During the summer months we run into quite a few Air Conditioner that have a leak. The real question is, "Do I replace the Air Conditioner, or do I try to find and repair the leak?" There are many things to take into account when forming your decision. Our goal is to educate and let our customers arrive at the decision that they wish to take.
Air Conditioners have so many possible spots where a leak can occur and with time one of them will eventually give way. Most of the time it's not for 20+ years, however, it can happen sooner. From what we have seen over the years it's not a matter of IF, it's a matter of WHEN. It's not typical for newer systems to leak except more recently due to copper quality that most manufacturers were purchasing. Since then the industry has been moving to Aluminum or tin coated, which offer a great additional line of protection from Galvanic corrosion.
One important item to take into mind is that a leak search is not guaranteed to find the leak. Leaks range in size from microscopic leaks that can take 2-3 years to lose 2lbs, to substantial leaks that can drop a charge in a day. The bigger the leak, the easier it will be to find with our equipment. Regardless if we can find the leak or not, the time to perform the search is billable. We have had relatively good luck in finding the leaks, but that brings the next part into the question.
If we do find the source of the leak and it is on an indoor Air Conditioner coil, odds are you are better off replacing that coil. This means you're spending several hundred to get a new coil and replace it. If you choose that route, you do risk that the outdoor condenser may fail in the not too distant future. If that happens you will need to most likely replace the outside coil and the inside coil again to one that is compatible with current systems.
If you have R-22 refrigerant you may have snags in upcoming years. As of January 1st 2020 R-22 is now banned from production and import into the United States (See this Link). That does not mean however that we cannot fill up your Air Conditioner with R-22, it just means that it will depend on stock. As of 2020 there is a large quantity still available, but as that quantity goes down, the prices will fluctuate more and can get very costly. Thinking long term, we recommend replacement over "gas-n-gos".
If you have R-410 refrigerant you can continue to fill it, but with all refilling you need to balance the costs, environmental damage, and ethics if it's a repeatative fill.
Replacement is usually a better option. While it may be cheaper to find the leak and repair you have to remember that this takes time, sometimes multiple hours which we cannot get to when it's very hot out due to the amount of emergency calls we get. With a replacement you get a fresh warranty and newer coils that have more protection from leaks than past generations.
We have seen customers come out ahead from a leak search but a majority of them came down to a leak at the indoor coil, which would be a multiple hundred dollar repair. If it isn't partially or fully covered by warranty you're better off putting that to a newer Air Conditioner system.
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