The chemical refrigerant inside your home’s air conditioning system is an essential part of how you can enjoy a cool summer. Unfortunately, many AC owners have misunderstandings about what the refrigerant does and how it works. For example, you may have these heard “facts” about refrigerant:
- “Your AC will eventually need a refill on its refrigerant.”
- “It’s best to have the refrigerant in an AC topped off before summer.”
- “All ACs use Freon.”
None of these are true! We’ll get into some real facts about AC refrigerant that will help you with your future air conditioning needs.
Refrigerant Is a Heat Transfer Medium, Not a Fuel Source
The concern that an AC may “run out” of refrigerant comes from mistaking refrigerant for a type of energy or fuel source that powers the air conditioner. An air conditioner already has an energy source it uses to run: electricity.
What refrigerant does in an air conditioner is serve as a heat transfer medium. That is, it’s responsible for transporting heat from the air in a house and exhausting it outdoors. This process is called heat exchange, and it’s the basic way an AC operates. The refrigerant absorbs heat from inside the house along the evaporator coil and then releases it outdoors through a condenser coil. The compressor is responsible for providing energy to the refrigerant to make it circulate.
Refrigerant Is Meant to Stay at the Same Level for the Ac’s Service Life
Under normal conditions, you don’t need to add any refrigerant to your AC, refill it, or “top it off.” In fact, putting any refrigerant into a normally functioning AC can ruin it! An air conditioner is designed to use a specific amount of refrigerant, known as the unit’s charge, which is placed into the AC when it’s installed. This charge will remain the same through the AC’s lifespan, since refrigerant doesn’t dissipate as it goes through the process of evaporating and condensing to move heat.
But Refrigerant Can Leak
Yes, an AC can lose refrigerant and need more added—but this is a repair problem, not a routine maintenance service. Air conditioners can develop refrigerant leaks, and when this happens a professional HVAC technician must seal the leaks and restore the amount of refrigerant that was lost. An undercharged AC won’t work efficiently and its compressor will soon burn out.
There Are Different Types of Refrigerant
You may hear refrigerant referred to as Freon, but this is a brand name for a specific blend of refrigerant, R-22. This refrigerant blend is no longer used. Most modern ACs use a blend called R-410A (brand name Puron). An air conditioner can only run on the type of refrigerant it was built for and cannot use any other refrigerant blend. This is yet another reason you must only rely on professionals for AC service: pros know what type of refrigerant to use and are licensed to handle it.
We’re here to help when you need AC repair in Houston, TX or any other HVAC service.
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