“Freon” is a brand name of refrigerant, but it has been come to be used to generically describe any refrigerant. In this post we will use the two words interchangeably. So, regarding the question of when you should charge the freon in your air conditioner, the answer is never.
As long as there isn’t a leak, you should never need to recharge the AC unit. If your air conditioner stops blowing cold air, and the service tech says you need to add some Freon, but doesn’t fix the leak, you need a new AC company, because unless the leak is fixed, you’ll just need to repeat the process next year, which can get pricey. Not only that, but if your unit still uses R-22 refrigerant, it depletes the ozone when it leaks.
So, what should have happened when you called the air conditioning company about getting your Freon recharged?
1. The AC tech should spend some time diagnosing the AC unit.
Just like when you go to the doctor when you aren’t feeling well, the AC tech should look over the whole system before deciding what to do. He or she should look at the thermostat and air filter, inspect the indoor unit, and inspect the outdoor unit to look for any problems.
The AC tech should never immediately measure the amount of refrigerant that is in the air conditioner, because there could be problems that is causing the issue, like frozen eval coils or a dirty air filter. These will affect the reading of how much refrigerant is in your central AC system.
Once he or she has carried out a complete inspection, the tech will know if the reading from the AC manifold gauge (the tool for measuring Freon) is correct.
2. If the refrigerant is low, they should advise you of the leak, and provide you with options.
A good AC tech will always let you know that you have a refrigerant leak, and depending on your particular situation, will give you some options. These may include recharging the AC unit without fixing the leak, which isn’t the best option. However, fixing a leak can be expensive, and you can recharge without fixing, if you’ve never had to recharge your AC before, and you plan on replacing the air conditioning unit within the next year. There’s no point in paying to repair the leak if you will be buying a new unit shortly.
3. Find and fix the leak
Your second option is to find and fix the leak. The tech should be able to give you a price to locate the leak. Once the cause of the leak is determined, you should know how much it will cost to fix, which will be determined on the location of the leak. In order to find a leak, many times an AC tech will have to find the leak using a bubbling agent, UV dye, or electronic equipment; evacuate the Freon from the system; fix the leak; recharge the refrigerant; and test the system to make sure the leak has been repaired.
4. Replace the whole unit
A third option is to replace the whole unit. In most cases, the cost to replace the whole unit doesn’t make sense; however, sometimes it’s better to just get a whole new system instead of paying for a repair. For example, if your air conditioner is over 14 years old and it needs a new condensing coil to repair the leak, it doesn’t make sense to pay over $1000 when you will still probably have to buy a new system within the next year. Upgrading to a new system that uses a safer refrigerant is probably a better choice.
If you think your air conditioner needs refrigerant, contact a professional air conditioning company who can send someone out to do a proper inspection and give you all of your options for repair or replacement.