressed refrigerant to the outdoor air conditioner cabinet that connects to the compressor. We use gauges to measure refrigerant pressure as it climbs until we’re certain the right amount has been put back in.

We offer AC repair services for Palm Desert, CA and throughout the Desert Communities and the Inland Empire.

Russell’s Heating & Air Conditioning is open 24 hours a day to see to your air conditioning needs.

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