Advanced Air

How Often Does a Central AC Unit Need Charging With Refrigerant? [FAQ]

July 07, 2014

So, your air conditioner isn’t cooling your home very well and you think, “Well, my air conditioner is old. Maybe it just needs more refrigerant?”

But how often does a central air conditioner need charging with refrigerant anyway?

The answer: Never. It should never need charging unless:

  • There’s a refrigerant leak (the usual suspect)
  • The air conditioner was installed incorrectly
  • Someone is stealing it to get high (aptly called refrigerant huffers)

We’ll explain why in this article.

Why your central air conditioner should never need charging

There are 2 facts you need to know:

1) Refrigerant is never used up like gas in a car. Refrigerant’s job is to absorb heat from your home’s air then disperse it outside (that’s why it’s called a heat transfer fluid). In this process it turns from a liquid to a gas and back again to a liquid. The refrigerant does not diminish in this process.

2) Your central air conditioner’s refrigerant is in a “sealed system,” meaning no refrigerant should escape from your air conditioner. 

Combine these 2 facts together and you now know what most homeowners don’t: If you’re low on refrigerant, it’s escaping somehow and adding more will not always solve the problem.

Refrigerant leaks: The most common cause of low refrigerant

Like we said earlier, a refrigerant leak is the most common cause of low refrigerant. Here’s why that’s a big deal for you:

1) Some air conditioning contractors won’t bother looking for a leak—Here’s the common scenario: contractor comes to your home, finds out you’re low on refrigerant, adds more and then, oops, your air conditioner is blowing warm air again after a week! It’s because the refrigerant is leaking out, and you need another refrigerant charge...which is costly.

A professional contractor should let you know there’s a leak so you can decide to repair it or not.

2) Repairing the leak can be costly—Because repairing refrigerant leaks can be costly, you’ll need to  consider the cost of repairing vs. replacing your air conditioner. If you do end up replacing, we have plenty of coupons to help ease the cost of installing a new unit.

Other causes of a central air conditioner not cooling well

Before you go calling a professional for help, be warned that low refrigerant may not be the cause of a poorly cooling air conditioner. 

Do some basic troubleshooting first:

  1. Change the air filter—A dirty air filter blocks airflow, reducing how much cold air comes out of the supply ducts
  2. Clean the outside condenser unit—Dirt on the outside unit prevents refrigerant from cooling down.

There are other technical problems that could cause improper cooling as well. What we’re saying is this: Don’t let a contractor add refrigerant until they’ve actually checked the refrigerant levelOvercharging your air conditioner can cause damage to your air conditioner (for example, destroying the compressor motor).

Need professional help?

Do you live in the Fort Myers and Naples area in Florida? Advanced Air can help you find why your air conditioner isn’t cooling properly and fix it!

Contact us online for help or call us at (239) 321-5222

Advanced Air has been serving Fort Myers and Naples, Florida, and the surrounding areas for over 25 years.