How Often Should I Recharge my AC with Refrigerant?

a technician recharging an AC with refrigerant

You should never need to recharge your AC unit with refrigerant. However, sometimes air conditioners develop a leak, which an EPA-certified HVAC technician will need to repair before recharging it.

Refrigerant leaks are uncommon in air conditioning systems. However infrequent, it is important to know the signs of a refrigerant leak and what you should do to fix it. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about refrigerant leaks, how much they cost to fix, and who to contact to fix them.

AC Units Don’t Need a Recharge Unless They Leak

HVAC technician checking the refrigerant levels

If your AC unit is leaking, then you will need to recharge it with refrigerant. Otherwise, your AC unit should never need a recharge. Under normal operation, air conditioners never release refrigerant into your home or outdoors. They are closed-loop systems, which means the refrigerant never leaves; it just collects heat from the indoor unit and circulates it to the outdoor unit.

However, if your air conditioner develops a leak, the loop is no longer “closed.” In that case, you will need to repair the leak and recharge the AC unit with refrigerant. Leaks can develop on the evaporator coils, condenser coils, or refrigerant lines, usually due to corrosion, impacts, or other air conditioner problems.

Most homeowners never have to deal with a refrigerant leak in their HVAC systems, but this issue does pop up from time to time.

How to Tell if Your AC Unit Has a Refrigerant Leak

If you think your AC unit may have a refrigerant leak, here are a few easy ways to tell:

  • There is ice or frost on the evaporator coils.
  • The AC unit is not blowing cold air.
  • Your home is hot with your thermostat set low.
  • You hear a hissing noise coming from the indoor or outdoor unit.
  • The AC unit is making strange noises.
  • Your energy bills have increased suddenly.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to call a professional HVAC technician. They will be able to locate the leak and repair it, as well as recharge your AC unit with refrigerant.

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Leak in an Air Conditioner?

technician welding the copper pipes of an AC

The cost to fix a leak in your air conditioner will vary depending on the size of the leak and the type of refrigerant your AC unit uses. Small leaks can be repaired fairly easily and won’t cost much. Larger leaks may require more extensive repairs, which can be costly.

Info: If you have a small refrigerant leak, you can expect to pay around $200 to $300 to have it repaired. Larger leaks will cost more, sometimes upwards of $1,000.

For example, if the leak is on a refrigerant line that connects the indoor and outdoor units, the repair will be relatively inexpensive. The HVAC tech will just need to replace the refrigerant line and recharge the AC system.

On the other hand, if the evaporator or condenser coils have a leak, they will need to replace the entire coils in most cases. Replacing your condenser and evaporator coils is expensive, costing over $1,000 on average.

The type of refrigerant your AC unit uses will also affect the repair cost. Some are more expensive than others.

How to Fix a Leak in Your AC Unit

Fixing a refrigerant leak in your AC unit is not a DIY project. You will need to call an EPA-certified HVAC technician to repair the leak and recharge your system. Trying to fix the problem yourself could make it worse and may void your AC unit’s warranty. Plus, you could accidentally leak refrigerant, which is toxic for you and the environment.

How to Prevent Refrigerant Leaks in the Future

The best way to avoid costly repairs is to have your AC unit serviced by a professional once to twice a year. This will help ensure that any potential problems are caught early before they have a chance to cause extensive damage.

Investing in annual AC maintenance is also the best way to keep your air conditioner running smoothly.

Check out our air conditioning maintenance tips for more ways to optimize the lifespan of your AC unit.

Closing Your Leaks

So, how often do you need to add Freon to a central air conditioning unit? As long as your AC is operating normally, you should never have to recharge it. But, if it develops a hole on the coils or refrigerant lines, an EPA-certified HVAC technician will need to repair and recharge it.

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Jonathon Jachura
Jonathon is a mechanical engineer with over ten years of experience in the HVAC industry. He has hands-on experience with all types of HVAC systems.

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