How to Tell If Your Air Conditioner Is Leaking Refrigerant

What exactly is refrigerant?

The refrigerant in your air conditioner acts as the heat transfer fluid. It evaporates in the indoor (evaporator) coil, and is condensed in the outdoor (condenser) coil. As it evaporates indoors, it draws heat out of the air. That cooled air is recirculated throughout the home, and the refrigerant’s heat is released as it’s condensed… outside, where it belongs! The cycle then repeats itself until your home is cooled down to the desired temperature.

Can’t I just add more if it’s leaking?

Refrigerant is designed to be in what’s called a closed system. The system does not consume refrigerant like gas in a car. Instead, it recycles it over and over again. You should never need to change it.

Air conditioners are designed to work with a specific amount of refrigerant inside this closed system. If your system doesn’t have enough, it means that it was either improperly charged at the time of installation or it has a leak. In either event, the system is not going to be able to cool your home effectively.

Signs that you may have a leak include:

  • Your home isn’t cooling down enough
  • Your system is short cycling
  • You notice ice or signs of water pooling around your indoor unit
  • You hear a hissing sound near the system