Freon: an aerosol propellant, refrigerant, or organic solvent consisting of one or more of a group of chlorofluorocarbons and related compounds. – Dictionary.com
Beginning in the 1890s, the earliest attempts at refrigeration utilized chemicals like ammonia and methyl chloride to remove heat from circulated air. The chemicals used in the process were highly toxic, extremely flammable, and could cause severe or fatal injuries when leaks occurred. To make air conditioners and refrigerators safe enough for in-home use, there needed to be a safer alternative.
Since its creation in the late 1920s, Freon has referred to any number of pressurized liquid refrigerants used in residential, commercial, and automotive air conditioning and refrigeration applications. This new “miracle compound” (as touted by the DuPont Corporation) was non-toxic, non-flammable, non-corrosive, and deemed safe for domestic use. When it was discovered that the chemical by-products of Freon were creating holes in the ozone layer, the product was reformulated, with the new product being trademarked as Puron.
Regardless of the name and formula changes, the product would still be referred to as Freon throughout the industry.
Is My Air Conditioner Low on Freon?
If we had to pick the most common question we get inquiries about every single day on our phones, it would be “how much does it cost to recharge the Freon in my AC unit?” Which, after careful questioning by one of our customer service reps, almost always translates into “my air conditioner is blowing warm air” or “my AC isn’t keeping up with this heat!”
There are several reasons for your AC not delivering optimum comfort on the hottest, most humid days of a Houston summer. Dirty air filters can reduce the performance of your air conditioner by as much as 50% and increase energy bills by up to 30%. Having a regularly scheduled maintenance service can keep emergency repair bills to a minimum, improve performance and efficiency, and keep you informed of any potential problems, like Freon leaks.
The refrigerant contained within your AC system exists in a “closed-loop” system, so there should not be a regular need to “top off” your Freon. If your air conditioner is regularly losing refrigerant, you can be 100% certain that you have a Freon leak.
Freon Does Not Get Weaker or Evaporate Over Time.
If your air conditioner is appropriately maintained, running efficiently, and is not actively leaking refrigerant, you should never need to replace Freon.
Unscrupulous AC companies are more than happy to roll a truck out to your home to refill refrigerant you’ve lost due to an apparent leak. They may not inform the homeowner of the probable leak in their AC system, content to reap the benefit of the repeat business.
Liquid refrigerant does not come cheap. It takes about 2 ½ pounds of freon to charge a 1-ton AC unit fully, and depending on the type of coolant required, the homeowner should expect to pay between $250 – $450 for that service. The cost of charging your air conditioner will go up accordingly if your system is larger than 1-ton, as it will require more freon.
Set Realistic Goals for Your AC System.
Here’s a little-known (or at the least, a little-discussed) fact. Your air conditioning system is designed to keep the temperature in your home twenty-five degrees cooler than the outdoor environment. Most of us expect to be able to set our thermostats to 68 degrees when it’s 104 outside, with 90% humidity, and your unit is sitting in direct sunlight. You’d quit working, too.
When the temperature outside is more than 25 or 30 degrees than your thermostat’s set temperature, consider adjusting it up accordingly. When facing outdoor temperatures of 100 degrees or more, set your thermostat to 75 or 78 degrees to prevent your cooling system from overworking itself.
Overworking our air conditioners causes the pressurized refrigerant to absorb more heat than intended, causing the fluid and the copper lines to freeze. Not only does this cause your air conditioner to blow warm air, but the repeated freezing and thawing of the refrigerant lines will eventually cause them to spring a freon leak.
How Will I Know if I Have a Freon Leak?
When your air conditioning system is running low on Freon, it has several ways to make you aware of the problem.
Poor Airflow/Blowing Warm Air: Low refrigerant levels cause your air conditioner to pump warm, humid air back into your home. Your AC will be running more frequently for more extended periods, resulting in excessive wear and tear to the unit’s moving parts, like the compressor and fans. Regardless of how long your AC runs, a Freon leak will make it impossible to cool your home effectively.
Frozen Refrigerant Lines/Evaporator Coil: When your AC system doesn’t have the necessary amount of refrigerant, your home will never get as comfortable as you’d like. Ice on the refrigerant lines or in the evaporator coil aren’t normal, and are a strong indication that you have a Freon leak somewhere in your system.
What Can I Do About a Freon Leak?
Freon leaks are like extraterrestrial creatures. Suspecting a Freon leak is easy; proving its existence to other people is more of a challenge. Your Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning technician has the tools to perform both pressure testing and proper evacuation/replacement of the Freon in your AC system.
Once it has been confirmed that your air conditioner has a Freon leak, there are two avenues of repair your HVAC technician can follow. The first method is introducing a chemical sealant to the AC system that will adhere to an oxygen source and expand, thereby plugging the leak.
Suppose you’ve already had the chemical sealant applied and still experience Freon leaks. In that case, you’ll need to replace the copper coolant lines from the outdoor compressor housing to the indoor evaporator coil. Depending on the layout of your home, these lines can be up to 50-feet long. Finding a pinhole leak along its outer jacket may not be possible, as much of its length is behind the walls of your home.
Suffering through an air conditioning breakdown during the mid-summer months is not the way to spend your vacation. Keep your AC system trouble-free year-round with an annual AC maintenance service from Nick’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning. We’ll check and replace your filters as necessary, test your AC and heating systems for optimum operation, and check refrigerant lines for proper pressure and lack of leaks.
Want to know more about Freon, or refrigerants in general? The following articles were useful in the research of this blog: