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Three Signs Of An AC Coolant Leak

Most people don't give the refrigerant in their AC units any thought, which makes sense because the refrigerant is supposed to be in a closed system that doesn't require maintenance. Unfortunately, sometimes leaks do occur. The following are three signs that your AC unit may have a coolant leak.

1. Hissing Noises

You likely won't notice a refrigerant leak because it evaporates into the air — there won't be any visible puddles or residue in your unit. What you may notice right when the leak begins is a low hissing noise coming from your air conditioner unit. The hiss is caused by the escaping refrigerant. Keep in mind that refrigerant is a toxic chemical, which is why it is usually sealed within a closed system. If you suspect that a hissing noise is the result of a refrigerant leak, you need to call an AC technician for an immediate assessment and repair.

2. Icy Coils and Lines

It may seem counter-intuitive, but low refrigerant levels can cause your AC coils and copper refrigerant lines to freeze up. You will actually see ice on the exterior of these items. When heat isn't properly absorbed and cooled, condensation forms, which can then freeze on the coils. You may actually see the coils while they are frozen, or you may discover puddles of water from where the excess condensation thawed out. Frozen coils don't always mean that there is a refrigerant leak, as other issues, such as a wrong size unit, can also lead to freezing up. Schedule an AC inspection to verify that low refrigerant is the cause and to have the problem addressed.

3. Poor Cooling

Poor cooling can be the most obvious sign of low refrigerant, but it can't be used alone to to accurately diagnose the problem because most other AC issues also result in poor cooling. Refrigerant may be the culprit if the force of the air coming from your vents stays the same but the air is no longer properly cool feeling. Refrigerant is also a possible cause when the AC cycles on and off as expected, but the house never seems to cool adequately. Your AC tech will check coolant levels to determine if that is the cause of your AC problems or if further troubleshooting and repairs will be necessary.

Fortunately, repair is possible for refrigerant leaks. Your AC repair technician can replace the leaking component and then recharge your AC unit with new refrigerant.