One of the most common questions that HVAC contractors get about refrigerant is, “how often does it need to be refilled?”
The answer might surprise you, though—it’s “hopefully, never!”
No, AC refrigerant shouldn’t need to be refilled on a regular basis. This is actually a common myth among homeowners, that refrigerant is something that depletes over time, sort of like gasoline does from a car or an oil-powered appliance in your home. This just isn’t the case with refrigerant, however, which continuously cycles through your cooling system or heat pump, transferring heat rather than generating it like other types of heating systems do.
Read on to learn more about this heat transfer fluid!
Refrigerant Should Last Your Air Conditioner’s Entire Lifespan
In an ideal world, this will be the case. Of course, there is always a chance that at some point, you might need a refrigerant refill—known as a recharge. But if you do, it’s because you have a leak in the system, which needs to be repaired.
The source of the leak must be accurately located by a trained and experienced professional, so that we can adequately repair it and ensure the problem doesn’t just continue to repeat itself. When your air conditioner leaks refrigerant, it can lead to a host of problems, including:
A Loss of Cooling:
When leaks happen in your refrigerant line, your cooling system’s output will drop along with it. Eventually, the refrigerant level in your system will decline to a point that it causes your air conditioner to completely break down.
If you notice less cool air coming from your system, or even less airflow, then you should call for professional repairs right away. We might be looking at an air handler problem rather than a refrigerant problem. However, the only way to tell for sure is with thorough examination.
So, what if the problem isn’t necessarily the power of the air coming from your vents, but the fact that you feel lukewarm air coming from your vents? Well, when there is too little refrigerant in your air conditioner, it puts a large amount of stress on the entire system, and you could wind up doing pretty serious and irreversible damage to the compressor.
Ice Forming on the Evaporator Coil:
During the refrigerant process in your cooling system, fluid shifts from a gaseous to a liquid form, where it is placed under intense pressure before entering the evaporator coils. There is a valve that releases an exact amount of refrigerant into the coils, where the refrigerant then shifts back to gaseous form. As this all happens, it pulls heat from the nearby air, cooling it in the process.
But if you have a refrigerant leak, ice or frost will form on the outside of the evaporator coil. This ice serves as an insulating barrier between the refrigerant and the air that it is meant to cool, meaning your cooling system has to work even harder to do its job—until the problem gets so severe that the air conditioner cannot do its job at all.
We’re not talking about flu symptoms here, but rather—exacerbated allergy and asthma symptoms. These can be just as irritating and more long-lasting than the standard cold or flu!
And the worst part is, yes, it’s likely your air conditioner that’s causing the problem. Well, that’s not quite right either—it’s how you care for your air conditioner and your indoor air that prevents or causes allergy symptoms in many cases.
The fact of the matter is, your AC use may be making your air quality worse. Keep reading to learn more.
There May Be Harmful Particles in Your Air
Today’s homes are constructed very “tightly.” This is great news for your HVAC system as it improves efficiency. But it’s not so great news for your indoor air quality.
Your tightly sealed home can cause airborne contaminants to continuously circulate through your living space. Without any fresh air circulating throughout your home, you’re unable to ventilate, which means that stale, contaminated air just continues to get recycled—at least, this happens without the right indoor air quality products in place (which we’ll get to below).
“Doesn’t My Air Filter Help?”
We’re glad you asked! Your HVAC system does have an air filter in it after all. And that air filter stops larger particles from passing through. But… it stops larger particles from passing through, into your air conditioner. These standard air filters that come with your HVAC systems are there to protect the HVAC systems, not your indoor air!
“Okay, So What Can I Do?”
First off, you do not need to stop using your air conditioner to get healthier. You simply need to assess your indoor air quality opportunities and get the right products and services in place to mitigate the problem. How do you do that?
By contacting our team and inquiring about:
Whole-Home Air Filtration: As we mentioned above, a standard air filter won’t do much for your indoor air quality (it doesn’t hurt, though). Whole-home air filtration systems are designed to provide a more comprehensive approach to improving indoor air quality. There are a number of different filter types, but we recommend HEPA filters. These are top of the line, and very high quality. Even hospitals and laboratories use HEPA filters to ensure sanitization!
