How Can I Tell If My AC Unit Is Low On Coolant?

Central air conditioner

Q: I turned my air conditioning system on for the first time this year. I let it run for quite a while, yet it doesn’t feel like the air is cooling properly. How can I tell if my system is low on R-22? If R-22 is needed, is it a job I can do myself?

A: We get this question a lot at the start of the season. Is your system low on AC coolant? Here are some things to understand and check.

Air Conditioning Refrigerant: What You Need to Know About Coolant for Your AC

AC coolantR-22 is actually a trade name owned by the Dupont Corporation. It refers to a group of refrigerants. When most of us ask, “Does my system need R-22?” what we’re really asking is, “Does my system need refrigerant?” We refer to refrigerants in the same way we say “Scotch tape” or “Xerox machines”. Those are specific brand names that have come to be known as the catch-all phrase describing all transparent tape and photocopiers.

What is AC Coolant?

Your air conditioner would not be able to produce cold air without the use of coolant. AC coolant is the substance that passes through the interior coils of the air conditioner to both lower the temperature of and dehumidify passing air. It stands to reason that if there is an inadequate supply of refrigerant in the coils, the system will have to work harder to lower the temperature.

Air conditioners are “closed systems," meaning they should never leak from your unit. If your AC coolant is low, there is a leak somewhere. To simply add more coolant without isolating and repairing the leak is to literally watch your money disappear into thin air. A trained professional will identify and repair the leak, making the system properly sealed and closed once again.

Before considering any other solution, always check the air filter. Air filters should be changed once a month here in West Texas.

Signs Your Air Conditioner's Refrigerant Level is Low

  • The air coming out of your interior vents is barely cool. Even warm. Think of it this way…your air conditioning system is at war with the hot temperatures outside your home. Inadequate refrigerant means it doesn’t have the weapon needed to beat back and keep the external heat at bay.
  • Your house takes forever to cool down. Inadequate refrigerant means your system will run continuously in an attempt to reach the temperature set on the thermostat. Without the proper refrigerant, that temperature will not be reached. It’s like you coming in from doing yard work in 90 degree heat and your spouse tries to cool you off by dripping a single drop of water on you at a time instead of throwing you in the swimming pool. One drop at a time doesn’t lower your temperature like a swim.
  • And while it seems unlikely, some people aren’t clued into their low refrigerant levels until they get their utility bill. A spike in energy costs is an indicator your system isn’t operating at peak efficiency. When your system has to run all the time with low refrigerant, the temperature doesn’t cool down and your energy bill goes up.

Need Coolant for Your AC?

When it comes to our cooling and heating systems, the best practice is to schedule an annual maintenance, pre-season service check. The experts at Sinclair will inspect your system, make sure your refrigerant levels are correct, and that all parts in top working order. Often a small problem identified and repaired early saves a big expensive repair later.

If you have questions about AC coolant, call Sinclair Heating, Cooling, Plumbing, Inc today at (806) 454-9332.

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