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How Serious is an AC Leak?

August 16, 2023

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Homeowners often wonder, how serious is an AC leak? While you want to ensure a working HVAC system for your home, you also don’t want to pay for unnecessary repairs. Also, some homeowners might wonder how long they can put off those repairs! If you’re like most people, you might need to work expensive fixes into the budget gradually.

In many cases, an AC leak should be considered serious and get prompt fixes. A leak can mean reduced efficiency, increased costs, and added wear and tear on the appliance. Additionally, refrigerants are often damaging to the environment!

To find out more about the question, how serious is an AC leak, keep reading. Added details about these and other risks can help you decide when to call an HVAC repair contractor. They can inspect the system and decide the best course of action for your home.

how serious is an AC leak

How Serious is an AC Leak?

An AC refrigerant leak can be a serious issue that requires attention and prompt action. Refrigerant is the substance that absorbs heat from the indoor air and releases it outside. This process allows your air conditioning system to cool your home. When there's a leak in the refrigerant circuit, it can mean several consequences:

Reduced Cooling Performance

A refrigerant leak can lead to decreased cooling efficiency. Your AC system may struggle to maintain the desired temperature in your home. In turn, you might notice that your indoor spaces aren't getting as cool as they should. You might also notice uneven cooling throughout your home.

Increased Energy Bills

As your AC system works harder to compensate for the loss of refrigerant, it will consume more energy. This can result in higher energy bills. It will also typically cycle on more often to try to keep your home cooler. This also means increased power costs.

System Overworking and Wear

An AC system with a refrigerant leak can be under increased stress as it tries to achieve the desired cooling. This can lead to excessive wear and tear of the components, potentially shortening the lifespan of the system. You might then face premature repairs and replacement. This increases the cost of the system over the lifetime of ownership.

Icing or Freezing

Low refrigerant levels can cause the evaporator coil to become too cold, leading to the formation of ice on the coil. This can further impede the cooling process and damage the system. Icing and freezing can also mean water damage to the system’s internal components.

Compressor Damage

The compressor is a vital component of the AC system, and it requires sufficient refrigerant to operate properly. Low refrigerant levels can cause the compressor to overheat and become damaged. Note that replacing the compressor is one of the costliest repairs you might face! In turn, it’s vital that you protect it from damage when possible.

Environmental Impact

Refrigerants used in air conditioning systems are chemicals that have environmental implications. Some older refrigerants are harmful to the ozone layer. Leaking refrigerant contributes to the release of these chemicals into the atmosphere. Consequently, eco-friendly homeowners should address refrigerant leaks promptly.

How Long Will an AC Last With a Leak?

The lifespan of an air conditioning system with a refrigerant leak can vary depending on several factors. These include its severity, the rate of loss, the type of refrigerant, and how well the system is maintained. Here's a general overview:

  • With a refrigerant leak, the AC system will have to work harder and longer to achieve the desired indoor temperature. This increased workload can cause additional wear and tear on the system's components. In turn, an older system might soon shut down completely.
  • One of the critical components affected by low refrigerant levels is the compressor. The compressor requires a specific refrigerant charge to operate efficiently. When refrigerant levels are low, the compressor can overheat and potentially become damaged.
  • Low refrigerant levels can lead to issues like freezing of the evaporator coil due to inadequate heat absorption. These issues can cause further stress on the system and result in damage to multiple parts.

The exact timeline for how long an AC system with a refrigerant leak will last can vary widely. It might continue to operate for a while, but the compromised performance and potential damage to components could lead to an early breakdown.

residential air conditioning units

Can an AC Unit With a Leak Be Repaired?

Yes, an air conditioning unit with a refrigerant leak can often be repaired. However, this depends on several factors:

  • The size and location of the leak play a significant role in determining whether a repair is possible. Small leaks that are easily accessible are generally more straightforward to repair than larger leaks.
  • The type of refrigerant used in your AC system also matters. Some older refrigerants are being phased out due to environmental concerns. This could impact the availability and cost of repairs. Newer, more environmentally friendly refrigerants might be recommended as part of the repair process.
  • The age of the AC unit can influence the decision to repair. If your system is older and has experienced multiple leaks, it might be more cost-effective to consider a replacement. This is especially true if other components are showing signs of wear.
  • In some cases, repairing a refrigerant leak can be relatively inexpensive. This is especially true if the leak is minor and easily fixable. However, if the repair costs are high, it might be more cost-effective to invest in a newer, more energy-efficient AC unit.
  • It's important to note that some repairs might be temporary fixes that address the immediate leak. However, they might not guarantee a leak-free system in the long term. In some cases, recurring leaks could indicate underlying issues that might not be fully resolved by repeated repairs.

In summary, whether an AC unit with a refrigerant leak can be repaired depends on various factors. If you suspect a refrigerant leak, it's advisable to contact a professional HVAC technician for a thorough assessment and to discuss your options.

A Word From Our AC Repair Crew

Rhode Island HVAC Services is happy to explain, how serious is an AC leak? If you’re in the state and need expert repairs, call our Rhode Island AC repair contractors. We’ll perform a complete inspection and ensure outstanding services.


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