Could Your A/C Need a Charge? A Refrigerant Charge, of Course

Could Your A/C Need a Charge? A Refrigerant Charge, of CourseYou may not realize your A/C needs a refrigerant charge. But if it does, you probably suspect it needs something. Refrigerant is the substance that absorbs heat energy from indoor air to create cool comfort on the hottest day. Pressurized refrigerant continuously circulates between the indoor and outdoor coils of your central A/C system through insulated lines. When the refrigerant charge is low, a long list of mysterious symptoms may ensue, ranging from simply conditioned air that doesn’t feel cool enough to unexplained rising operating costs to dramatic effects such as coils that ice up or even a catastrophic compressor failure.

Studies by Purdue University estimate that slightly more than half of residential A/C units are undercharged by up to 30 percent. The impact of an even modest refrigerant undercharge is significant. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) is the standard metric for expressing the performance of a central air conditioner. Researchers found an undercharge of less than 20 percent reduces SEER and cuts A/C cooling capacity by 13 percent and energy efficiency by 7 percent.  A unit operating with a 25 percent undercharge will exhibit a 16 percent decline in SEER performance and efficiency, resulting in an annual operating cost increase of as much as $300 in a typical 3-ton central A/C.

Air conditioners don’t consume refrigerant like an automobile engine that needs a quart of oil to top it up once in a while. If your HVAC technician finds a low refrigerant charge, there are only two possibilities:

  1. The unit was installed with insufficient refrigerant when new – not uncommon in an improper installation by unqualified installers.
  2. There’s a leak somewhere.

A qualified HVAC technician can measure your refrigerant level, diagnose the reason for it, and use specialized technology to pinpoint and repair small leaks, if necessary. Restoring your unit to the proper refrigerant charge won’t turn it into a new air conditioner, but it might just feel like it.

Founded in 1922, Paitson Bros. Heating and Air Conditioning is the trusted source of cooling and heating comfort in the Wabash Valley. Ask us about getting your A/C refrigerant charge checked for another long hot summer.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Terre Haute, Indiana about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about refrigerant charges and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Leigh Prather/Shutterstock”

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    Jeff Paitson Jeff Paitson is a third generation business owner who continues to run the business with the same values that have been passed down from previous generations since 1922.

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