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Serving Chester County & Surrounding Areas

Serving Chester County & Surrounding Areas


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Signature HVAC Blog

Understanding What Refrigerant Does in Your Air Conditioner


There are several misunderstandings about air conditioning systems that have spread since the earliest days of residential AC, and which have only spread faster because of the internet. For example, people often think it’s okay to see ice on an air conditioner. (It’s not!) Or they believe turning the thermostat down lower provides more cooling faster. (It only makes the AC run longer.) One of the biggest misconceptions that can cause plenty of trouble for an AC is about refrigerant: what it does and how to deal with it.

This is your Refrigerant 101 class, where we cut through the fog and give you straight answers that can help you with your air conditioning service in West Chester, PA.

Refrigerant Is Not “The Cold Thing” That “Creates Coldness” in an AC

Sort of a crude way to put it, but refrigerant isn’t just something cold that runs through a tube in the AC to create cold air. First, an air conditioner doesn’t “create” cold air at all. Coldness isn’t a form of energy and can’t be generated. What an air conditioner does is remove heat from the air, which cools it. Refrigerant is cold when it runs through the refrigerant coil inside the house; that’s how it draws heat out of the air. But refrigerant also shifts into heated gas form. It’s the shift between cold liquid and heated gas that allows refrigerant to do its job, which is to take heat from one location (your house in this case) and release it in another (the outdoor area around the condenser).

Refrigerant Is Not an Energy Source for the AC

Refrigerant is not a fuel. It is not an energy source the air conditioner consumes in order to power itself. An air conditioner draws its power from electricity—that’s what you pay for to power the system. But the AC doesn’t consume refrigerant at all. As refrigerant moves between gas and liquid stage, it never dissipates. The same amount is always left circulating through the coils and compressor. Unless the AC develops leaks, the same refrigerant charge will stay in the air conditioner for its entire service life. There is no need to “refill” it or “top it off.” Don’t listen to any self-proclaimed technician tell you your AC is due for more refrigerant.

Refrigerant Leaks and Refrigerant Overcharge

As we mentioned above, the only case where an air conditioner will lose its charge of refrigerant is from leaking, which is a common repair issue. If you have an AC struggling to cool your house, notice ice on the evaporator coil, or hear a hissing from the unit, call our technicians. If refrigerant leaks are the trouble, we’ll seal the leaks and replace the lost refrigerant. Allowing an AC to run off a low charge will eventually cause the compressor to burn out.

An AC can become overcharged as well if an amateur tries to put refrigerant into it. This is as harmful to the air conditioner as running on a lower charge. Please only trust to skilled professionals to handle refrigerant concerns with an AC.

Signature HVAC delivers Signature Service You Can Trust. Call us when you need air conditioning assistance in Chester County and the surrounding areas.

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