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Why Your Air Conditioner Can Develop Refrigerant Leaks

We’ve talked before on this blog about refrigerant (a.k.a. “Freon”) leaks in your air conditioning. This is a serious problems for an AC, because the system should have the same amount of refrigerant for its entire service life. It’s an unfortunately prevalent myth that an air conditioner uses up refrigerant as it works and needs to be “topped off.”

But how do these leaks occur in the first place in an air conditioner? And is there something you can do to prevent them from happening?

The basic causes of refrigerant leaks

Various field studies from HVAC professionals have discovered that leaking is most likely to occur in a unit that is 4–7 years old, and that the leaks occur along the copper tubing of the refrigerant line, not at the various connection points or the joints. Oddly, newer, higher efficiency models of ACs are more prone to leaks than older energy wasters. This apparently has some connection to the thinner refrigerant lines in the new models that allow for faster energy transfer.

Further examination of the problem led to the discovery that tiny holes are opening up along the copper lines allowing for the high-pressure refrigerant gas to escape. Copper is corrosion-resistant, but it can still suffer from corrosion damage due to formic acid, also called formicary corrosion.

So why is there formic acid affecting the air conditioner in your home? The most likely source is formaldehyde, which can convert into formic acid along air conditioning coils. Formaldehyde is one of the more common chemical pollutants inside the air of homes—and it isn’t easy to eliminate.

What can I do to prevent this problem?

The simple answer to this one is to make sure that your air conditioner receives its regular maintenance every year, with spring as the best time to schedule it. Although there is not much you can do to stop formicary corrosion in your house (it can affect your copper plumbing pipes as well, leading to pinhole leaks that need professional repairs), you can rely on skilled technicians to spot signs that it is occurring and prevent the leaks. Regular attention to your AC is key to keeping away numerous problems.

To schedule air conditioning maintenance or repairs in Burlington, VT, call on Red Rock Mechanical LLC.

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