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How Does Refrigerant Work in Air Conditioners?

air-conditioning-servicesMost homes in the area use central air conditioning systems to stay cool, and with another scorching summer on its way, yours is going to be tested like never before. Among the most common problems experienced by centralized air conditioning systems is a loss of refrigerant, which happens quite often and which can cause serious trouble if you don’t get it treated. How does refrigerant work in air conditioners and why does it create problems when it leaks? Read on for the answers.

An Endless Cycle

It’s a common misconception that air conditioner consume refrigerant when they run, like a car consumes gas or oil. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the refrigerant needs to remain in very set amounts for the system to work as it should, and it only gets thrown out of whack when leaks spring up.

The refrigerant begins the cycle in gaseous form before being shifted to liquid form by bleeding heat off of it, and then being placed under a great deal of pressure.  (The heat is vented outside of your home through the outdoor portion of the air conditioner). The pressurized refrigerant then moves through a valve, which releases a set amount into the expansion coils, where it reverts to gaseous form. In the process, it pulls heat from the air around the coils. The cooled air can then be blown into your ducts with a fan, while the refrigerant returns to the start of the cycle to start the process anew.

Leaks Mean Trouble

Theoretically, refrigerant would never run out and allow the cooling process to go on indefinitely. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world, and leaks will spring up in the system from time to time. That throws off the delicate balance required for the air conditioning to take place. (Air conditioners need a set type of refrigerant in a set amount to work.) Frost will form on the coils, representing lost cooling potential and forming an insulating barrier between the remaining refrigerant and the air it needs to cool.

As more refrigerant leaks out, the rest of the system has to work harder and harder to do its job, which raises both the monthly cost of running the air conditioner and the strain on other components. The effect becomes cascading as the ice grows thicker and thicker and the system runs less and less efficiently until a breakdown takes place.

Scraping the ice off the coils won’t solve the problem (and may damage the coils in the process). But a trained technician can pinpoint the source of the problem, seal the leak and recharge the refrigerant to its proper levels. In fact, many services can recharge refrigerant as part of a routine maintenance session on your system. With summer on its way, there’s no better time to schedule such a session and ensure that your refrigerant levels are where they should be.

For quality air conditioning services in Panama City, FL, call on the friendly professionals at Alexander Air Conditioning, Inc. today to make an appointment!

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