How To Spot The Warning Signs Of An Air Conditioner Refrigerant Gas Leak

You might not have heard of R-22 or R-410A, but you regularly enjoy their benefits. These are identification codes for the refrigerant gas that allows your air conditioner to expel chilled air into the room. This gas is essential for the operation of your AC, and it's similarly essential to recognize the signs of a refrigerant error with your home AC. 


How exactly does refrigerant gas work? Refrigerant is pulled into the compressor in a heated, low-pressure gaseous form. This gas is propelled toward the AC's condenser, where it changes into a chilled vapor. The hot air produced by this temperature reduction is expelled by the unit's outdoor fan (the outside, ground-mounted section of a split system air conditioner). The vapor then reaches the unit's evaporator (which is the indoor wall-mounted section of a split system air conditioner). In the evaporator, it draws in warm air from the room. The absorption of this warm air causes the chilled vapor to become hot and gaseous again, whereupon it travels back through the system to be pulled back into the compressor, creating a loop that repeats for as long as the AC is turned on. What happens if that loop is broken?


Corrosion to any part of the unit's compressor or condenser creates an opportunity for gas to escape. This is technically a gas leak, and the subsequent drop in gas pressure inside the unit will lead to some operational problems. The unit will simply be less efficient, rendering it unable to regulate its temperature in line with its thermostat. This will be irregular, and it can be as though the unit's temperature rises and falls regardless of any changes you've made to the thermostat. This is an early warning sign of a refrigerant leak.


A more serious refrigerant leak can create an odor. Refrigerant gas being vented through your unit's indoor evaporator can lead to a sweet, chemical scent that can be slightly pungent. The smell is not especially strong, nor does it linger. You're more likely to notice it when standing right in front of the evaporator, yet this type of exposure is dangerous. Limited exposure is unlikely to lead to health complications, but continued exposure can result in headaches, nausea, light-headedness, and more serious concerns. If your AC's temperature is inconsistent and you're noticing a strange chemical odor, turn off the unit immediately and air out the room. Contact an air conditioning service provider for urgent repairs.

Repairs may only be minimal—identifying the location of the coolant leak and repairing it. The unit's stock of refrigerant will then need to be topped up. These repairs, though quite straightforward, are essential to avoid the potentially dangerous consequences of a refrigerant leak. 

For more info, contact a local company like Priority Heating and Air.