Does Your Home’s Air Conditioner ACTUALLY Need a Refrigerant Charge?

2014 Jun 16
Posted in: Air Conditioning

It’s scary.

When something technical or mechanical breaks, you’re at the mercy of the expert’s advice to figure out what’s wrong and what you need to do to fix it. Who hasn’t had that feeling with a car mechanic when your car breaks down?

But we’re betting you feel the same way if your air conditioner stopped blowing cold air and a contractor told you that it needs a refrigerant charge.

You wonder, “Do I REALLY need a refrigerant / Freon charge, or am I being ripped off?”
It’s a good question! There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism when your money is on the line. 

Here are 2 signs an A/C contractor may be trying to scam you and charge you for refrigerant when you might not really need it.

1) Contractor says you need more refrigerant without checking A/C unit

Imagine this scenario: You’re sick, go to the doctor and tell him your symptoms. The doctor looks you up and down and says, “Aha, all you need is surgery!” No tests, just a quick solution.

Sounds silly, but that is what some air conditioning contractors will do. They’ll hear the “symptoms” (air conditioner is blowing hot air) and recommends a refrigerant charge without actually checking to see if that’s the case.

This may have some nasty consequences for you:

  1. The contractor will miss the real problem (meaning you still won’t have any cool air and you wasted your money.)
  2. The contractor may overcharge your system, causing costly damage to your air conditioner.

What else could the problem be?

Well, there are several things that could cause your home’s air conditioner to stop blowing cold air, including:

  • Compressor issues
  • Dirty air filter
  • Dirty outside condenser unit
  • The thermostat was accidentally set on “heat” instead of “cool” (hey, it happens!)

A contractor needs to use special equipment to check the refrigerant levels before recommending that you need a refrigerant charge.

OK, so the contractor has actually checked the refrigerant levels. But you still may be getting ripped off if...

2) Contractor mentions your A/C “used up” the refrigerant

Refrigerant isn’t like gas in a car; it’s not “used up”. Refrigerant flows between the inside and outside unit going from a liquid and a gas over and over again in what’s called a “self contained system”.

If you’re actually low on refrigerant, then there’s most likely a leak somewhere in your system where the refrigerant is escaping.

If there’s no mention of finding a leak, then that means a couple things:

  1. You don’t really need refrigerant and the contractor is pulling your leg
  2. You do need refrigerant, but any refrigerant that’s added will leak out, only offering a temporary fix, meaning you’ll be paying for more refrigerant soon enough (how soon depends on how big the leak is).

What a contractor should do if you think you’re low on refrigerant

  1. Check the cooling system’s refrigerant levels
  2. If you are low, then contractor searches for a leak (this may take some time)
  3. Once found, then all the refrigerant is evacuated using a refrigerant recovery system, so not to expel the polluting gasses freely into the air
  4. Contractor fixes the leak
  5. Contractor fills the system with refrigerant levels that meet manufacturer's specifications

If it’s a major leak on a condenser or evaporator coil, repairing your A/C may be expensive. And if the air conditioner is old, then replacing your air conditioner may be the most cost efficient option.

Do you think you need more refrigerant, and you live in the Phoenix-area?

Contact George Brazil, and we’ll examine your home’s A/C, find the real problem and make sure to fix it right the first time!

George Brazil has been keeping Phoenix-area homes safe, comfortable and energy efficient since 1955. Contact us online for more information about any of our services.
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