We’ve come to expect a standard level of comfort this day and age when inside our homes, thanks to the power of modern air conditioning. And as long as you have that comfort, who cares whether your air conditioner is making a strange noise as long as it’s still providing cooling right? Well, actually, you should care.
The thing is, unfamiliar noises are always a sign that something is amiss with your air conditioning system, and that something needs to be addressed before it grows into a much bigger and subsequently costlier problem. One particular sound that may seem subtle and easy to ignore is that of a refrigerant leak, often signaled by a hissing or bubbling sound.
Understanding How Refrigerant Works
This might seem like a foreign concept to you. Perhaps you’ve been told in the past that refrigerant is simply something that runs out of your system, like gasoline from a car. We’re afraid not though—ideally, your air conditioner is supplied with enough refrigerant upon manufacturing that it should last its entire lifespan. If your system is low on refrigerant, it means there is a leak. But why is this a big deal?
Here’s the thing—your air conditioner doesn’t “generate” cold air the way your heating system generates heat. When you feel cold air coming through your vents, what you’re actually feeling is the absence of heat… and it’s the refrigerant process that makes this possible.
The indoor air conditioning unit houses a component called the evaporator coil. This is where refrigerant, fittingly enough, evaporates in your system. As this occurs, the coil draws heat out of the air. The cooled air is redistributed throughout your living space, while the warmed refrigerant is sent out to the outdoor unit.
In the outdoor condenser unit, the refrigerant is condensed. As this occurs, the refrigerant releases heat that is then dispersed outdoors with the aid of the fins on the outdoor unit.
The Problem with Low Refrigerant Levels
A low refrigerant level, what we in the industry call a refrigerant charge, restricts the overall cooling capacity of your air conditioner as you might imagine. If your air conditioner has a low refrigerant charge, it means that the system either wasn’t properly charged to begin with, or—more commonly—you have a leak.
Whatever the case, it’s important that you have a trained and experienced professional address the issue, fix any leaks, and recharge the refrigerant as necessary. This is not a task you can do on your own. Too little refrigerant means more strain on your cooling system by way of reduced efficiency, icing up of the coil, and damage to the compressor.
When it comes down to it, if you notice anything off with your air conditioner or feel that your family isn’t staying as comfortable as they used to, it’s worth a call to our team.