HVAC systems need refrigerants to achieve the thermal process of obtaining cooling/heating effects.
The Role of Refrigerants in Cooling
- Heat Absorption: The AC system circulates a refrigerant. An HVAC refrigerant is a specific chemical compound with elements that allow it to absorb heat. The copper coils, typically found inside the indoor unit of the AC, confine the refrigerant within them.
- Phase Transformation: When the air conditioner is on, the refrigerant begins as a low-pressure gas. It undergoes a phase transformation and turns into a high-pressure liquid while it flows through the indoor coils and absorbs heat from the indoor air.
- Heat Release: The high-pressure liquid refrigerant is pumped to the exterior unit of the air conditioner. There, a fan blows outdoor air over the coils. This causes the refrigerant to release the absorbed heat to the outdoors. This process cools down the refrigerant, and it changes back into a low-pressure gas.
- Cooling the Interior: The now-cool low-pressure gas refrigerant is sent back indoors to the copper coils, and the cycle repeats. The indoor fan blows air over the cool coils, and the refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air, cooling it down. Further, the cool air is then distributed throughout the interior space to provide the desired cooling effect.
- Thermostat Control: The air conditioning unit is typically controlled by a thermostat that senses the indoor temperature. Next, the desired temperature is reached and the thermostat tells the system to cycle off until the temperature rises again. When the temperature rises, the cycle restarts.
7 Signs to look for to determine Low Refrigerant
- Medium to high discharge temperatures
- High evaporator superheat
- High compressor superheat
- Low condenser subcooling
- Low compressor amps
- Low evaporator temperatures and pressures
- Low condensing temperatures and pressures
(Source: NEWS : July 24, 2023 (bnpmedia.com)
Problems Caused by Low Refrigerant
An air conditioning system with low refrigerant can be harmful for several reasons. One negative effect of low refrigerant is leaks. Leaks are harmful to the environment as they emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These ongoing leaks also wear down the system quickly. This includes overall malfunction or a system in need of complete replacement.
Not only does low refrigerant lead to system failure, but it damages other crucial elements such as the compressor. The compressor is a key part of the refrigeration system as it compresses the refrigerant and circulates it through the system. When there is a low refrigerant, the compressor experiences issues like overheating due to a lack of adequate refrigerant to cool it. This causes the compressor to wear out quicker than usual or completely fail.
Another thing to consider is ice formation on the evaporator coil as it will become too cold from the lack of appropriate refrigerant. When the system insufficiently cools, this is also causing airflow issues, which results in discomfort for people inhabiting the area. The expansion valve and condenser are also negatively impacted by low refrigerant. The expansion valve will not function at optimal levels and the condenser might not release heat at an efficient level that is needed.
Prevent Low Refrigerant Levels with Fluorescent Leak Detection
Preventing low refrigerant levels in HVAC systems is crucial for optimal performance and long-lasting equipment. One key step to take is regular maintenance and inspections that include leak checking. Signs of refrigerant leaks include hissing sounds, poor cooling, or oil marks. Find leaks quickly, and lose less refrigerant. Also, detecting the leak fast with UV fluorescent dye allows for better system performance at peak efficiency. Detect leaks fast with Spectroline’s best dye yet, AR-GLO 5. Compatible with all refrigerants and always safe for the system, working 24/7 to find leaks!