Does Refrigerant Charge Matter For Your AC?

The importance of refrigerant charge for your AC system. Discover how it affects performance and efficiency. Trust Sandium for AC. solutions.

Updated on Oct 22, 2023
5 min read
Does Refrigerant Charge Matter For Your AC?

The Bay Area warm weather is finally here. And, you have decided to schedule an annual HVAC maintenance as a responsible homeowner before the hot summer season begins. Unfortunately, your HVAC technician informs you that the HVAC unit has low refrigerant levels. Now, you can either ride it out (which seems like a good decision since the AC is working fine) or pay for the required refrigerant charge.

A majority of homeowners sway towards the first option before they don’t really know the importance of a refrigerant charge. This article will help you understand the importance of maintaining adequate refrigerant levels in your system.

Understanding Refrigerant Charge

Refrigerant charge refers to the refrigerant levels in an air conditioning unit. The overcharged unit contains too much or excessive refrigerant. Conversely, an undercharged HVAC unit has too little refrigerant. There is a proper range for refrigerant that is universally just right for your system. A licensed technician will let you know that the refrigerant numbers are not in the sweet spot after measuring with their gauges. This is not something you should ignore since it could cause other expensive problems down the road.

Role of Refrigerant in Your Cooling System

Refrigerants play an integral role in the HVAC unit. It’s crucial that you understand how the refrigerant works to truly appreciate its role in an efficiently running system. Refrigerant can take the form of a gas or liquid. It travels through the system and absorbs the heat of the house when present in the liquid state.

A blower is used to cool the liquid refrigerant into a highly pressurized gas. This gas cools the coils and is circulated through the home. Air from the indoor space is blown over the cooled coils for making your home comfortable.

Problems With Running An AC Unit Without the Proper Charge

You won't suffer drastic consequences if the refrigerant levels are a little over or under the prescribed levels. Moreover, the unit will not run as efficiently or as per the rated EER. In fact, this is one of the reasons most people are not aware their system is running undercharged. They only wonder about the slight spike in their air conditioning bills.

AC units release tiny amounts of refrigerant over time which can cause the system to become slightly undercharged. With that said, your system may also have a slow leak that is causing a low refrigerant charge. In most cases, a leak results in the system being extremely low on refrigerant charge.

Either way, refrigerant leaks can cause the system to lack cooling capabilities, experience a loss of efficiency, freeze the coils, and leave oily residue around the unit. You would need to call an experienced HVAC technician since leaks don’t repair themselves. Eventually, your system will lose all of the refrigerants. It may no longer cool your house as well.

Improper charging of refrigerant during installation or repairs can cause a unit to be overcharged. An overcharged unit is no better than an undercharged one. You won't have cool air even if the unit has too much refrigerant running through it. The system will produce warm air even when it is in cooling mode. Hence, it is necessary that you maintain the correct refrigerant charge in your AC unit. 

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