An Air Cleaner: There are two types of air cleaners—mechanical and electronic. Depending on your specific air quality needs, one might benefit you more than the other. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more details.
A UV Air Purifier: There’s one type of air quality threat that many people don’t think about, and it can be very unhealthy—mold spores. Unfortunately, mold can develop anywhere that it might be cool and damp—like your ductwork during the summer. A UV air purifier can be directly installed into those ducts, to eliminate and prevent further microorganisms from spreading through your home.
Summer is here! Okay, not officially, quite yet. But last week’s sudden and excessive heat is a glaring reminder that it will soon be here. So if you found your air conditioner was working last week but showing any distressing symptoms, it may be time to start considering if it’s up to the task of getting you through this upcoming summer without breaking down completely.
It goes without saying—you don’t want to be without your air conditioner any longer than you need to be in the middle of the hottest months of the year. Read on for some of the signs that it’s time to replace your AC, and give us a call so we can try to help you beat the worst of the heat and get that AC replaced for you ASAP.
Sign #1: Your AC Costs More and More to Operate
As your cooling system ages, it gradually starts to lose its efficiency, since the components wear down over time. This is natural, and at first you won’t even notice this efficiency loss. However, eventually it will end up becoming so severe that your air conditioning system will be forced to operate for longer periods of time in order to compensate.
This longer operating time will drive up the monthly cost of using the system. If you find that your cooling system is costing much more to use per month than it used to, or your bills are much higher than in comparison to what your neighbors are paying, then it could be because you need a new system.
Sign #2: You’re Constantly Calling for Repairs
Needing repairs on your air conditioner every now and then is totally normal. Every few years or so you might need to have a component fixed, replaced, or adjusted—even with routine preventive maintenance. But if your cooling system needs to be repaired multiple times a year, it’s time to consult with a professional about getting a new one.
This level of frequency in breakdowns is often due to the system finally succumbing to years of wear and tear. The various components inside it will begin to fail in groups, causing the frequency and cost of repairs to increase dramatically. Continuing to repair your system once it reaches this point is going to waste money and your time. Chances are you’ll need to replace it very soon anyway. It’s better to do this now so you can enter summer with a new system you can rely on!
Sign #3: Your System is OLD!
If you’re having the above-mentioned symptoms happen in an air conditioner that’s only a few years old, then it either means it was not professionally installed, it was not properly manufactured, or you never had maintenance done on the system. The truth is, the above-mentioned symptoms usually only occur in an aging system.
Even well maintained air conditioners are designed to last about 10-15 years. So if yours is any older than this, it’s only naturally that it will start to accumulate a number of chronic issues that can make it increasingly expensive to keep running the system. Whether or not you detect the above symptoms, if your air conditioner is older than a decade, we really do encourage you giving our pros a call for at least an inspection.
If you’re expecting us to answer this with “duct tape,” you’d be mistaken.
You may be wondering about this one—after all, can’t anything be patched up with duct tape? Not the store-bought kind, unfortunately. Store-bought duct tape can resolve just about any situation (at least, temporarily) except for breaches in your air conditioning ductwork.
Unfortunately, however, one of the biggest energy wasters in your home comes from leaks in the ductwork, which is not something a lot of homeowners think about in terms of their indoor comfort. Professional duct sealing services from HVAC experts can stop your air conditioner (and forced air heater, for that matter) from losing up to 30% of the air traveling through its air ducts.
Think about what this translates to: This is conditioned air that you are paying for to keep you and your family comfortable, and it is simply going to waste. Keep reading to learn more!
The Problem with Store-Bought Duct Tape
If duct tape isn’t used to repair ducts, then why is it called duct tape?
