How to Know Your AC Unit is Low on Refrigerant?

Learn signs of low refrigerant in your AC unit, like the impact of a clogged air filter or dirty air filter. Book Sandium for expert AC refrigerant services today!

Updated on Oct 22, 2023
5 min read
How to Know Your AC Unit is Low on Refrigerant?

The refrigerant in an air conditioner acts as the ‘blood’ in the system. Your system will not be able to cool your Northern California house properly without the right amount of refrigerant. It can be difficult to determine whether your air conditioner needs refrigerant. These are a few signs that indicate your unit may be low on refrigerant.

Increasing Utility Bills

You can attribute a sudden spike in energy bills to low refrigerant or refrigerant leak. This is if you have not made any dramatic changes to your thermostat settings. Refrigerant is responsible for picking up heat from the air and carrying it outside. This is done through a complicated mechanism of the evaporator and condenser coil.

Your air conditioner won’t be able to get rid of enough heat per cooling cycle if there is less refrigerant in the system. This means the system will have to work harder and run longer for cooling the house. Longer run time equates to higher energy bills.

There are other issues which can result in increased energy bills. These are:

  • Aging air conditioner
  • Incorrect sized system (too large or too small)
  • Dirty air filter

In case you are facing rising energy bills when the air conditioner’s air filter is clean, the system is correctly sized, and is less than a decade old, the problem is probably with the amount of refrigerant. You should have a technician check the refrigerant levels and look for leaks.

Supply Vents Blowing Warm Air

Refrigerant absorbs heat from the air inside a house and transfers it outside. Low refrigerant levels means that the air conditioner cannot absorb enough heat per cycle. This means that warm air may blow from the supply vents. There are other issues which may cause warm air to blow from the vents.

For instance, you should check the air filter. Clogged air filter can cause blocks in air supply. Your system may not be able to pull enough air to cool. You should reach out to a professional if you have cleaned the air filter and notice warm air still blowing from the vents.

Frost or Ice on the Air Conditioner

Ice or frost on the air conditioner is a common indicator of low refrigerant levels. Low refrigerant levels can cause the refrigerant’s temperature to drop below intended temperatures. This will eventually cause ice to build up on the evaporator coil and the refrigerant lines.

Dirty air filters can cause ice to build up as well because of low airflow to the evaporator coil. You should also check if supply vents are open and unobstructed. Low airflow can cause the evaporator coil to freeze. Get in touch with a technician if you have checked the air filters and made sure that all vents are unobstructed and open.

Bubbling or Hissing Noise

Bubbling or hissing noise coming from the outdoor air conditioner unit can be the refrigerant escaping from the air conditioner through a leak. Hissing sound means the refrigerant is escaping in gaseous form while bubbling means the refrigerant is in liquid form. There are not many issues that can cause bubbling or hissing sound. You are most likely dealing with a leak if you hear these noises.

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