Can’t Beat the Heat? Here’s How to Recharge your Home Air Conditioner
Picture this: It’s summertime. The sun is shining, the temperatures are rising, and it’s getting harder and harder to stand the heat. When the fan has been doing nothing but blowing hot air around the house, you finally decide to turn on the AC. You wait for hours, but somehow, your house isn’t getting any cooler. What could be the problem?
Owning a home air conditioning unit is a huge convenience, especially in places where summers can go up to 95 degrees. However, it’s very important to be on top of all repairs and maintenance to ensure the longevity of your unit. If you’ve been diligent with maintenance but your unit is still not cooling as intended, maybe it’s time to recharge your AC.
What does recharging your AC mean?
Recharging your air conditioner means refilling your unit’s refrigerant, which is the main component that cools your house. With the help of your AC’s evaporator and condenser, the refrigerant constantly changes from one state to another to absorb the heat from your home and convert it into cool airflow.
A lot of people still refer to refrigerant as Freon, as it has been the main refrigerant that has been used in residential air conditioners for many years. However, studies have shown that Freon or R-22 is extremely bad for the environment; thus, it has been phased out by manufacturers worldwide.
As of 2020, manufacturers no longer make Freon or Freon-compatible AC units. Modern air conditioners instead use Puron or R410A, which is safer for the ozone layer but still provides the same level of cooling.
Although the production and importation of Freon are banned in the United States, Freon can still be found for sale online or under certain conditions. However, for those with older AC units, it is recommended to upgrade to a more modern unit to avoid using R-22 altogether.
Whether your unit requires R-22 or R410A, it is designed to hold refrigerant for its entire lifespan. If you need to recharge your AC, that means there’s been a leak in your system that’s contributing to the refrigerant loss.
Before you set out to refill your refrigerant, you need to do a leak repair first. Adding refrigerant to a leaking unit can cause even more damage. It is important to consult technicians to conduct check-ups and AC repairs to avoid further damaging your unit.
How to know if it’s time to recharge your AC
There are a few ways to diagnose if your AC needs a refrigerant refill. Although some symptoms don’t necessarily mean your AC is leaking refrigerant, it is important to still watch out for one or more signs so that you can attend to the problem as soon as possible. Here are some issues that can mean it’s time to recharge your unit:
- Your air conditioner runs the whole day, but it’s not effectively cooling your home or it’s blowing warm air
- You find ice or frost buildup on the refrigerant line
- You find water leaks from melted ice around your unit
- Your electric bill may be higher due to your AC operating inefficiently
- You hear concerning sounds like gurgling, hissing, or bubbling coming from the refrigerant line
How do you know if the refrigerant is the problem?
Sometimes your AC not cooling your home can be fixed by simply cleaning the unit and its air filter. However, if you have done your routine cleaning but your AC is still not working, this may be a surefire sign to have your refrigerant refilled.
Another sign to look out for is if the weakening of your unit’s cooling system is gradual. Sometimes, an AC’s decreased cooling ability is caused by a broken thermostat. If that is the case, your unit may lose cooling very suddenly or have its output temperature fluctuate. In contrast, a slow and gradual decline in cooling ability signals refrigerant loss over time, which points to a leak.
If you’re unsure, schedule a check-up and AC maintenance session with certified technicians to pinpoint the real cause of your AC issues.
How to Recharge your Home AC
If in doubt, don’t do it yourself. Refrigerants are dangerous substances, and if you’re not careful, you can sustain injuries that would need serious medical attention. Refrigerant inhalation can lead to headaches, breathing difficulties, nausea, vomiting, and coughing. Longer exposure can even lead to more severe effects like brain damage and sudden death. Meanwhile, physical contact with refrigerants can severely irritate the eyes and skin.
In general, recharging air conditioners is a dangerous procedure not just for your health, but also for your unit, since doing the procedure incorrectly can add damage to your AC.
It is highly recommended to hire skilled and certified technicians to recharge your AC for you. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all professional technicians to be certified, so you can rest easy knowing your unit is in safe hands.
Technicians can also start with a broader diagnosis of your unit and can facilitate the leak repair before refilling the refrigerant.
