How to Easily Identify AC Refrigerant Leaks

An air conditioner refrigerant leak is one of the most dangerous things that can happen to a system that is supposed to keep your house cool. Refrigerant is not consumed when you are running it during hot summer months. Instead, the refrigerant gets cycled back and forth as it removes heat from your house. The initial charge when the AC system is installed should last throughout the lifespan of the unit.

However, there are instances when a leak occurs, depriving the system of the vital fluid it needs to operate efficiently. When this occurs, a number of problems can accumulate and eventually causes your air conditioner to break down. Before you and your family get into a hot situation, let’s look at ways to identify refrigerant leaks.

Drops in Refrigerant Output

Your air conditioner cannot remove heat from your house when the refrigerant level is too low. Most leaks start small, so the rate of losing refrigerant from the system is slow. Over time, the output of your air conditioner begins a slow but steady, decline. If you notice a difference in the unit’s performance in keeping your house cool, you might have a leak.

Strange Noises Coming from Air Conditioner

Listen for any strange noises in the unit. This is one of the best ways to determine whether your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant or on the brink of breaking down. Air bubbles can form in the refrigerant line as coolant leaves your air conditioner unit. Some noises make a hissing sound; others sound like bubbling noises whenever the unit is running.

Identify Dirty Spots on Refrigerant Line

It is not unusual for refrigerant to attract dirt, so leaks in the line may appear dirty or oily. Examine the line to detect whether there is a leak. If there appears to be a problem, call a professional to thoroughly inspect the refrigerant line.

Apply the Bubble Method

One of the oldest ways to detect a leak is by using the bubble method. To do this, apply a soap solution to areas where you suspect a leak has occurred with a brush squeeze bottle or dauber. Typically, any escaping refrigerant produces bubbles at the leak points. The only way this method proves ineffective is if it is windy outdoors or a leak is very small.

Use a Corona-Suppression or Heated Diode Detector

Two basic types of electronic detectors can be used to identify AC refrigerant leaks.

The first is the corona-suppression detector. This technology is used to measure varying conductivity of how gases pass between two electrodes. An instrument is used to create a high-voltage spark from one point of the sensor to another point. This is done to establish a baseline between both points.

If there is a drop in the current between these two points, an insulating gas is present a higher concentration is identified when there is a tremendous current drop.

The other electronic method is using heated diode technology. This method involves using a ceramic element to heat the refrigerant to break up molecules. When this occurs, chlorine or fluorine ions are left positively charged, which attracts center collection wire that is negatively charged.

The ions flow to the center collection wire to create a small current. As refrigerant increases, so does the current level to set off an alarm. Generally, this method provides a more accurate detection than the corona-suppression method.

Add Fluorescent Dye to Refrigeration System

The fluorescent leak detection requires the addition of a fluorescent dye into the refrigeration system. This is done for the dye to mix with the lubricant to circulate throughout the air conditioner. If there is a leak, dye will come out with a bright yellow-green color to help you pinpoint where the leak is located. Typically, this also requires scanning the system with a blue light or UV lamp.

Generally, this method may require a contractor who will use an OEM-approved dye compatible with your system’s lubricant. Dyes that contain co-solvents should be avoided. These can have a negative effect on the lubrication makeup of the system’s oil. Destroying these qualities may cause the compressor to fail prematurely.

A blue light or UV lamp that has a high-intensity output is preferred when using the fluorescent leak detection method. Greater light intensity produces a brighter dye glow so you can easily find any leaks.

This detection method also works well as a preventive maintenance technique. Periodic checks of the system is best so small leaks are identified before losing substantial amounts of refrigerant from a larger leak.

Repairing the AC Refrigerant Leak

Repairing a refrigerant leak in your AC unit usually requires hiring a skilled technician. For the DIYers, repairing a refrigerant leak in the air conditioner unit can be inexpensive if all that’s needed is to tighten a fitting or replace a valve core. At the same time, it can be very pricey if it repairs involve replacing the evaporator coil or copper line set.

Whether you try to repair the leak or hire a technician, there are some common sites to watch for leakage. These include:

  • Copper tubing
  • Shipping valves
  • Filter canisters
  • Weld joints
  • Valve cores

As mentioned previously, technicians may use an electronic sniffer to identify AC refrigerant leaks. Bigger leaks typically require using soap bubbles or the black light method.

The black light method requires installing a liquid tracer into the system and let it circulate for a couple of weeks. During this period, the tracer will ooze out slowly from places where there is a leak.

