Do home AC units need to be recharged? And what should you do if you need more freon? You will find all your answers in this article. Just read along.
How Often Do You Need an AC Recharge?
Just to be clear, Freon is a name brand of cooling refrigerant. Just as Kleenex or Chapstick have become like the general product, Freon has become the term used for cooling refrigerant. Here, we will be using the term freon to mean cooling refrigerant, rather than speaking of the specific, name-brand product.
In short, you should never need to recharge the freon in your AC unit.
AC works within a closed system. Due to that, unless it is leaking somewhere, the freon of your AC unit should never finish.
However, sometimes leaks happen. It can be due to age, wear and tear, dirt that got into the system, or some other problem, your AC unit could have a small leak in the cooling system.
When that happens, it’s important to find out the source of the leak, fix the main problem, and then add the coolant.
However, depending on the rate at which you use your AC unit, it could need a tune-up.
Signs you need to check your freon.
There are a few signs that your AC unit is not working at the level that it should be.
Whether you have repaired a leak or have a small one, you could need to recharge or add more to your freon.
On the other hand, if your air conditioning is showing one of these symptoms, you could have a leak in your cooling system, and should check for a leak or contact a professional.
Signs you need to check your AC unit include:
- The AC doesn’t blow cold air when you turn it on.
- The unit suddenly stops working.
- Your electric bills are suddenly getting higher than usual.
- The unit suddenly stops blowing cold air.
- There is ice forming within your AC unit.
- You have had to turn the thermostat colder and colder to feel the cool air.
- There is a strange sound when the AC kicks on.
What is an air conditioner freon?
Your air conditioning works by sucking in air from within your home and moving in circles through a multi-step cooling system.
The manufacturer ships every AC unit with the exact amount of freon that it will need to use for the rest of its life – and then some.
Your AC uses a series of fans and condensers to pull in the warm air from within your home. The air passes through these coils, during which a liquid-gas-liquid cycle takes place. These coils help remove the heat from the air, so the air that is returned within your home is now cold.
The entire circuit is closed, meaning it is not exposed to the inside, outside, or to elements. The freon can go through these changes, covered within the coils, without losing its quantity or how well it works.
If your freon is drying up, then there is a leak somewhere within the system, and the freon is slowly leaking out. If that happens, you’ll need to find the leak, stop the leak, and refill the freon.
What freon do home AC units use?
There are two main types of AC unit freon: R-22 or R-410A.
R-22 (previously known as HCFC-22) is expensive, but it didn’t use to be so. R-22 has taken a lot of bad attention recently because of its harmful effects on the ozone layer. Starting in 2020, it can no longer be produced, so it will be harder and harder to get as time goes on.
Almost all units manufactured before 2010 used R-22, but any HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) unit produced after 2015 uses the R-410A type of freon. It runs cleaner and does not have as many harmful toxins in the air. There is also a synthetic version of 410, called R407C. Another popular type that is very similar to 410A is R-32.
You can see what type of refrigerant your AC unit uses by looking at the label outside the compressor unit. Sometimes, this label is on the actual condenser, sometimes it is on the outside of the unit, but the label is often just inside the main cover.
A point of note: R-22 and R-410 are very different types of refrigerants. If you have a unit that runs on R-22, it may be much cheaper to replace the whole unit, rather than trying to convert it to run on a newer type of refrigerant.
How much refrigerant is in a home air conditioner?
Check the label on your unit to discover how much freon is in your specific AC unit. Split units and older units will hold more freon than newer models.
The general rule of thumb is two-four pounds freon per ton. Therefore, a two-ton system would need a total of eight pounds of freon.
Central AC Units
Most home AC units are between one-five tons. The average central AC unit is a 3-ton system. Therefore, a 3-ton system has a total of 12 pounds of refrigerant in total. During a refill, you would probably not need more than 2 pounds – if you need more, then it means that your leak is more than you previously thought.
Floor AC Units
Floor AC units use R-32 refrigerants. They often use around 16.5oz in total.
Window AC Units
Many online forums say they used R134a in their window unit – don’t do that! That refrigerant is made for cars and can damage your AC unit. Your unit will use R410A and shouldn’t need more than half a gallon.
Can I recharge my air conditioner?
You can recharge your own air condition, but you should never need to.
If you do have a leak, try the bubble test, or immediately call an HVAC technician.
If your tech suggested just filling up your freon, ask for a different tech, or find a new company. Your tech should first attempt to find out the problem, tell you where the leak is, and explain how they will repair the leak.
Instead of recharging your AC unit, try cleaning it instead! Often, AC units just need a cleanup or to change the filters, rather than replace the freon.
Where to buy freon for a home AC unit
Depending on the freon type you need, it could be hard to buy the freon your AC unit needs.
Where you can buy freon for your home?
If you need R-32 or R-410A, you may be able to buy some from your local HVAC supplier or parts/repair store.
These are much easier to buy but still need to be gotten through a certified supplier.
If you are buying just a small amount – usually less than a pound – you can buy some directly from online resellers, such as eBay or Amazon.
Freon restrictions you should know
If you need R-22, you will need to speak with a qualified, licensed supplier. Many HVAC companies no longer sell R-22 directly to consumers, but some distributors still do. Try finding a local distributor, or call your local HVAC company and ask if they know where you can buy freon directly.
R-22 is being phased out from use altogether, and legal restrictions about using and selling freon are different by state.