However, if you are confident in your DIY and AC maintenance skills and you have access to the right equipment, you can try your hand at recharging your air conditioner. As long as you are correctly handling modern refrigerants, there is no law preventing you from doing this procedure at home.
Here are the steps you need to take before you refill your AC refrigerant:
- Make sure the AC is clean and maintained.
- Choose the correct refrigerant & prepare the right tools.
- For this procedure, you will need a refrigerant gauge set with 3 valves and a canister of refrigerant. You may also need an electronic leak detector.
- Make sure that you have the correct refrigerant for your unit. If you’re unsure, check your device manual or check your unit for more information. Certified technicians can also determine this for you.
- If you have an older unit, you may need R-22, which can be difficult to source since you will need EPA certification to do so. In this case, you will have to hire a maintenance service to do this for you.
- Check the temperature outside your home.
- Refrigerants are attracted to the coldest temperatures. Normally, this will be the inside of your AC unit, which is where the refrigerant should be. If it’s too cold outside, your refrigerant may behave erratically and get attracted to the outside environment.
- Schedule your AC recharge when the temperature outside is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit so that the refrigerant remains in your unit.
- Wear protective gear.
- To avoid any injury, prepare thick gloves, safety goggles, long-sleeved protective clothing, and a respirator before you start the procedure.
- In case you come into physical contact with refrigerant, rinse the area immediately and seek medical attention. In case of accidental inhalation, go to a well-ventilated area away from the refrigerant and seek medical help.
Once you have everything ready, it’s time to start recharging your AC. Here is a step-by-step guide that you can follow:
- Start the procedure by turning off your AC unit. Then, make sure to turn off its power source at the breaker and thermostat.
- Hook your refrigerant gauge to your AC. Only connect the left (blue) and right (red) tubes and leave the middle valve open for now.
- Wait 15 minutes, then turn the AC back on. Let it run for a while so you can get an accurate reading on your gauges.
- Attach one end of the yellow hose to the refrigerant canister and another end to the center valve.
- Open the low-pressure valve (left side). Do so intermittently until you reach the right subcooling temperature on your gauge. To find out the correct temperature, check your outdoor unit’s rating plate.
- Once you reach the correct subcooling temperature, switch the valve off.
- Close your refrigerant canister. Then, disconnect all hoses from their valves & remove the gauge from your unit.
- Conduct a leak test using an electronic leak detector. Doing this will ensure that the refrigerant is staying in your unit and not escaping. You can also hire a technician to do this for you.
- Store your refrigerant responsibly. Each canister comes with instructions for proper storage. Refrigerant canisters are pressurized and need to be put away in the right conditions to avoid accidents. Some refrigerants are also flammable, so make sure to read the canister properly.
After refilling the refrigerant, observe your air conditioning unit and see if it’s cooling effectively again. If everything has been done correctly, you can now sit back and enjoy the comfort of a cooled home.
Preventative Maintenance for your AC
When temperatures soar, nothing beats the comfort of an air-conditioned home. To make your AC unit last longer, you need to conduct regular cleaning and maintenance. The air filters need to be cleaned or replaced every 1-2 months, while the interior of your AC unit has to be cleaned at least once a year, which is best done before summer.
Air conditioners require high-quality and constant maintenance. While you can clean filters yourself, it can get hard to find time to do full AC maintenance on your own, especially if you run into more complex problems like leaks and mold.
Licensed air conditioning technicians can help you properly maintain your unit. They know how to dismantle, clean, and reassemble your unit’s parts correctly. Moreover, they can provide assessments and diagnose if your air conditioner has any other problems that need attending to.
With regular care, a good air conditioning unit should last up to 10-15 years.
One-Stop Heating and Air Conditioning
Schedule your next maintenance session with the most trusted Heating and Air Conditioning service in Sandy, UT. Our skilled and highly qualified technicians can take care of your AC systems for you.
Don’t settle for anything less. We provide affordable, effective, and reliable services to ensure your utmost comfort at home.
We also provide a 24/7 Emergency Repair Service to attend to your most pressing AC issues. Should you need to replace your unit, we also offer AC Installation services.
Call us now at (801) 355-9500.
Our hotline is open 24/7 to attend to your emergencies and urgent inquiries.
You can also schedule an appointment online, and we will contact you as soon as possible.