It’s not entirely off-the-mark to say that refrigerant is the lifeblood of heat pumps and air conditioners. It’s not consumable like fuel, and is put through various stages of compression to generate warm or cool air. A leak is detrimental to your HVAC system, and is akin to blood loss in a human being, which is why you need to call an HVAC maintenance and repair contractor if this happens. In today’s post, Sherrell Air Conditioning & Heating shares a quick guide on how to identify heat pump refrigerant leaks.
Signs of Leaking Refrigerant
Most of the refrigeration cycle happens at your heat pump’s outdoor unit, which means this is the first thing you should check if you suspect a refrigerant leak. Watch out for the following signs:
- Leaking fluid — This is different from the water coming from the condensate line. Leaking refrigerant leaves a grease-like film on most surfaces, usually where the refrigerant lines are connected.
- Reduced HVAC output — The lower the refrigerant level, the less warm air your heat pump will generate. If you’re turning on your heat pump for the first time this season, it will take longer for it to fully heat your home. Homeowners who utilize gas furnaces might not notice the low output until next spring, when they switch back to air conditioning.
- Faint hissing or bubbling sounds — Differences in pressure between the compressor and outdoor air will cause a faint hissing or bubbling sound as the refrigerant leaks. This will usually be masked by daytime noises, but it’s often audible during the quiet nighttime hours.
What Should You Do If You Find a Leak?
The first thing you should do if you find a leak is turn off the heat pump and call for repairs. Performing HVAC inspections just as the fall season begins will allow your HVAC technician to perform repairs without your home becoming too uncomfortable in the meantime; just imagine having to turn off your heat pump on an extremely cold day if you put off the inspection until the winter!
Avoid running your heat pump if you’re already aware of a leak because the pressure in the refrigerant lines will make it “bleed out”. The more refrigerant your heat pump loses, the greater the strain that will be placed on it. This means more energy consumption and more refrigerant to recharge later, all of which will lead to higher costs.