Air conditioners offer an oasis of relief in the middle of a scorching summer.

So when your AC acts up, it’s only logical to feel frustration and even a bit of anger.

Your malfunction can stem from a variety of sources.

Maybe you just blew a breaker and need to flip a switch.

Perhaps you have a serious AC refrigerant leak.

AC refrigerant leaks play a major role in air conditioning malfunctions.

But how do you know you have a refrigerant leak?

And what can you do about it once you discover it?

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about AC refrigerant leaks and the best solution for this annoying problem.

What is AC Refrigerant?

An air conditioning unit is a somewhat complex machine.

To best understand a refrigerant leak and its consequences, you need to first understand what the refrigerant does.

AC refrigerant comes in both liquid and gas forms.

When your AC unit turns on, it pushes the refrigerant toward HVAC system components near the air compressor.

The compressor then compresses the coolant and traps the molecules of the coolant into a smaller space.

When the molecules of the coolant reach this cramped space, they begin to collide frequently and produce heat.

Then the refrigerant moves through the condenser which eliminates the heat.

As the coolant cools via the fans in the unit, it turns to liquid.

The liquid then passes through the evaporator coils.

Fans push air over the evaporator coils and then through air vents.

The result is perfectly chilled air pushed into a room via the air vents.

Without refrigerant, the coils will only produce hot air, and you will not have a cool house.

So you can see how a refrigerant leak will seriously hamper the efforts of your AC unit.

Detecting AC Refrigerant Leaks?

A professional air conditioning repair service will detect leaks with certainty.

You will most likely not be able to find the leak on your own or see it.

You will have some telltale evidence though that spells out problems with your coolant.

High Energy Bill

A high energy bill is your first signal that you have a coolant issue.

Your AC can no longer cool your house adequately, and thus it will run constantly and fruitlessly, sucking up energy while never really cooling your house.

Slow Cooling

Without adequate coolant, your AC will have to work harder and longer to cool your home.

It may get your temperatures down to livable levels, but the unit will work longer and harder to cool your home.

Higher Humidity

Your air conditioner does more than just produce cool air. It reduces the humidity in your home.

When your AC has a refrigerant leak, it can no longer dehumidify your space, and you will notice uncomfortable sticky air.

Frozen Coil

If you notice your air conditioner running constantly without lowering the temperature, then check your evaporator coil.

You may discover a coil completely covered in frost and ice.

This frozen matter is a certain sign of low refrigerant.

Water Puddles

Ice on the evaporator coils can lead to an AC leak.

The ice will eventually melt and leave a puddle under your AC.

Examine the AC for such a puddle before you call in the experts to check your levels.

Hissing or Gurgling

Sometimes you can actually hear the coolant leak.

If you notice a hissing or gurgling sound, you’re hearing the coolant leaking from your unit.

A gurgling sound indicates a much larger leak than a hissing sound indicates.

Weak Airflow

Weak air conditioner flow from your vents can also indicate a refrigerant leak.

Inadequate refrigerant will lead to low airflow because the unit simply cannot push out the quantity of cool air it normally can produce.

Causes of AC Refrigerant Leaks

AC refrigerant leaks can come from any one of a number of sources.

Like all household appliances, air conditioners have a limited lifetime.

So if you have an old air conditioner, it may simply have worn parts that have led to leaks.

Here are a few of the common problems that lead to refrigerant leaks:

  • Weak joints can cause erosion in the AC unit, leading the entire HVAC system to lose durability and efficiency
  • Corrosion caused by time and moisture can lead to cracks and holes in the copper tube walls of the indoor coils
  • Poor installation can lead to refrigerant leaks, especially if the parts of the unit do not fit with each other correctly
  • Factory defects also cause problems and lead to coolant leaks

These issues in addition to the regular wear-and-tear that takes place over the years can lead to small and significant refrigerant leaks.

Whatever the cause may be, you need to contact a professional HVAC installer to detect and then fix the issue.

An annual maintenance call will also help you prevent bigger problems with your HVAC unit.

Cost of AC Refrigerant Leak Repair

While an AC refrigerant leak sounds like a simple repair, it requires a professional HVAC installer and repairman to fix it.

Refrigerant is toxic on its own, and a professional knows how to handle it.

Do not attempt to save money by fixing your own refrigerant leak.

Plan on spending between $200 and $1,000 to repair your refrigerant leak.

The variation in cost depends on the location of the leak, the severity of the leak, and the amount of coolant you will need.

Sometimes you just simply need to replace the entire AC unit.

In 2020 the EPA Began phasing out R-22, a type of coolant used in older air conditioning systems.

If you have an older system that requires R-22, you will quickly discover that your coolant cost has drastically increased.

Older air conditioning systems often cost you more to run as well.

Look into an energy-efficient air conditioner with a higher SEER rating, and you may discover that you’ll actually save money in the end.

Stay Cool, Plug That Leak

Do you think you have AC refrigerant leaks somewhere in your HVAC unit? If so, contact us.

We have over 70 years of heating and air conditioning experience.

We aim to provide our customers with the best service in the Pheonix and East Valley area.

Each air conditioning install we do comes with a LIfetime Workmanship Warranty, assuring you that we completed the job right the first time.

Contact us today. Let us help you stay cool.


Time to have a reliable ac repair company in Scottsdale check on your HVAC system? We can help! Contact the Surprisingly Affordable HVAC experts at Scottsdale Air Heating & Cooling to get more information here: 480-359-7141 OR you can request service online here.

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