A leaky air conditioner isn’t like a leaky boat or bucket. It’s not as easy to see it filling up with water or dripping fluid, and it’s not as easy to ‘plug up’ the leak. Refrigerant leaks in an AC system can be difficult to detect and can also be harmful to the environment, so we’ve got some tips on what you should do if you suspect your air conditioner is leaking.
Signs Of A Leak
According to our resident expert Keith Hill, manager of technical support at Minnesota Air, if enough refrigerant leaks out, the evaporator – or A-coil – can operate at very low temperatures and freeze up.
“It’s actually the water vapor in the air accumulating as frost on the coil and restricting air flow which only accelerates the freezing process,” says Keith. “The same symptoms can be caused by low airflow – dirty coil, dirty filter, so don’t automatically assume its low on charge.”
Keith says that you may be able to spot a refrigerant leak since refrigerant circulates with a lubricating oil. That means if you see a wet and oily stain, that’s probably the point of the leak. If you don’t see a leak but suspect one because you see a frozen coil AND your air filters are clean – then now is the time to call a technician and find the solution.
Fixing A Leak
According to the Department of Energy, “if your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, either it was undercharged at installation or it leaks.” And if you find that a leaky AC is the culprit, adding more refrigerant won’t fix the problem. You need a pro for that.
The Department of Energy says that a “trained technician should fix any leak, test the repair, and then charge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant.”
The efficiency and performance of your air conditioner are best when the refrigerant charge matches what your manufacturer specifies – not under or over.
Most importantly, just remember that when it comes to fixing the leak, you really do need to call a professional to help.
“Only a pro with EPA Certification can handle refrigerant and make repairs on AC systems. It is a violation of federal law to work on an AC unit without an EPA Type II Refrigerant Certification,” says Keith. “The pro will verify the leak and using specialized equipment, locate the leak, and make the required repairs. This is not something a DIYer can do. This is very specialized work.”