There’s a bit of a fun history lesson behind this—duct tape was invented during WWI as a consumer-grade tape made available in most stores to quickly seal up ammunition boxes. With a cloth-backed adhesive, this tape was actually called duck tape. It’s speculated that the reason for this name was either due to the duck cloth it was backed with, or that the tape’s water-resistant properties reminded people of how water washes off of a duck’s oiled back.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s that duck became duct, and the assumption is because at that time people thought it was a good method to repair and seal HVAC ductwork. And this seems like it might work, right? But tests have shown that it doesn’t—due to the face that duct tape reacts poorly to heat and temperature fluctuations. Unfortunately the adhesive of the duct tape turns brittle and starts breaking off, essentially re-exposing the breach you tried to repair.
The Answer Is Professional Duct Sealing
With professional duct sealing, our staff uses specialized equipment, such as resin-based mastic sealing and metallic tapes, to ensure that your air ducts are made airtight. But it takes more than professional-grade sealant to do the job effectively—our technicians also accurately detect where exactly the leaks are coming from, and safely access them. This isn’t something an inexperienced or general handyman will be trained to do.
If you think you might need professional ductwork sealing done, please give our technicians a call! How do you detect this issue? Well, you might hear hissing or banging coming from leaky or loose ductwork. Some noise is normal, such as right when your HVAC compressor starts up, and right when it starts down (due to temperature fluctuations). But these noises should not persist.
Having your ductwork professionally repaired as needed is essential to the efficiency and overall performance of your air conditioning system. Neglecting ductwork repair can leave you with an inefficient AC system and perhaps even a premature replacement after years of forcing your air conditioner to work harder to bring temperatures down.
When you live somewhere like Los Banos, the last thing you want is air conditioning problems. And yet, sometimes they’re inevitable. The good news is, if you know what to look out for then you can be quick to call for professional repairs. Below are 4 potential problems you might face with your air conditioner—at least if it hasn’t been properly maintained.
1. Frozen Evaporator Coil Leading to Low Airflow
Your air conditioner’s operation depends on two sets of coils—the evaporator coil and the condenser coil.
The evaporator coil is tasked with absorbing warm air from inside your home so that it can go through the refrigerant process. If this coil can’t absorb this warm air for some reason, then it will get so cold it will develop ice and frost. Though to many homeowners this may seem “normal,” it is anything but. Ice on the evaporator coil means the coil can’t absorb anything, which leads to reduced airflow and cooling power, and subsequent lowered efficiency and compressor damage.
So, what can you do? First off, do not try to remove the ice on your own. This can end up doing more damage to your system and you’ll wind up needing to call for repair anyway. Turn off your system and give our pros a call. Even if a coil defrosts on its own, we need to find the root cause of it so we can repair it and restore your AC.
2. Dirty Condenser Coils
This is the other coil of your air conditioner, tasked with releasing the warm air it pulled from inside your home, outside. If this coil is covered in dust and dirt, it will act as an insulator instead and will be unable to do its job.
If this happens, your system can’t work efficiently and you may notice symptoms such as energy bills that are higher than usual, your home not cooling properly, and more.
Just like with the evaporator coil, you’ll want to call in a pro for system cleaning. If the coils have gotten so dirty that they’ve stared affecting performance, it typically means that maintenance was skipped, so having a pro thoroughly inspect your entire cooling system is probably a good idea.
3. Dirty Air Filter
We have some good news with this one—this is a problem you can solve on your own!
Many homeowners assume that the air filter installed with their HVAC systems is in place to protect their indoor air quality. But in reality, it’s there to protect the systems themselves from being infiltrated with dust, dirt, and other debris. When the filter becomes too clogged up, it restricts airflow, leading to a whole host of operational problems.
But, you can and should be changing your filters on your own. Depending on the type of filter it is and the level of contaminants in your home, this air filter should be changed every 1-3 months.
4. Refrigerant Leak
One more common homeowner misconception is that refrigerant is something that “runs out” like gasoline does from a car, and as a result must be refilled (recharged). The fact is, if your system is running out of refrigerant, it actually means you have a leak somewhere in the system that must be repaired in order for your air conditioner to operate safely and effectively.
If you hear something resembling a hissing noise or notice significantly reduced airflow in your home, it’s time to call a pro. A refrigerant leak is definitely not something you want to let go on for too long.
