charleston hvac
HVAC

How Often Do You Need to Add Freon to a Central Air Conditioning Unit?

How Often Do You Need to Add Freon to a Central Air Conditioning Unit?

Probably never!

This is a frequently asked question by most homeowners from professional HVAC technicians. And, yes, again, the answer is you might never need to add a new refrigerant. 

Let’s understand how refrigerants work…

So it’s not something that evaporates, it’s a sealed system; it just keeps on cycling inside the copper coils of your central air conditioning unit. Or to give more sense to the statement: ACs come with the exact amount of refrigerants they require for the duration of their life.

However, if you feel you’re low on Freon (R-22 refrigerant), you need to call a professional HVAC Charleston SC technician. Your refrigerant is, somehow, escaping those copper coils; it might be leaking. 

Signs of refrigerant leak:

  • Warm air coming from vents
  • A frozen evaporator coil
  • Higher-than-normal energy bills
  • Ice on refrigerant lines
  • A hissing or bubbling sound coming from the refrigerant lines

But don’t fall into the trap of “you need a new refrigerant” by some random technician too quickly.

Technician must examine the whole system:

  • Look at the air filter and thermostat.
  • Look up for the coils, might not have had maintenance.
  • Inspect the indoor unit.
  • Having issues with your air conditioner blowing hot air could be a problem with the compressor/outside unit.
  • There could be disconnected or broken return air ducts which are pulling in unconditioned air.
  • Check the fuse panel to be assured if the circuit is supplying electricity to the outside AC unit.

In case, the system has been examined properly and found you’re low on refrigerant, you would need to fix that; otherwise, the air conditioner will lose its efficiency and will, gradually, begin to experience a number of problems such as stated above. 

Now that you know that your refrigerant’s level is low, you need to make sure the technician fixes the refrigerant coils before recharging your system, for that will, eventually, leak the fluid right back out of the system.

There are few things you need to consider before deciding if you want a refill or you want a new refrigerant.

  1. Recharging your AC without fixing the leak. 

You should know that finding and fixing the Freon leakage can be expensive, so you may not want to consider it if the following are true:

  • The leak is likely slow, and recharging the unit can get you through the summer.
  • You’re planning to replace the unit, so there’s no need to sink your money.

However, recommend having the technician put in UV dye in order to locate any leakage that occurs in the future. This will save the cost of locating the leak. 

  1. Finding and fixing the leak.

Once again, consider fixing the leak if you’re not planning to change the unit because technicians charge for both locating and fixing the leak, and the price depends on where the leak is located. The technician will probably follow the steps:

  • Find the leak using UV dye.
  • Remove the refrigerant from the system.
  • Fix the leak.
  • Refill the Freon.
  • Test to make sure the leak is fixed.
  1. Replacing the unit

We know replacing the refrigerant instead of fixing leaks seems quite extreme. However, an air conditioner that is 14+ years old and its condensing coils need to be replaced…that seems to utilize a lot of money – Refrigerant is, after all, expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere from $75 to $170 per pound of refrigerant (2-ton AC needs over 5 pounds of refrigerant). Do you really want to put that much amount into your current system when you still likely need the whole new system!?

In the long run, upgrading to a system that uses R-410A refrigerant may be a better choice. Plus, the new refrigerant is better for the environment as well.