One of the problems that HVAC technicians often deal with during the summer is sealing refrigerant leaks in an air conditioner and then replacing the refrigerant that was lost. It’s a common misconception that an air conditioner consumes its supply of refrigerant as it runs and will eventually need to have more put in. The truth is that the refrigerant level in an AC (called its charge) will remains the same throughout the air conditioner’s service life… unless it develops leaks.
How do these leaks happen? That’s an interesting question, and surprisingly it usually isn’t a problem with loose connections inside the air conditioner.
The main reason that refrigerant leaks start
Refrigerant can escape from an AC through tiny leaks that open up along the copper refrigerant lines. The cause of these small holes is a type of corrosion that affects copper, formicary corrosion. Formaldehyde in the air creates formic acid along the copper lines, and the corrosion causes “pinhole” leaks that are enough to allow the slow loss of either liquid or gaseous refrigerant. This is most likely to happen in air conditioners between 4 and 7 years old, and it affects high-efficiency air conditioners more often because they have thinner copper lines to allow for faster heat exchange.
Is there anything you can do to prevent these leaks? Preventive maintenance is the best step to take; an annual inspection from an experience HVAC technician will help detect dangers from leaking before they become serious. You can also ask indoor air quality specialists about installing an air purifier that will reduce formaldehyde in your home—this chemical can cause more damage than just leaks in the air conditioner!