When your cooling system isn’t delivering the cold air it normally does, it could need a refrigerant charge. Not only won’t your equipment cool as well, it can cause premature compressor failure, which is the most expensive part in an air conditioner or heat pump.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, refrigerant that’s 20 percent below the level the manufacturer intended can reduce the cooling efficiency of a system by 29.4 percent. Low levels occur either from inadequate charging when the air conditioner was installed or from refrigerant leaks.
Normally, the refrigerant is checked when an HVAC contractor services your system. They use pressure gauges to determine what the pressure is in the refrigerant lines. If the refrigerant charge is too low, the technician will find the source of the leaks and repair them before adding more. These leaks are not only the cause of low system efficiency, they’re also an environmental hazard.
The best way to avoid a refrigerant leak and the consequent need to have it refilled is by keeping the coils clean. Dust can cause holes to develop in the refrigerant coils, and since the refrigerant is under pressure, it naturally escapes. If your system uses R-22 or Freon, having to refill it could be costly, since its supply is declining annually and prices are rising continuously.
The coils are found in the outdoor condenser and the inside air handler. Hosing off the outdoor coil several times a year will keep it clean. If you can access the evaporator coil, clean it occasionally and make it a point to keep the air filter clean. A dirty filter will deposit dust on the coil, reducing its efficiency.
Adding more refrigerant needs to be done by a licensed HVAC contractor who has the U.S. EPA certifications to handle it. They add more by turning the system on and adding it gradually.
If you think you may need a refrigerant charge based on your cooling system’s performance, contact the pros at Roth Heating & Cooling, providing HVAC services for Portland area homeowners since 1976.