Most Common Cause of a Freon Leak in Central Air Units

Few things are more frustrating than turning on your central air conditioning unit on a hot day only to find little to no cold air passing through the system. Most drops in air conditioner performance are due to Freon (refrigerant) loss. One way to notice a refrigerant leak is to examine your electric bills. A system leaking just 10 percent of its refrigerant will increase electrical costs by 20 percent. Most refrigerant leaks will need to be examined and treated by licensed professionals.

Consensor Unit Vibration

Central air conditioning systems operate from two locations: the blower is located inside the home while the compressor and condenser unit is located outside. The compressor consists of a powerful motor and fan unit housed in a metal cabinet. When the system is on, the compressor motor is working nearly 100 percent of the time. An improperly seated outdoor unit can generate severe vibrations that can serve to weaken or even fracture refrigerant lines. A properly installed AC system should be anchored with vibration isolators, which absorb excess movement, keeping the vibration from traveling through the system and seeking a stress point to exit. If you suspect vibration problems, examine the vibration isolators and replace any that are damaged or worn.

Physical Damage

Lawnmowers, animals and children at play are three of the leading causes of damage to an air conditioning system. With the condenser/compressor system located next to a home, damage from a lawn mower is possible. Mowers that project their cuttings out the side can throw rocks and sticks against the unit. In addition, the mowers can jar the copper tubing leading into and out of the home. Children should be forbidden from playing on or near the units. To reduce the chances of physical damage, a three-sided block wall should be constructed to protect the unit from damage; leave plenty of space for ventilation.

Stress Points

Several stress points are located in an air conditioning system, including weld points along the copper lines leading into and out of the home. The best test for a leak is a nitrogen isolation test that breaks the system into four sections. In most cases the most common stress points that will leak are access fittings, also know as service valves. Located near the ground on the compressor, the access fittings look like an air fitting on a tire and are used for diagnosis charging and discharging the system. Ensure that the valves have a cap that is well seated. If the cap is in place, you can place a little soapy water on the valve and look for air bubbles when the system is running. If you suspect a leaking service valve, call in a professional who can diagnose and repair the problem quickly.