Well, yes, any use of your air conditioner is going to cost you, as you are using energy after all. But what we’re referring to is practices with your air conditioner that may be costing you more than necessary.
The fact is, there are a lot of beliefs that homeowners have about using their air conditioners to help themselves feel more comfortable that:
Actually hurt air conditioning efficiency, and therefore cause a rise in utility bills.
So, are you making any of the following costly AC mistakes?
Mistake #1: Trying to “Speed Up” Your Air Conditioner’s Cooling Power
There aren’t many homeowners who haven’t tried this at least once:
They try to get the air conditioner to cool down the room faster, by setting the thermostat several degrees lower than their desired temperature. The mistaken belief is that when you do this, the AC will work extra hard and reach your desired temperature much faster than it otherwise would!
This is, unfortunately, not how air conditioners work. Your cooling system cools your living space at the same rate, no matter what. If anything, setting the thermostat too low puts you at risk of enabling the compressor to run longer than necessary. This contributes to faster wear and tear, and potentially a premature breakdown or replacement.
Mistake #2: Leaving the Windows Open to Get “Fresh Air” In
For your air conditioner to function as efficiently as it’s meant to, you have to keep your doors and windows closed.
Unfortunately though, this can make the air a bit stale or dry feeling. As a result, you’ll likely be tempted to open the windows throughout the day in order to let air inside. However, all this will do is lower your air conditioner’s ability to perform efficiently.
At least, this is the case during the day. If you want to let fresh air in, you’re best waiting until nighttime or the next morning when temperatures are around 75 degrees or lower. This will let cool, fresh air into your home, therefore making it feel a little more bearable overall while not forcing you to use your system inefficiently.
Mistake #3: Skipping AC Maintenance
You’ve probably heard this one before—in fact, you’ve likely heard it from us—but maintenance is vital to the performance and longevity of your air conditioner. Many homeowners neglect this service because they don’t understand the long-term benefits, but there are plenty. Why wait for your air conditioner to develop severe repair issues? This will only wear down on the system faster, leaving you paying for repair service or even replacement far sooner than you would have otherwise.
In addition to preventing emergency repair issues, maintenance helps to maintain your cooling system’s efficiency. If you haven’t been keeping up with your annual maintenance tune-ups and notice a rising cooling bill in comparison to what you paid during the same time last year, we can almost guarantee there’s a correlation.
In many areas of the country, people haven’t even turned off their heaters for the seasons yet, let alone thought about scheduling a tune-up for their air conditioner. But here in Merced, the sporadic warm days recently are a reminder that summer is certainly on its way.
That said, there’s nowhere to go but up for our temperatures, making now the best possible time to get your AC maintenance done and out of the way, so you’re ready to enter summer full of confidence in the reliability of your air conditioner. But why is this so important?
Your Air Conditioner Is More Likely to Break Down in the Summer
Many people don’t think about this—they think if they start using their air conditioner bit by bit in the spring, and it seems to be operating “just fine,” they have nothing to worry about. But the fact is, it went under a lot of stress last summer, and just because the gradual increase in temperature doesn’t seem to be impacting it now, using it every single day at the peak of summer certainly can.
If your air conditioner is running at less-than-ideal efficiency due to skipping a tune-up this summer, then it’s going to struggle to keep up. You shouldn’t be surprised, in this case, if your AC breaks down entirely, incapable of handling the heat. Some issues you could find yourself facing include:
Burnt out blower motors
None of these problems on their own are insurmountable. However, it’s during maintenance that we can find out about these problems before they turn into huge, costly emergencies.
The Steps of an AC Tune-Up
These steps will vary from company to company, but overall your maintenance inspection includes tasks like checking refrigerant and pressure levels, measuring voltage, and measuring airflow. But there are also some adjustments that our team can make to help you system run as smoothly as possible all spring and summer. These steps include, but aren’t limited to:
Cleaning and adjusting blower components
Tightening electrical connections
Lubricating moving parts
Adjusting thermostat calibration
Cleaning the outdoor coils
This provides you with a number of benefits, like overall better system efficiency, better AC performance, and improved air conditioner longevity.
