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Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc. Blog

Does My Heat Pump Have a Refrigerant Leak?

outdoor-unitIf it does, then you are smart to act fast. Because of the way heat pumps operate in both heating and cooling modes, it is vital they have the proper refrigerant charge for the job. Remember, refrigerant is not something your heat pump consumes in its operation, like the gasoline in a car. Instead, it is something the system recycles over and over again—more like the oil in a car.

If your heat pump is low on refrigerant, it may mean that your technician did not properly charge it—which means that you probably didn’t have it serviced by a member of our outstanding team! The other possibility is a leak. Regardless of the reason for your heat pump’s low refrigerant charge, it is a problem that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Continuing to run your heat pump in Capitol Hill when it is low on refrigerant can lead to some very serious problems.

What Does Refrigerant Do?

The refrigerant in a heat pump (or a central AC) acts as the heat transfer fluid. It is able to change with ease from its gaseous state to a liquid and back again, which is why it is so good at its job. In the summer, when you use your heat pump to cool your home, refrigerant evaporates in the indoor coil. That allows it to remove heat from the air inside your house, which it then releases at the outdoor unit as it is condensed in the condenser coil.

The heat pump can reverse this operation, of course, meaning that it can just as easily heat your home. In order to do so, it evaporates refrigerant in the outdoor coil in order to remove heat from the air outside. Then, that refrigerant is compressed before it is condensed in the indoor coil. This allows it to transfer its heat to the living space.

The Problem with Low Refrigerant

As you can see, the refrigerant in a heat pump plays an integral role in the system and its overall function. If there is not enough refrigerant in the system, then you may notice your heat pump running for longer and longer periods of time. That is because it is not able to transfer heat as effectively as it would if it were properly charged with refrigerant. You may also notice that your system eventually starts running for very short amounts of time. This is called short cycling, and it could mean that your system is overheating as it struggles to do its job. This can result in serious damages to the system, and you’ll see energy costs go up as the system has to keep restarting itself.

You may also see ice building up on your heat pump’s outdoor unit. While some icing is to be expected when the heat pump is in heating mode, it should not encase the system. It has a defrost cycle, and the serious buildup of ice likely means the refrigerant is low enough that the defrost cycle is overwhelmed by ice development.

Schedule your heat pump services with the pros at Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating Inc.

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