What is an AC Recharge and When Do You Need It?
We all know how high temperatures can soar in California, which is why the last thing you want is for your AC to cut out unexpectedly. It may not seem like a particularly grueling task to switch the system off and back on again or clean the filters, but what if none of it works?
It could be that your system is in need of a recharge, meaning that it needs more refrigerant. However, it is recommended that you contact an expert when it is time to recharge your system, as refrigerant is toxic and can be harmful to your health!
Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your air conditioner. The substance is responsible for absorbing heat from your home’s air and carrying that heat out of your home. Without refrigerant, the cooling process simply would not work. Unfortunately, some HVAC contractors exploit the importance of refrigerant by suggesting that customers regularly recharge their air conditioners.
The truth is that your air conditioner doesn’t need to be recharged nearly as often as you might think.
Today we’re going to talk about what happens when your air conditioner is low on refrigerant and the few situations when it’s actually necessary to recharge your air conditioner!
3 Signs You Need An AC Recharge
- Your Vents Are Blowing Warm Air
- Your AC Unit is Frozen
- You’ve Gone Too Long without Maintenance
What happens when your air conditioner is low on refrigerant?
Before we talk about when your air conditioner actually needs to be recharged, it’s important to understand what happens when your system does not have enough refrigerant. As we mentioned above, refrigerant absorbs heat from your home’s air and carries that heat out of your home. If your system does not have enough refrigerant, your air conditioner will not be able to effectively remove enough heat from your home’s air. This leads to the following problems:
- It takes a long time for your home to cool down. Without enough refrigerant, your air conditioner will only be able to remove a little bit of heat at a time. This leads to very long cooling cycles that slow down the rate at which your system can cool down your home.
- Your supply air feels warm. If the air coming out of your supply registers feels warm (or at least warmer than usual), it could be because your system is low on refrigerant and it is not removing as much heat from the air as it typically does.
- Your electricity bills are higher than usual. Since low refrigerant levels can lead to longer cooling cycles, your air conditioner will have to work harder and longer to cool your home. This can greatly increase your monthly cooling bills.
- Your system is frozen. Low refrigerant is one of the leading causes of frozen evaporator coils. That’s because refrigerant runs through the coils, and if there is not enough refrigerant to absorb heat the coils will be much colder than usual.
When do you need to recharge your air conditioner with refrigerant?
OK, so now that we know why you’d want to add more refrigerant to your system, let’s take a look at when it’s actually necessary.
Unlike the gas in a car, refrigerant levels do not naturally go down while your air conditioner is running. Instead, your system cycles the same refrigerant between your air conditioner’s indoor and outdoor units during every cooling cycle.
If everything is working properly, your system should always have the same amount of refrigerant.
There are only two situations when your air conditioner needs to be recharged with refrigerant:
- Your system has a refrigerant leak. This is the most common cause of low refrigerant levels in air conditioners. If one of your refrigerant lines gets punctured, refrigerant will leak out of your system. In order to fix this problem, your contractor must first patch up the leak and then recharge your system back to its normal refrigerant levels.
- Your system was undercharged to begin with. If the installer of your air conditioner did not put enough refrigerant in your system when it was installed, then more refrigerant will need to be added so that your system can work properly.
Hydes will measure your system’s refrigerant levels during your annual HVAC tune-up, so be sure to schedule your tune-up soon. It’s best to catch a refrigerant leak early in order to minimize the effects it can have on your home’s comfort and efficiency levels.
If you have any questions about when you need to recharge your air conditioner with refrigerant, or if you’d like a cooling system serviced or installed in your home, contact Hydes, your Indio, CA, air conditioning contractor.