“How often should I be adding refrigerant to my A/C?” is a question we get a lot here at Needham…and the answer is a simple one:
You shouldn’t have to “add” refrigerant to a central air conditioner because it doesn’t “use up” refrigerant. The only reason you would ever need to recharge (that is, add refrigerant to) your A/C is if you have a leak; once the leak is fixed, the problem should be solved.
Yet every year we hear about customers whose old HVAC techs have told them that “these things happen to aging systems” as they recharge the A/C summer after summer. If that is happening to you, you need better technicians.
If you have warm air coming from your vents and suspect that your A/C may need a recharge, your air conditioning contractor should do these things in this order:
1. Assess your system from top to bottom. This means:
Note that it does NOT mean that he immediately checks your refrigerant levels! This is because other problems (a dirty air filter, frozen evaporator coils, etc.) could be affecting the reading of the refrigerant charge. Once these problems identified, the technician will know if their leak readings are accurate or not.
2. If refrigerant is low, they should tell you why and give you options for next steps. Rather than simply recharging your system, your technician should tell you the reason why your system is leaking in the first place, then give you options to fix it. Generally speaking, there are three options if a leak has been identified:
If your air conditioner is 12-14 years old and already losing significant efficiency by virtue of its age, investing in a recharge may not be the smartest move – particularly in light of the fact that R-22 refrigerant (better known as Freon) is getting quite expensive as we approach the deadline for its phase out. In the long run, upgrading to a new system that uses R-410A refrigerant may be a better choice.