If your HVAC technician tells you your A/C has a refrigerant leak, I want to tell you how we handle that here at Freedom.

The Environmental Protection Agency has updated the requirements related to ozone-depleting and global warming substances like R-22 and R-410, a refrigerant that’s very likely in the HVAC system at your house.

Freedom’s Position

We at Freedom have strong feelings about continuing to allow the release of harsh chemicals that contribute to the degradation of our planet, namely the ozone layer, as well as other contributors to global warming. We also want future generations of plants, animals, and humans to have a chance to enjoy their lives, breathe clean air, and thrive!

Here’s what happens when your system leaks.  Large amounts of CFC’s, HFC’s and HCFC’s (which is what refrigerant is) are spewing into the atmosphere every day. Industrial and commercial buildings are the main culprit, but far more homes than commercial buildings exist. Regardless, leaking refrigerants mix with wind currents, air pressure and updrafts, bringing those chemicals into the lower atmosphere. No matter what people say about chlorine being heavier than air, it’s been proven several times over that these chemicals are amply mixed with our lower and upper atmosphere where they linger.

Unfortunately, rain doesn’t bring them down. As those chemicals rise even further through updrafts and pressure differences in the air, high energy solar radiation breaks down those chemicals, releasing the damaging chlorine.  Those chlorine particles stay in the stratosphere for several years, where it eats away at the ozone layer.

Having a Conversation

But back to your refrigerant leak. Some HVAC companies can and do continue to come out and refill your refrigerant for as long as you need it, because face it, you need to be comfortable. I get it!  But at some point, a Freedom  technician is going to have a conversation with you about finding that leak and coming up with a plan to repair the leak or change out your system. It’s the right thing to do.

So, do we “gas and go” year after year? Two to three times at your house is perhaps our limit. If you don’t want to fix it, your love for the planet may not be in line with ours. HVAC companies make pretty good money by selling you refrigerant.  It’s easy labor for us, and not very time consuming either. That’s why it’s called “gas and go.”

Refrigerant Leak Searching

But refrigerant is expensive. If you’ve got to keep refilling your refrigerant, who knows how often, it can really add up quickly. If we’ve been to your home before, then we have a baseline from which to draw our information. But if it’s our first time out, it would be unfair to you for us to recommend you start a leak search immediately.

What if it’s just a loose Schrader core at the service valve where the technicians hook their gauges up? I’ve seen this before. The system was way low on charge, and when I took the cap off the service valve, it was slowly shooting liquid refrigerant into the air. I tightened the core and the system hasn’t leaked out since, or at least they haven’t called me back yet. But it’s a start.

Striking a Balance

As an HVAC company, we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t. If we say you need a leak search the first time out, people may think we’re being pushy sales-techs.  If we don’t and they leak out again, we might be criticized for not recommending a leak search at our earlier call. These people will later want us to come back out and replace the leaked-out refrigerant for free.

The Customer’s Role

But you know your system’s history better than us.  Our customers must help us out by letting us know if they’ve had another company come out and charge their system up.  If you have a big leak, we could refill your refrigerant today, and it will be gone by tomorrow. Because they’re not liable for your system’s performance, most companies aren’t going to provide a complimentary refill just to get you up and going. They know it’s just going to leak out again.

Refrigerant Leak Searching: How It’s Done

Let’s say you’ve decided to find the leak so we can figure out what to do next. Freedom’s leak searches come in 2 stages:

Stage 1: Inspection

A stage 1 leak search includes an inspection of the condenser and evaporator coils as well as the line set that runs in between for leaks. We will use vision, soap bubbles, and/or an electronic leak detection device. This searching process can last for up to an hour. What will this process cost?  If the necessary repair is easily accessible, the price of the repair and leak search will be covered for the price of the stage 1 leak search. You’ll be liable for your refrigerant refill one last time.

Stage 2: Using Refrigerant Dye

If we can’t find it that way, we go on to a stage 2 leak search. This means adding refrigerant dye to the system and returning in 2-5 days. This allows the refrigerant to circulate through the system.  The dye will spray out of the leak along with the refrigerant and oil. The small spot left behind provides a visual of the leak location. The cost of this stage 2 leak search will also go towards the total cost of the leak repair. We almost always find it in this case.

This summarizes how Freedom handles a leak search. Other companies will handle it in their own unique way. I hope this sheds some light on the process used by Freedom for our customers who’ve asked.