If you're lucky, you'll never have to change the coolant in your air conditioning system. The equipment is designed with a closed loop – if nothing goes wrong, the coolant should last for the life of your AC unit. However, there are occasions when the air conditioning system could leak or malfunction, which can require replacement of the coolant. Read on for tips on how to diagnose a coolant problem and recognize when you need a recharge.

Rule Out Maintenance Problems First

The most obvious sign of a coolant leak is when your air conditioning system stops functioning properly. If your HVAC unit is not cooling your home effectively, or if you can actually feel warm air blowing through the ducts when the unit is supposed to be cooling, it's time for an investigation. Other signs of a potential leak are excessive condensation or ice buildup on the cooling equipment.

Before you call a technician for a refill, there are a few other potential causes that you should rule out first. If you're lucky, you can get your air conditioning system running like new again with a little routine maintenance. When an AC system gets dirty, its efficiency drops, so the first thing to do is change the air filter and clean the evaporator and condenser coolers. You should also clear any leaves or other debris that might be clogging up the fans.

Plug the Leak and Recharge

If your air conditioning system still isn't working properly, it's time to have a professional inspect it and verify if you have a coolant leak. A qualified technician can repair the AC leak, recharge the system with coolant and get you back up and running.

There are a few different types of air conditioning coolants on the market. The most common is R-22, otherwise known as Freon. However, Freon is being phased out in the United States due to environmental concerns, and the dwindling supplies are causing the price to skyrocket. New systems are more likely to use R410A, also called Puron, which is considered to be more environmentally friendly. Unfortunately, you can't just replace Freon with Puron – you’ll need to purchase a whole new air conditioning system to make the switch.

Professional Certification Needed

Recharging coolant is not a DIY affair, and in most circumstances, homeowners cannot even purchase the coolant themselves. People who handle coolant for air conditioning systems need to be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency, and retailers usually won't sell to unlicensed customers. Furthermore, coolant in the air conditioner is kept under high pressure and it is dangerous for non-professionals to attempt to charge it.

If you have any questions or concerns about the coolant levels in your air conditioning system or are in need of a recharge, contact an HVAC expert today.