Refrigerant 101: Understanding the Basics

Refrigerant 101: Understanding the BasicsRefrigerant plays an important role in your home air conditioner, but many homeowners don’t understand what it does or how it’s used. This basic guide will teach you how your HVAC system uses refrigerant, how your refrigerant line is maintained, and what happens when it springs a leak.

Refrigerant is a substance that’s used to carry heat energy from place to place. In its normal operation, your air conditioner removes heat energy from your indoor air, cooling the air for circulation through your home. This happens through a phase change in the refrigerant: in the indoor evaporator coil, refrigerant takes on enough heat to turn it from a liquid to a gas, which is then pumped outside.

In your outdoor A/C component, the condenser, the refrigerant surrenders all its heat to the outdoor air, which is blown away by a fan. It returns to a liquid state, and the air conditioner’s compressor pumps the refrigerant back inside.

All of this takes place within the refrigerant coil, which is a closed system: refrigerant should never be lost to the air. The refrigerant charge refers to the amount of refrigerant inside the system; when an HVAC expert checks the charge during routine maintenance, they’re checking to make sure that the system was charged properly at installation and that the coil hasn’t sprung a leak since then. If a leak is detected, the coil will need to be repaired or replaced by an HVAC professional.

Until recently, a refrigerant called R-22, commonly known as freon, was generally used in air conditioners. However, R-22 is in the process of being phased out in favor of higher-efficiency, less-polluting options. If you’re considering an air conditioner upgrade in the near future, weigh that in your considerations; after 2020, no new R-22 will be produced or imported into the United States, meaning that repairs on older air conditioners may become more difficult or expensive.

If you’re curious about how your A/C uses refrigerant, contact us at Team Bob’s Heating Cooling Plumbing today! We’re proud to help educate homeowners in Grand Traverse County and surrounding communities.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about Refrigerant and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Alhovik/Shutterstock”

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    Charles King Charles King has over 10 years of experience in the HVAC industry ... More »