It is common knowledge that refrigerants are very expensive. Time and effort spent to locate leaks, plus repairing AC equipment makes it imperative for preventive maintenance of systems. The best way to begin repairing to select a method that can quickly pinpoint leaks. This will not only keep loss of refrigerant at a minimum, but it will also help you avoid headaches and scorching heat.

5 Common Causes of Air Conditioning Repairs in Denver 2016

5 Most Common Air Conditioning Problems For Denver Homeowners

The summer time is no time for a home's air conditioning unit to stop working. It may happen and when it does, it will be important for a certified air conditioning technician to identify the problem and fix it. An air conditioning system can be complicated. A number of different things can go wrong with it. There are at least five common problems that may cause a person's air conditioning system to fail and require repairing

Refrigerant Leak Problems

When an air conditioning unit is low on refrigerant, there could be two main reasons for it. The unit may have been undercharged with refrigerant when it was installed. The other option is that the air conditioning unit leaks. A few years ago, a study was done to determine the true cause of refrigerant leaks in air conditioning units. It showed that leaks often occur in units up to 7 years old. The leaks often occur in the unit's copper tubing wall. The study determined that some newer air conditioning units were able to be more energy efficient. This was often achieved by using thinner copper in the evaporator coils. Heat will move quicker through thinner copper. This type of efficiency in the tubing can also be a cause of leaks. It is also common to find low levels of formaldehyde as a pollutant in most homes. This formaldehyde can change into something on the a/c coil known as Formic acid. This is very mild, but during a period of several years, it could create pinholes in an air conditioning unit's copper tubing. This is known as formicary corrosion

Electrical Problems

Some of the most common air conditioning problems involve the unit's electronics. It's possible for an air conditioning unit to have a failing capacitor. This is a small cylindrical electronic component. It sends electricity to the unit's motors so they can run. A capacitor will begin to show signs of wear when too much voltage is affecting the unit. The capacitors will need to be replaced. This is evident by a clicking sound coming from the unit's cabinet. Circuit breakers frequently tripping is another problem. If home's circuit breakers trip when an air conditioning unit turns on, the system needs too much power. There could be a problem with the wiring within the unit's motors. Relays are components that transmit power to a unit's motors. When a relay is stuck in the open position, there is a problem. This could keep the motor from turning on. If the relay is stuck in the shut position, the motor will not turn off.

Sensor Problems

Homes with room air conditioners have a thermostat sensor. This is usually located behind the unit's control panel. It will measure the temperature of air coming into the unit's evaporator coils. As air goes past the unit's sensor, its temperature is identified. The sensor then contrasts this to the thermostat's desired temperature. If the temperature needs to be warmer or cooler, the sensor will activate the unit's compressor. This will make it cool until a home's temperature matches the temperature set on the unit's thermostat. Should the unit's sensor get out of position, the unit could constantly cycle. In other cases, it will begin to operate erratically. The sensor needs to be located near the coils but not touching them. When the sensor touches the coils, an air conditioning unit can begin to act erratically. This can be corrected by eliminating any unusual angles of a sensor toward or away from the unit's coils. If this is done, and the unit still does not work correctly, there may be other problems with the air conditioning unit. A trained technician will be able to further evaluate the unit and recommend any necessary repairs.

Inadequate Maintenance Problems

When the filters and coils in an air conditioning unit become dirty, the air conditioner will not operate properly. It is important for an air conditioning unit to have a clean filter installed every month. Some filter types can be cleaned, and others must be replaced. When filters are not regularly changed, the efficiency of an air conditioning unit is significantly compromised. This is especially important during the months a unit is used the most. It is essential to know the filter's minimum efficiency reporting value and only to use filters specifically designed for the unit. When this isn't done, it can permit dirt to be carried directly into the unit's evaporator coils and decrease its ability to absorb heat. As an air conditioner is utilized, it's evaporator coil and condenser coil will collect dirt. Even with regular changing of the air filter, these coils will retain dirt. Outdoor condenser coils will have significant levels of dirt from being in an outside environment. This is especially true if there are trees and plants nearby. An air conditioning unit's coils need to be checked and cleaned at least once a year or more depending on the unit's location.

Turning Off Problems

If an air conditioning unit goes off and on without warning, it could be the result of air flow within the unit being restricted. In some cases, a dirty air filter is the problem. In some units, this is a result of too much moisture being captured. This can cause the unit's water tank to fill up. There is often a light on the unit that indicates when its water tank is filled. A unit repeatedly turning off can happen on days that are extremely hot. The high temperatures can cause a problem with the air moving through the unit. In some cases, the problem could be a thermostat too close to windows or air vents. A thermostat in the wrong location can cause a unit to react to the wrong inside temperature. In some cases, a broken thermostat may be at fault.

