Ten years ago, an air conditioning leak was little more than an inconvenience. It was easy to purchase a can of coolant to top off the system – an inexpensive solution that allowed you to delay a repair until a convenient time.
Things aren’t as simple today. The popular refrigerant, R-22, began phasing out in 2010, meaning that no new units that relied on the coolant were being produced. The refrigerant is becoming harder to find as companies transition into the more efficient and environmentally friendly R-410A.
This means that the average “top-off” of 2.5 pounds of refrigerant could cost as much as $450.
Diagnosing Your System for Coolant Leaks
It’s important to figure out why your machine is leaking and put a stop to it, rather than adding more refrigerant and hoping for the best. The most common reasons for coolant leakage in your home AC system are:
- Poor installation. If your unit is new, you may be the victim of a shoddy insulation job. Many homeowners look for the best price rather than hiring the highest quality installer. The joints of the system must be brazed to seal them shut, and even the smallest mistake could leave a tiny hole. Over time, this small leak can lead to big losses.
- Defects from the manufacturer. Unfortunately, the pursuit of efficiency can lead to some production oversights. Companies are using thinner coils than ever before because energy can transfer easily through the thinner material. But this makes more room for erosion, breaks, and kinks in the lines. There’s also a chance that you could be unlucky enough to find incomplete welds or damage from the shipping process.
- The presence of formic acid. This acid occurs naturally in the ground and can damage copper. It causes microscopic cracks as it etches into the surface. Formic acid issues can be a bit more difficult to diagnose and repair. Over time, the leaks caused by formic acid will worsen until the coils, or the entire system, needs to be replaced. Interestingly, formaldehyde in our homes (a very common pollutant) also can create formic acid within the AC system’s lines.
- Accidental damage. This kind of damage can happen inside or outside your home. Things as simple as nailing a picture on a wall can puncture a line. A similar but more common issue is rocks thrown from mowing grass. There is potential for damage anytime someone, or something, comes in contact with the unit’s coils or other components.
If you suspect that your system is suffering from a leak, call a professional for an inspection. Many contractors will have electronic leak detectors to help them pinpoint the leak, so less time is wasted looking for it. If your unit is new, repairs may be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.
If your system is several years old, it may be time to consider replacing it. Newer models are designed with better efficiency and flexibility. If you think you might need to buy a new AC unit, contact the HVAC experts at Anderson Air Corps. We can help you find a new unit that’s right for your home comfort needs and provide expert installation services. Contact us now for more information about our line of Carrier brand cooling systems, and ask about our financing options.