There are a wide variety of things you can do to keep your air conditioning system running smoothly. Changing air filters, cleaning condenser fins, dusting the cooling coils, and keeping the unit level are a few examples. You may feel comfortable completing these tasks on your own. However, if your notice fluid pooling around your unit or if the cooling coils look wet, then you may have a Freon leak. You should not continue maintenance tasks if you notice one of these leaks. To better understand the problem, why it occurs, and what can be done, read through the following information.
Freon and Your Air Conditioner
Many chemicals have been used throughout the years to help appliances cool or refrigerate. Some of these substances included ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and methyl chloride. In an effort to remove these toxic substances from refrigeration appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners, these materials were soon replaced with hydrochlorofluorocarbons and chlorofluorocarbons. As the refrigeration industry continued to change and environmental issues started to surface, these chemicals were also replaced. In most cases, a stable form of Freon was used. Freon is a mildly toxic halocarbon substance that is made out of fluorine instead of chlorine to help keep the environment safe, and it is still used today
All of these facts mean that Freon is likely the safest and best refrigerant for use in your air conditioner. However, the material is still somewhat dangerous, and leaks do occur. The leaks tend to happen because manufacturers figured out that air conditioners were more efficient when the copper tubes carrying the refrigerant were coiled together. This creates weak bends and joints where the coolant material can eventually leak out. The Freon in an air conditioner is absolutely necessary in consistent amounts, because the refrigerant is compressed and moved through the system to remove heat from the air. Without the material, heat will not be removed and your home will remain warm. This means the leak needs to be found and fixed not only due to safety and environmental concerns, but because of efficiency reasons too.
Dealing With Leaks
If you notice that the inside parts of the air conditioner are leaking fluid, then it is wise to wash your skin thoroughly where it may have come into contact with the Freon. Also, look for signs that you have breathed in some of the Freon fumes. Symptoms of inhalation include increased heart rate, dizziness, headaches, and a sore nose or throat. If these symptoms are present, call the poison control center in your area and stay away from your air conditioner.
Once health issues are assessed and treated, contact an HVAC specialist to locate the Freon leak. Leak detection can be completed in a number of ways. If the leak is suspected to be large, then the professional will wear protective gear and place some soapy water on the coolant lines. The Freon should bubble out of the leak to show the technician where a fix needs to be completed. An electronic chemical detection device can be used to find both large and small leaks too. If the leak is very small or if the HVAC professional thinks there are many coolant leaks, then a chemical material will be placed in the unit that glows under black light. You will be asked to use your air conditioner for a short period of time and the light will be used afterwards to show the leaks.
In some cases, smaller leaks can be temporarily repaired with solder materials. However, if leaks are numerous or large, then Freon is likely to continue leaking out of the coolant lines. Your HVAC professional may recommend a coil and line replacement instead. If your air conditioner is old, then a full AC replacement might actually be a better option. Speak with the HVAC professional about your options to find out what is the most cost effective for your situation.
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