Refrigerant Charge and Your A/C — What Your Unit May Need Most

Your air conditioner’s “refrigerant charge” refers to the amount of refrigerant in the system. To perform efficiently throughout the hot San Antonio summers, your system must have the correct refrigerant charge.

Air conditioners are designed to operate with a specific amount of refrigerant. A system overcharged by 20 percent will run around 8 percent less efficiently, while one undercharged by 20 percent is nearly 14 percent less efficient. An older system without a modern thermal expansion valve (TXV) will fare even worse. What’s more, an incorrect refrigerant level can damage your compressor.

Improper refrigerant charge is a common air conditioner problem. A study conducted for the International Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Conference of 2010 found 62 percent of air conditioners tested had incorrect refrigerant charges.

Proper Installation Means Higher Efficiency

Although most systems come from the factory with the right amount of refrigerant, errors can occur. After installing your new air conditioner, your technician should assess the refrigerant charge and add or remove refrigerant as necessary.

This step helps ensure your system reaches the efficiency rating for which it was designed. To find a technician you can rely on to verify your refrigerant charge, look for one who holds North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certification.

Watch Out for Leaks

While air conditioners don’t use up refrigerant, leaks in the copper refrigerant tubing can release enough refrigerant to leave the system undercharged. If a leak occurs, your technician will drain the refrigerant to make repairs, then recharge the system. Because leaks impair your A/C system and release toxic chemicals onto your property, they should be addressed as soon as possible. Signs of a refrigerant leak include:

  • Reduced efficiency (higher cooling bills)
  • Poor humidity control
  • Lower temperatures from your outdoor condenser
  • Iced-up evaporator and/or condenser coils
  • An oily substance on the copper refrigerant lines

To ensure your A/C is running with the refrigerant level it needs for top efficiency, schedule a professional annual inspection before every cooling season.

If you’re looking for a reliable technician to install new HVAC equipment or care for your existing equipment, contact us at Beyer Boys in San Antonio.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the greater San Antonio, Texas area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Dirk Ercken/Shutterstock”

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