All About Refrigerant and Your HVAC System

All About Refrigerant and Your HVAC SystemRefrigerant is the substance inside your air conditioner that performs the heavy lifting of keeping your household cool. Heat energy in air passing over the central air conditioner’s indoor evaporator coil is absorbed by refrigerant, a frigid vapor circulating through the coil. The refrigerant passes through an insulated line to the outside half of the unit. After it’s pressurized by the compressor, refrigerant morphs into a hot liquid and circulates through the condenser coil, dispersing heat energy into the outdoor air. On the return trip to the evaporator coil, the refrigerant converts back to a frigid vapor, ready to absorb still more heat inside the house.

Needless to say, if anything goes wrong with this critical, complex substance, a Pandora’s Box of A/C dysfunction results. That’s why checking the refrigerant charge is a standard part of annual A/C preventive maintenance. Here are some important things to know about refrigerant.

  • Refrigerant isn’t used up over time. If a qualified HVAC technician determines that the refrigerant charge is low, he doesn’t add more — he starts the process of detecting a leak. “Topping up” refrigerant is a futile process that doesn’t address the true cause of a low charge, which is always a leak somewhere.
  • Refrigerant carries more than heat. The refrigerant coursing through your A/C also carries vital lubricant to the compressor. If the charge is low, so is the amount of refrigerant reaching this critical component that’s also the most costly part of the system. Without adequate lubrication, the compressor will overheat and fail prematurely, requiring expensive replacement.
  • Refrigerant is changing. The R-22 type utilized in air conditioners for decades is being phased in accordance with international environmental agreements and will soon become unavailable. All new air conditioners manufactured today utilize its replacement, R-410A. If you own an older A/C that uses R-22 and the unit requires costly repair, it probably makes better financial sense instead to upgrade now to a new R-410A unit.

Have more questions about proper refrigerant charge? Since 1922, Paitson Bros. has been your trusted source of information about HVAC issues. Contact us today.

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 and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 812-645-6859.

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Alhovik/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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