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The A/C Guy of Tampa Bay Inc. Blog

Why Might an AC Lose Refrigerant?


Refrigerant is a chemical blend that can easily shift between liquid and gaseous states. This makes it ideal for air conditioning systems: as the refrigerant moves through the air conditioner, it evaporates indoors to absorb heat and then condenses outdoors to release heat. During this process, the refrigerant never dissipates—the same amount of refrigerant should stay in the AC for the entire life of the cooling system.

But … leaks can happen. An air conditioner won’t lose refrigerant over time (this is a common misconception) unless it has leaks along its refrigerant lines or at connection points. To prevent the AC from failing due to low refrigerant, experts must locate the leaks, seal them, and then put back in the amount of refrigerant that was lost. 

If you’re curious about how these leaks start and if you can do anything to prevent them, follow us below for more information.

Common Causes of Refrigerant Leaks

There are several reasons an AC may start to lose refrigerant through leaks:

  • Physical damage to the unit: More than half of your central AC is located outside in the condenser cabinet, which contains the condenser coil, the compressor, and the exhaust fan. Although the condenser is usually placed out of the way of activities, it can still suffer damage from things like children playing around it or gardening tools like lawnmowers. Loose connections on the compressor are a common source of refrigerant leaks.
  • Installation errors: We stress with customers to only rely on professionals for AC installation in Tampa, FL. This is one of the reasons. A sloppily done installation can leave an air conditioner that’s slowly leaking refrigerant. In fact, a poor installation can leave a refrigerant with low refrigerant to begin with. No leaks are required, the AC is already in trouble. Professionals will not make such crude mistakes. 
  • Factory faults: This is why you have a warranty. A small number of air conditioning systems leave the factory with malfunctions, and these can include bad connection points and weak material that lead to refrigerant leaks. 
  • Nails through walls: Some refrigerant lines run through the walls of the house to reach the indoor units. Nailing anything to a wall with refrigerant lines risks creating a leak.
  • Corrosion: The copper refrigerant lines can corrode because of chemicals in the air. Formaldehyde is the most common culprit. This type of chemical corrosion creates weak patches along the copper, and soon the high pressure of the refrigerant will force open tiny leaks. These are hard to notice, but they’ll eventually drain the AC of enough refrigerant to put it in danger.

As you can see, there aren’t many steps you can take to actively avoid refrigerant leaks aside from not damaging the outside unit and being cautious when putting a nail into the wall. Your best protection against these leaks is routine maintenance from technicians. When our techs come to maintain your AC each year, they’ll check specifically for leaks so you can have them repaired before they do serious damage.

The A/C Guy of Tampa Bay Inc. serves our Tampa Bay family with integrity and honor. Call us for AC repairs when you need them.

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