If this is a constant problem after an air condition unit is installed, the system may be too large for the structure where it was installed. When this is done, it will decrease the amount of time to cool off an indoor environment but will increase energy bills, cause uneven cooling and other problems.

Causes of Air Conditioning Output Dropping in Denver, CO

4 Common Causes Dropping Air Conditioner Output

It is another hot and sweaty summer outside, and your air conditioner seems to be struggling. While you imagined the house should be cooler by now, the output of your air conditioner does not appear to be pumping in a regular flow of consistent, cool air. In fact, the output of your air conditioner is clearly less than adequate: causing your house to retain that stale, musty heat and humidity that makes it hard to breathe as the perspiration beads up across your forehead. But, what could possibly be causing your air conditioner to be experiencing a reduction in output? Chances are that your air conditioner is being hampered by one of the following issues.

Air Handler Problems

The air handler is the part of your air conditioner that is burdened with the task of properly circulating air throughout your home. When there is a problem with your air conditioner's air handler, this will definitely hinder its ability to circulate air as it was designed to do. Essentially, you can think of the air handler as a fan with a powerful motor. When the fan is operational, air becomes distributed and circulated as it should, and your home will stay at the proper temperature you desire it to maintain. Unfortunately, the motor component of the air handler depends on a series of oiled bearings. With use over time, these bearings can wear, and you will start to notice that your air conditioner is producing an annoying grinding sound when the fan is engaged.

If this problem goes untreated long enough, the resultant friction from general use will ultimately burn out the air handler's motor. In the meantime, before the motor burns out, you will notice that the output of your air conditioner will continue to drop as the situation gets worse. The solution that tends to be least expensive, which will restore your air conditioner to a state where it is operating properly again, is to replace the failing bearings before significant damage is done to the motor of the air handler. Alternatively, the air handler may experience an electrical problem, such as a short circuit. In this situation, power is lost and output will reduce because electricity is not able to power the motor.

Evaporator Coil Has Frozen Over with Ice

While you would think freezing cold ice would not be a huge problem in the heat of summer, the truth is that ice forming on an evaporator coil can create a major problem with the operation of your air conditioner. As the evaporator coil ices over, it becomes increasingly difficult for the heat to be removed out of your home's air. This common air conditioner problem results in a direct reduction in your air conditioner's output. Common causes of this problem arise from the air conditioner's air filter being clogged or an air handler that is not functioning properly. In the event that you notice ice forming on your air conditioner, this is a sign you need to have your system looked at by a professional as soon as possible.

Your Air Conditioner is Leaking Refrigerant

For your air conditioner to operate as it was intended, it is vitally important for the air conditioner to contain enough refrigerant fluid to prevent your air conditioner from experiencing a total breakdown in operations. The purpose of refrigerant fluid is that it plays a critical role in transporting absorbed heat from inside your home to outside your home. You might be tempted to imagine that your air conditioner consumes this fluid and that it should be replaced regularly. Instead, what your air conditioner actually does is it recycles this fluid for continued use. The only time your air conditioner should be losing refrigerant fluid is if there is a leak somewhere in the system. When your air conditioner leaks refrigerant fluid, this directly diminishes your air conditioner's ability to shuttle heat outside. As a result, your house will remain warmer, and the output of your air conditioner will become less efficient in the process.

When your air conditioner was originally installed, it was charged with a sufficient amount of refrigerant to last throughout its lifetime of operation: provided no refrigerant leaks occur; consequently, if you notice your air conditioner is leaking refrigerant fluid, it is not advisable to put off having it repaired.

A Malfunctioning Reversing valve

Inside your air conditioner's heat pump is a device called a reversing valve. When refrigerant fluid passes through the heat pump one way, it provides your system with the ability to cool your house. Passing refrigerant fluid through the heat pump in the opposite direction is how your air conditioner provides the ability for the system to heat your home. If the reversing valve inside your heat pump malfunctions or gets stuck, this will create output problems. The last thing you want in the middle of the summer months is for your air conditioner to be stuck heating your house, rather than cooling it off. A professional will be able to quickly determine if the reason your air conditioner is malfunctioning is because of an improperly operating reversing valve. It should be noted that an improperly functioning reversing valve may be difficult to diagnose in mild weather. A bleeding reversing valve will exhibit detectable changes in pressure, which a qualified air conditioner repair technician will be able to help you to detect and restore to proper functioning capacity in a short amount of time.