Ask About Our Maintenance Plan
When you enroll in a maintenance plan with our team, you never have to worry about remembering to schedule maintenance. We’ll follow up with you to get that on your schedule. You can count on thorough service to ensure your cooling system is working as best and as safely as possible. Plus, our maintenance plan members enjoy a number of additional benefits, such as discounts on parts and priority customer service.
Overall, maintenance tune-ups for your air conditioner give you the peace of mind that your system has been checked over and will get you through the hottest days of summer. Remember to make suggested repairs before summer begins, and you’ll be in great shape!
The short answer to this is “yes,” but we’re happy to give you more of an explanation than this.
Springtime is the ideal time to schedule air conditioning maintenance. There are certainly a few maintenance tasks you can do on your own. This includes changing your air filter every 1-3 months, and cleaning the area around your outdoor unit so that airflow isn’t disrupted. But for full maintenance that makes an actual difference, you must trust the pros.
Only a trained HVAC technician can handle the various tasks involved in thorough maintenance, form inspecting motors and electrical components to cleaning coils and moving parts. You can rely on our professionals to provide your cooling system with top quality maintenance every year.
The Many Benefits of AC Maintenance
One of the most common questions we get about air conditioning maintenance is if it’s really necessary every year. Just like the question posed in the title of this blog post, the answer is yes. Maintenance isn’t just some luxury service for air conditioners—it is a preventive measure necessary for the longevity and functionality of your cooling system. So what are the numerous benefits of air conditioning maintenance?
A More Reliable Air Conditioner: The biggest benefit of annual air conditioning maintenance is a cooling system that is less likely to suffer a major operational failure over the summer. Professional inspections help us locate areas where natural wear and tear on the system can lead to breakdowns. We make adjustments and provide a thorough cleaning to further remove potential problems. With a well-maintained air conditioner, you can enter the summer with the confidence that you probably won’t need to make any emergency repair calls.
An Energy-Efficient Air Conditioner: The accumulation of wear and tear on your air conditioner creates strain on its various components—in particular the blower motor. This creates higher energy bills as the system tries to overcome the extra stress. If an air conditioner has annual maintenance, it should retain 95% of its efficiency rating throughout its service life.
A Longer Lasting AC System: Speaking of that service life, most air conditioners—so long as they are properly cared for—should last between 10-15 years before requiring a replacement. But this is really only possible if the system has routine professional maintenance done. Annual inspections and tune-ups will help an AC system give you the best return on your initial investment in it by lasting as long as possible.
Fewer Repair Needs: You don’t want to spend extra money each year getting your AC repaired, right? Well, about 85% of the repairs any cooling system might need during its service life are preventable, thanks to maintenance inspections that cat problems early on, and this means huge savings for you!
When you’re ready to schedule your next maintenance appointment, please reach out to our team. Don’t forget to ask about our maintenance plan, which allows members discounts on air conditioner parts as well as a number of other benefits. You’ll also have the peace of mind in knowing we’ll follow up with you to schedule service, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to schedule it each year.
What we mean to say is, have you done everything you can within your home to reduce allergens that can leave even the healthiest person uncomfortable for 3 solid months, or more? If this isn’t something you’ve thought of before, now is the time. The indoor air quality in Merced, CA can be worse that the quality of air outdoors! This is because of how tightly homes are sealed during construction—great news for your HVAC efficiency, but not so much for your sinuses.
Finding the Right Indoor Air Quality Solutions
Changing the air filter that comes standard with your HVAC system is important, but did you know that this air filter actually does very little to resolve indoor air quality problems? That’s right—this filter is in place to protect the interior components of the HVAC system itself from dirt, dust, and other debris that can impede its performance. So, what can you do to actually improve your indoor air quality? Consider installing one, or all of the following systems:
Whole-House Air Filtration: Our technicians can help you select the right air filtration system for your home that will help trap even the smallest particles—particles such as mold spores, pollen, pet dander, and other allergens.
