Before we get to Freon, let’s first take a look at refrigeration in general. There are many types of refrigerants that can be used in your air conditioner, and their popularity often changes over time with new industry understanding and developments. Today, some of the most commonly used types of refrigerant are:
Focusing on Freon
Another type of refrigerant is R-22, a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) compound, nicknamed Freon. For a long time, this compound served as the standard home air conditioner refrigerant. However, recent developments in our understanding of Freon and its properties has led the industry to phase it out.
Bidding farewell to the future of Freon
Many years after its production and use in air conditioning systems, it was discovered that chlorine, a component in the R-22 (Freon) compound, is a damaging agent to the ozone layer. In other words, R-22 is not good for the environment.
Upon this discovery, R-22 was added to the 1987 Montreal Protocol list of substances to be phased out by 2030. In turn, the use of R-22 in air conditioners and other systems has dwindled, and in the next ten years it will disappear completely.
Take Care of Your AC’s Freon Needs
Many systems still use Freon. If this is the case for your system, you still need to take care of your AC system and its Freon needs. This includes knowing when your system needs a refill, how to check on its Freon level, and how to refill it.
When does your air conditioner need Freon?
Any refrigerant, including Freon, should not run out. Your system is not built to lose Freon, but rather to keep it for its lifespan. If your system is running low on Freon, it is likely the result of a leak in your unit, which requires repair. The leak could be at the indoor coil, outdoor coil, on the interconnecting copper refrigerant line set, or surface valves.
There are a few key indicators that signal a leak in your AC. Here’s what to look out for:
Your AC system is not producing cold air
Your AC system is blowing warm air
Your thermostat is not maintaining its temperature
There’s frost on your AC unit
Your AC unit is frozen
Your unit is making a faint hissing sound
How to check your air conditioner Freon level
If any of the symptoms listed above sound familiar, it might be time to have your Freon refilled. Before calling in the pros, there are a couple of checks you can do yourself.
Conduct the soap test The soap test is a way to check for a leak in your air conditioning system that might be letting Freon out. Create a mixture of soap and water, and put it onto any areas of your system that you think might have a leak. If coolant is leaking, bubbles will appear.
Look for evidence of oil on the refrigerant coils, tubing, or components: Since oil circulates with the refrigerant, wherever it appears can indicate where the leak is located.
Use a detector You can count on technology to detect leaks in your air conditioning system. Electronic detectors will indicate when they sense a leak, so you know you’re losing refrigerant.
Nothing else is working If you’ve tried to take care of your system and kept it properly maintained but it still appears to be malfunctioning, there’s a chance low Freon levels are to blame.
How to refill air conditioner Freon
Refilling air conditioner Freon is not a task to be taken lightly. If not performed correctly, refilling your refrigerant can be dangerous for both you and your system. If it appears as though your system is low on refrigerant, contact a heating and cooling technician to have your unit inspected and repaired as needed. The technician must be licensed to handle refrigerants.
Worth Every Penny
How much it costs to have your air conditioning Freon refilled depends on a number of factors, including the size, type, and age of your system, as well as the complexity of the leak issue. AC Freon refills can cost anywhere from $100 to $500, though the average sits around $200.
Remember that adding refrigerant back into your system is only a temporary band-aid while you explore long-term improvements. If you don't find and correct the leak, the money spent on the temporary fix is wasted.
Flipping away from Freon
If you’re planning on refilling your AC Freon, you might want to switch to a refrigerant alternative. Considering that R-22 (Freon) is being phased out by 2030, making the change now could save you some bucks down the line. Speak to your HVAC specialist about your options for refrigerant alternatives.
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