This is the hottest time of the summer. In the USA, the temperatures have been reaching as high as 98 degrees and with the humidity, the heat index easily reaches 105 to 112 degrees – for those that don’t understand the heat index, that means it feels like it is 105 to 111 degrees outside and that is damn hot. This hot weather that we are currently experiencing drives people’s air conditioning or ac units to the brink.
I have lately seen numerous HVAC (Heating and Air Conditioning) repair trucks going up and down my street and being parked in front of neighbor’s houses for hours at a time. Their ac units are either not working correctly or not working at all. I know enough about air conditioning systems to easily fix my own and my neighbors and I have learned over the years to know the common ailments.
Almost every time it’s not a breakdown of any component in the AC unit. It is instead a tiny leak that causes a small loss of the AC refrigerant over time. At first, you won’t notice any difference, but over a few years or just one really hot summer like this one that we’re currently in, the level of refrigerant drops just enough that it is no longer effective in cooling the system.
Low refrigerant is the number one reason for an ill-working or non-working air conditioning system. The easiest way to tell is by looking at the AC unit outside the house at the hottest time of the day. Does it always stay on and not cycle off? Is there ice starting on the unit? As the level of refrigerant drops the unit must cycle more often to keep the air cool. This is both inefficient and eventually becomes a losing battle. But while this is occurring the pipes will start to show signs of freezing.
This is because the refrigerant is being cycled too much and this causes the pipes to freeze. Once the pipes have frozen you need to turn the system off and let it thaw. Else it will just blow hot air back in the house. If you do not have experience with working with central ac systems, then you should leave this up to a trained technician. You don’t have to pay a ton for this professional AC service. I advise that you check out your local Craigslist. I have found many great home repair people through there and saved thousands on all sorts of home repairs.
One of these technicians can quickly tell you if your system is low on AC refrigerant. Prices for refrigerant vary from $20 on up to $80 per pound (depending upon the technician or company you hire). Most of the big-name companies like Anderson, Brothers, etc.… will charge at least $40 per pound of refrigerant. Plus, their labor, service, and parts. The big-name companies also mark up their parts at least 50 to 100% and charge at least double that of the technicians I have found through my local Craigslist here in Atlanta.
A good/fair price is $25 to $30 per pound for refrigerant – don’t pay a penny more for your this else you are being ripped off (the techs only pay about $15 per pound at their cost for it in the first place – big companies buy it in bulk and pay around $5 to $10 per pound. Give the local techs on Craigslist a try – you will see you will save around 75% over hiring a big-name HVAC repair company like Anderson or Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning.
Once they recharge your system with refrigerant you will see an immediate difference. It only takes the loss of a pound or two to really notice a difference in the ac system output and cooling. Just a few pounds can be the difference between your system working and just blowing hot air out.
If you are feeling like doing the ac system recharging yourself all the parts or tools you will need can be purchased cheaply at tool supply stores like Harbor Freight Tools and others. Basically, you need an AC manifold DH said which you can usually purchase one for about $35 to $65 (this same ac manifold can be used in the future for also filling the ac system on your vehicles, so it is very useful to have). Then you just need the refrigerant, and this can be purchased in bulk cheaply and easily. If you do not know where to buy the refrigerant just ask the people that work at Harbor freight tools or your similar local tool supply store or go to a specialty HVAC store.
In almost every case if the air conditioning is not blowing cold it is because the refrigerant is low due to a tiny leak. You can spend hundreds or even thousands having a leak repaired, but it is usually more cost effective to just recharge the ac system as the leak will sooner or later reappear or be replaced by another. Central A/C systems are prone to have tiny leaks – it’s just going to happen. So, you just need to know when and how to recharge your ac system and you can save yourself a lot of money by doing it yourself – or you can still save a bunch of money by calling an experienced air-conditioning technician off Craigslist.