When you’re just a bit low on gas and you’re passing a refueling station with a reasonable price, you may pull over to the top off the tank so you don’t have to stop at a less convenient time a bit later. When your air conditioner is running low on refrigerant, you can also just top it off so that you don’t run out of cooling power while temperatures are still uncomfortable, right?
Refrigerant is not something that your air conditioner c0nsumes the way a car consumes gas to get you where you need to be. In fact, your AC should not and does not consume refrigerant at all. That heat transfer fluid is contained and works within a closed loop, so a low charge means that you’ve got a problem on your hands. How serious of a problem? Well, let’s just say that a refrigerant leak, even a “minor” one, will demand prompt AC repairs in Bristol, CT.
It’s that serious!
What Refrigerant Does
To understand how detrimental a low refrigerant charge really is, you first have to understand what precisely refrigerant does in your air conditioning system. As mentioned above, refrigerant is the system’s heat transfer fluid. Remember, an AC won’t generate “new coolness” the way that a furnace generates new heat. That coolness that you feel in your home is really the lack of heat, and refrigerant is vital in the heat removal process.
How It Works
There are two coils in your air conditioning system, the condenser and evaporator coils. In the evaporator coil, the refrigerant evaporates. That allows the coil to draw heat out of the air passing over that coil. The condenser coil is where the refrigerant is condensed outdoors, which allows it to release its heat. This process continues until desired temperatures are met within your home.
Problems Caused by Low Refrigerant
Because refrigerant is not consumed by your air conditioning system, a low charge means that you have a leak in the refrigerant loop or in your coils. When that happens, the leak needs to be repaired and the refrigerant recharged immediately.
If you continue running an AC that is low on refrigerant, cooling output drops as efficiency drops as well, leaving you to pay more for less comfort in your home. Your system will also suffer a lot of wear and tear, as it works harder and harder in its efforts to cool your home effectively. The evaporator coil can get too cold due to decreased heat transfer, leading to the icing of condensation on the coil. This further insulates the coil, which only exacerbates the problems.
In fact, if you continue to run an AC that has a low refrigerant charge, that system will short cycle, suffering even more wear and tear, and you can eventually pretty much destroy your compressor. That will all but necessitate the installation of a brand new system! Don’t take that chance with your AC.