Electronic Air Purifier: Electronic air purifiers work by charging particles in the air, allowing them to cling to a surface of the opposite charge where it can be later cleaned up. This is sometimes preferable to an air filter as sometimes air filters can be too powerful, not allowing for effective airflow.
UV Air Purifier: UV light can kill bacteria and viruses on contact, making their installation in your ductwork ideal for eliminating the growth and development of mold and mildew. This type of UV radiation is harmless to people and pets, but effectively eliminates microorganisms.
A Humidifier or Dehumidifier: What’s the right balance of humidity? You want the relative humidity level in your home to be between 30-50%. Anything lower is too dry, causing sinuses to dry up and making household members more susceptible to illness. Too much moisture, however, encourages the growth of mold, which can also impact allergies and illnesses.
Other Indoor Air Quality Tips
Having the right systems in place is paramount to protecting your family this allergy season. But it’s not all you can do to combat the issue. Consider asking your family to:
Remove shoes upon coming in the house to reduce how many allergens they bring in.
Vacuum, sweep, and mop the floors once a week.
Wash their bedding once a week.
Change clothing when they get home, especially after outdoor activities.
Bathe pets regularly.
Make a cleaning schedule and ensure your family sticks to it.
Following these tips will ensure that your home stays as healthy as possible. The allergy season is inevitable, but your discomfort doesn’t have to be. If you have any questions about what products and services we offer or how they might benefit you and your family, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of professionals.
There is a question about HVAC systems that our professionals actually get quite a bit. We’re sad that we get it so much, since it probably means at some point you’ve dealt with a shady “service professional,” but the question is, “how often does my refrigerant need refilling?”
Our somewhat short answer is, “If your system is properly cared for, never!”
Busting the Myth
There’s a common misconception among many homeowners that refrigerant is something that runs out, depletes, over time, much like gasoline from a car. This isn’t the case with refrigerant, though. Upon system installation, your HVAC system is supplied with enough of this important fluid to ideally last throughout its entire lifespan. Refrigerant continuously cycles through the air conditioner or heat pump, and effectively transfers heat to bring you a comfortable indoor climate.
You can only rely on this refrigerant lasting throughout your cooling system’s lifespan if the system is installed by experienced, professional HVAC technicians. Give that, there is a chance at some point you will need a refill (what’s known as a recharge).
“Wait, but you just said…”
Yes, we said that ideally refrigerant should last the entire lifespan of your system. Should. If your system is losing refrigerant it means that you have a leak!
The source of the leak must be located and the refrigerant line repairs in order to restore your air conditioner’s efficiency. Otherwise, your AC system will begin experiencing a number of problems, such as those we’ve outlined below.
A Loss of Airflow
When leaks occur in the refrigerant line, the air conditioner output will decline, along with the refrigerant level. Eventually, the refrigerant level will drop to the point that it will cause your cooling system to break down entirely.
If you do notice this, be sure to call our pros for service right away. The problem may be a refrigerant leak, but it could be something else like an air handler problem. Either way, you’ll want to get it taken care of ASAP.
Lukewarm Air Coming from Your Vents
Sometimes the problem isn’t airflow related, but rather temperature related. If your air conditioner seems to be running fine, but there is warm air coming from the vents, it’s definitely a sign that you have a refrigerant leak. This puts a lot of strain on the air conditioner, and you could wind up doing pretty serious and irreversible damage to the compressor by letting it continue.
Ice Developing on the Evaporator Coil
Through the refrigeration process in your air conditioner, refrigerant shifts from gaseous to liquid form, and is placed under a great deal of pressure before it enters the evaporator coils. The valve releases a precise amount into the coils, where the refrigerant then shifts back to gaseous form. As this occurs, it pulls heat from the nearby air, cooling it down in the process.
When a refrigerant leak happens, frost or ice will develop on the outside of the evaporator coil. Though it may seem somewhat normal for ice to be involved with cooling, this ice creates an insulating barrier between the refrigerant and the air that it’s meant to cool. This means your cooling system has to work even harder to do its job, until the problem gets so severe that your air conditioner can’t do its job at all.