How Often Do You Need To Add Freon To A Central A/C Unit?

How Often Do You Need To Add Freon To A Central AC Unit

There’s no denying that refrigerant is crucial in all central AC units. If everything is working as it should, your AC doesn’t require refrigerant. However, if your unit’s refrigerant levels are overly low, it can damage components such as the evaporator coil, compressor, and condenser. With various pricey parts susceptible to damage, how often do you need to add Freon to a central air conditioning unit? Read on to find out and avoid unwarranted surprises.

How often do you need to add Freon to your central air conditioner unit? If your AC is working as it should, then it should never require refrigerant. However, it also depends on the service or maintenance schedule you are following because this can also determine how often you need to recharge your air conditioning unit.

Read on to find out more!

How Refrigerants Work

It’s worth noting that a refrigerant is a sealed system rather than something which evaporates and cycles continuously in the copper coils of your central air conditioning unit. Air conditioners come with the specified amount of refrigerants they need for the duration of their life.

Nonetheless, if you suspect you’re running low on freon (R-22 refrigerant), then you need to call an HVAC expert.  That’s because the coils run in a closed circuit to prevent the refrigerant from escaping. Therefore, if your refrigerant levels are low, it’s somehow escaping the copper coils and is leaking.

What Are The Signs Of A Refrigerant Leak?

Signs of a Refrigerant Leak
Source: Chatchai.wa

Here are just a few signs that you may notice that can result from a refrigerant leak.

  • A frozen evaporator coil
  • Ice on refrigerant lines
  • Warm air stemming from vents
  • A spike in energy bills
  • A bubbling or hissing sound coming from the refrigerant lines

When a random technician tells you that you need new refrigerant, don’t fall into the trap. They must thoroughly examine the entire system before reaching a verdict. That entails inspecting the indoor unit and the fuse panel to determine whether the circuit produces electricity to the outside air conditioning unit.

Let’s discuss other things to check before roping in a professional:

Thermostat

Although the signs above are the tell-tale signs of low freon levels, the root cause might be elsewhere. Your central air conditioning unit might be blowing out hot air for various reasons, for instance, the thermostat.

It’s the first place you need to check because, at times, a unit resets to trigger the electronic elements of the system. Once it’s done, set the thermostat to 85 degrees and wait up to 30 minutes before adjusting it to 60 degrees. Then, if it kicks in, you’re in the clear.

Air Filter

Checking the air filter of your unit is always a great idea. For example, there might be broken or disconnected ductwork that is drawing in unconditioned air. Alternatively, if a filter is filled with dirt and dust, there’s a chance it’s the cause of the malfunction. That’s your cue to pop in a new filter.

Condenser

To inspect it, you’ll need to turn off the AC unit and disconnect the power. The condenser is the external component of the unit and has a cabinet that consists of controls such as a compressor, coil, and fan.

To get started, follow the steps below:

  1. Remove the outer caging of the AC while ensuring you don’t damage or stretch any wires.
  2. Use a hose to flush out the accumulated dust, dirt, or debris. As you do so, tread carefully because the last thing you need is to spray an electrical component.
  3. Use an all-purpose cleaner to spray the aluminum coils.
  4. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes for it to soak deep into the grime.
  5. Clean the buildup with water and allow the coils to dry.

Don’t Attempt To Take Matters Into Your Own Hands

If the problem persists, that’s your cue to hire a professional HVAC technician as there might be a leak. Keep in mind that the refrigerant of your central air conditioning unit is hazardous. It can be detrimental to your health with direct exposure. For that reason, avoid attempting to fix the issue yourself.

If the professional is certain of freon leakage, ensure they plug the leakage. Some technicians might opt to cut corners by refilling the unit and billing you for the entire process. Not only is that pricey but also highly unhelpful. Only refilling the unit means you’ll have to shell out extra bucks to hire another technician to rectify the issue.

The steps that a professional must follow are:

  • Turn off the unit from the power source
  • Identify the leak
  • Connect the repair kit
  • Seal the leak
  • Prepare the unit for a recharge
  • Add freon
  • Test the unit

How Do You Determine The Type Of Refrigerant Your Central Air Conditioning Unit Needs?

Global environmental agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) entirely phased out the R-22 refrigerant that began over a decade ago. Here’s how that gives you insight into the type of Freon your unit requires.

Systems manufactured from 2011 utilize a safer and more affordable refrigerant known as R-410A renowned by the brand names Suva 410A, Puron, Genetron AZ-20, and Forane. If you’re uncertain of the type of coolant your unit uses, consult the manufacturer or manual.

How Frequently Should You Add Freon To Your Central AC Unit?

Air Conditioner system next to a home
Source: Chad Robertson Media

If it’s properly installed, an HVAC is a sealed system. Therefore, once you charge the AC, low refrigerant levels will be the least of your concerns unless you have a leak or need to replace a component that utilizes it. If you believe your unit is low on coolant, have an HVAC expert thoroughly inspect it.

It’s worth noting that freon is a harmful chemical if consumed by children or pets. Furthermore, it can be an adverse health hazard when in inhaled as it may cut off the oxygen supply to vital organs such as your lungs, brain, and heart.

With that being said, if you believe your AC requires more freon, having a licensed specialist examine it for leaks will cut down on energy costs and curb the need for extra repairs. It’s also the responsible thing to do.

What’s The Cost To Recharge Your Central AC Unit? 

Refilling your air conditioner unit is largely based on the type of refrigerant it uses and your system’s size. If you have an older HVAC unit, it’ll be significantly pricier to refill it. In addition, as a result of the EPA’s new guidelines, there’s a ban on the manufacture and importation of R-22 freon. That means if you own an older model, you must pay triple or double the cost of adding Freon to a new system.

Therefore, you can expect to shell out anywhere between $80 and $120 per pound for the R-22 coolant, whereas, for a newer model such as the R140, you’ll pay $20 per pound, which is a fraction of the cost.

Even with an excellent home warranty that covers most HVAC repairs, you might need to pay a considerable portion of the cost to refill your older model as the price of R-22 refrigerant surpasses the plan limits on a boatload of policies.

To determine the total cost of refilling the entire unit, multiply the number of pounds your unit requires by the price per pound. Additionally, you’ll need to pay the technician’s labor cost of repairing any refrigerant leaks. These costs can add up to be anywhere between $225 and $1000.

Conclusion

Granted, you shouldn’t have to add freon to your HVAC unless you require a repaired leak or replacing a part of your unit. However, it would be wise to address any issues that call for a coolant refill right off the bat, particularly if you’re using an older freon.

How Often Do You Need To Add Freon To A Central AC Unit
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