How Often Do Air Conditioners Need Refrigerant?

July 12, 2017

The short answer is you shouldn’t have to add refrigerant to your AC unless you have a leak.

Here’s why: Refrigerant isn’t used up like gas. Instead, it circulates in your AC’s copper coils. So unless there’s a leak in one of the coils, refrigerant shouldn’t be escaping.

Think of the copper coils as “veins,” and refrigerant as the “blood” that circulates in your AC system. Just like you shouldn’t add blood to your body (unless, er, there’s a leak), you shouldn’t have to add refrigerant to an AC.

In this article, we’ll show you the signs of a refrigerant leak and what you can do to fix the leak.

How to tell you have a refrigerant leak

Over time, the closed copper coils that carry refrigerant can wear down and start to leak. You’ll know you have a refrigerant leak if you notice any of these 4 signs:

  1. You feel warm air from your AC vents (except on cool nights)
  2. You see ice on the refrigerant lines
  3. You hear a hissing or bubbling noise near your AC
  4. You have high energy bills

Notice some of these signs? Read on...

“OK, so I have a refrigerant leak. What do I do?”

If you have a refrigerant leak, you should ALWAYS call a professional. Only a certified HVAC tech should handle refrigerant, because it’s a toxic, flammable gas.

Now, there are 2 different types of techs: honest and dishonest.

If you’re low on refrigerant, an honest technician will…

  • Find the source of the leak
  • Repair the leak
  • Add the sufficient amount of refrigerant

On the other hand, a dishonest technician will…

  • Say you need refrigerant without actually checking your AC system for leaks
  • Tell you that your AC has “used up” refrigerant (refrigerant isn’t like gas in car—you don’t use it up!)

Why you DON’T want a dishonest technician: If a tech tells you to add more refrigerant without fixing any leaks, you’ll just be throwing money away. And refrigerant is expensive—especially older types like R-22 which could cost $100+ per pound (that adds up: most residential AC systems require 5–15 pounds of refrigerant).  

“So, how can I choose an honest tech?”

How to find an honest AC tech

Follow these tips to find an honest AC technician:

  1. As you compare HVAC companies, check out their customer reviews on sites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau (BBB), Google and Facebook. Does the company seem to have satisfied customers? If so, that’s a good indication they’ll provide good service to you.
  2. When you schedule an appointment, make sure the contractor is licensed and certified to carry out AC repairs. If you’re in Johnson County, visit and search a contractor’s name to see if they’re licensed. (Spoiler: We’re on there!)
  3. If a tech says you need more refrigerant, make sure to ask him/her specifically about leaks. Most service technicians use electronic leak detectors or perform nitrogen/dye tests to find a refrigerant leak, so you don’t just have to take their word for it. They’ll show you proof if you have a refrigerant leak.

Need a trustworthy professional in the Kansas City Metro area?

Contact Santa Fe Air to schedule an AC refrigerant leak repair today. We’ll fix any refrigerant leaks and get your AC running efficiently again.

We’ve been serving families in the Kansas City metro area since 1987.

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