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How Often Should I Be Adding Refrigerant to My A/C?

What to know about refrigerant in your central air conditioning system

Shrugging shoulders

“How often should I be adding refrigerant to my A/C?” is a question we get a lot here at Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling…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 the 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 service technicians.

You can find those better service technicians right here at Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling!

What should happen when I call for an A/C refrigerant change?

If you have warm air coming from your vents and suspect that your A/C may need a recharge, your air conditioning service technician should do these things in this order:

  1. Assess your system from top to bottom. This means:
  2. Looking at your air filter and thermostat;

    • Inspecting the indoor unit; and
    • Taking the cover off your outdoor unit to look for problems.

    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.

  3. 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. Here are two things that they may suggest:

Recharge your A/C without fixing the leak. This is only recommended if you intend to replace the unit within the next year, or possibly if this is a slow, first-time leak (if you go this route, we recommend having the tech put in a UV dye with the new refrigerant so they can find a leak the next time it happens).

Find and fix the leak. The cost to repair the refrigerant leak will depend on where in your system it is located; a tech will use electronic equipment, UV dye, or a bubbling agent to find the source of the problem. Once they find it, they will drain your system, fix the link, recharge your A/C, and test it.

Do I need to replace my A/C?

Your service technician may recommend this. At Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling, we will give you an honest assessment of your central air conditioning and, if you decide to replace it, we’ll give you a FREE estimate.

Here are some reasons why replacing your central A/C would make the most sense.

Costs. If the cost of A/C repairs is more than half of what replacement would be, it would be a wiser investment to replace.

Age. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average life expectancy for a central air conditioning system is 12 to 14 years. That life expectancy can be dramatically reduced if it has not been properly maintained (a Needham Oil Complete Heating & Cooling service plan can help with that!).

The age of your central A/C also plays a role when it comes to the refrigerant. A/Cs stopped using the refrigerant R-22 (also known as Freon) in 2010. As of 2020, R-22 can no longer be produced in the U.S. or imported here. What R-22 is left here is becoming more and more expensive as the supply dwindles.

If your air conditioning system was installed prior to 2010, it’s time to start planning replacement as R-22 costs continue to soar, meaning you could spend hundreds of dollars just to replace the leaked R-22 on top of labor and other repair costs.

Could a whole-house Mitsubishi ductless heating and cooling system be right for your home or business? Contact us today to learn more!