Refrigerant 101: What You Should Know

Monday, September 27th, 2021

outdoor-ac-unitDid you know that refrigerant is the substance in your air conditioner that makes the cooling process possible? It shifts between gas and liquid in order to draw heat out of your home and bring chilled air in–which is putting it simply. Homeowners often don’t understand the importance of this chemical blend in their air conditioner, so hearing something like they have a refrigerant leak or their air conditioner needs to be “recharged” might seem odd. We’re here to give you a bit of a run down on refrigerant in your air conditioner and why it matters. Read on!

What Is Refrigerant?

As we mentioned above, refrigerant is a chemical substance. It produces a cooling effect while it vaporizes within your evaporator coil of the air conditioner. Refrigerant is not a fuel but rather a heat transfer medium that works in a closed-loop system.

How Often Does Refrigerant Need to be Refilled?

This is sort of a trick question. The answer is “never,” in a sense.

You might hear about refrigerant being refilled–or rather, what we in the HVAC industry call recharged, but this isn’t something that should be needed on a routine basis. The thing is, if your air conditioner is losing refrigerant, then it means you have a leak. This leak must be found and repaired for your system to function at its best–or at all.

What Happens When You Have a Refrigerant Leak?

When there’s a refrigerant leak, your air conditioner won’t be able to sufficiently cool your home. This is one of the biggest signs that you have a refrigerant leak, actually. A loss of cooling could also be from damaged ductwork or a miscalibrated thermostat, but, if those are ruled out then it could very well be a refrigerant leak Some other signs that you might have a leak include:

Higher Energy Bills

If your energy/utility bills are higher than they were this same time last year, it’s a sign that something in your home is working inefficiently, and it may very well be due to a refrigerant leak. It’s because your air conditioner can still run for a while without the right refrigerant charge. But it has to run longer in order to try to reach the desired temperature on your thermostat, and that’s where the inefficiency comes in.

High Humidity

Have you noticed that the humidity in your home seems a little higher? If it’s also a bit warmer despite your typical thermostat settings for this time of year, then you might have a refrigerant leak. Your air conditioner is able to dehumidify a bit. This isn’t its sole purpose of course, but when its performance is hindered by something like a refrigerant leak, it can’t dehumidify your indoor air at all, and you might notice the difference.

Hissing or Gurgling Noises

Depending on what stage the refrigerant is in at the time–gas or liquid–you may hear a hissing or a gurgling noise coming from your system. If you’ve never heard this before, it’s time to give us a call!


For professional and reliable service on your air conditioning in Orland Park, IL, look no further than Comfort First Heating and Cooling, Inc. Contact us today! 

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