When the summer season rolls around and the thermostat rises, the air conditioner becomes the most important system in the house. These hardworking systems keep us cool and comfortable despite the heat, but what do you do if they start to malfunction?
Here is everything you need to know about how to recharge an A/C unit, as well as signs that it may be time for a replacement.
What does “recharging your air conditioner” mean?
When you hear someone talking about recharging an A/C unit, they are talking about adding more refrigerant to the unit and ensuring the refrigerant is properly pressurized within the refrigerant system.
If you need refrigerant for your air conditioner, you’ll need to contact a professional heating and cooling technician. Under EPA regulations, only a certified professional can recharge your home’s HVAC system. You should never try to recharge the A/C yourself, even if you have a home air conditioner recharging kit. The refrigerant used can be harmful to you and the environment if it’s not handled properly.
How do I know if my home A/C needs to be recharged?
There are a couple of ways you’ll know if you need an A/C recharge:
Most of the time, when an A/C unit is leaking refrigerant, it will blow warm air. That’s because the refrigerant is no longer there to cool the air passing through your unit. However, your A/C won’t go from cool to warm overnight like it might in the case of a broken thermostat, for example. It will slowly get warmer over time as your unit’s refrigerant leaks, so you’ll notice your air conditioner’s effectiveness diminishing over weeks or months.
Another sign that your refrigerant is leaking is ice or frost buildup inside or on the unit. This happens because the refrigerant gas cools everything it touches to the point of freezing—that’s how it cools outside air to pump into your home. When you look inside your unit, it’s normal to see some frosty-looking coiled pipes. Those are your condenser coils, a primary component of the refrigerant system. If everything inside your unit looks frozen, or you’re seeing frost on the outside of the unit, it could be the result of a leak.
How often do you need to recharge your A/C?
The refrigerant systems within A/C units are sealed. This means that home A/C units are designed not to require a recharge unless a leak develops in the refrigerant system. So, unless you notice a problem, a home A/C recharge isn’t needed.
What does a typical A/C recharge cost?
The cost to recharge a home A/C depends on the cause of the refrigerant leak and refrigerant prices, which are dependent on the unit and your location. The average retail price of refrigerant is $67 per pound, and most units require up to 10 pounds, so your A/C recharge costs could be up to $670.
If extra work is required to repair the cause of the leak, that may be an added expense.
When should I replace my A/C unit?
You may be better off replacing your leaking air conditioner instead of trying to recharge it—because even the best A/C units don’t last forever. Here are some signs that you may need a new A/C unit:
The unit is 15 to 20 years old.
The unit is a newer model, but the leak is the result of poor manufacturing.
The repair cost is almost as much as buying a new unit.
You’ve had to get the unit repaired frequently.
Learn more about HVAC replacement costs to determine whether or not a replacement will be more cost-effective.
How do I extend the life of my A/C?
Like any appliance or home system, routine maintenance is the key to extending your air conditioner’s life span. Here are some tips:
However, even with regular maintenance, sometimes parts of your A/C unit will malfunction. When you invest in a home warranty from American Home Shield®, you can rest assured that your budget will be protected in the event of a malfunction of a covered item from everyday wear and tear. Our air conditioner warranty coverage is here to help you if you need an A/C recharge. The ShieldSilver™ and ShieldGold™ plans cover up to $10 per pound of refrigerant, no matter how much you need. ShieldPlatinum™ plan members can enjoy unlimited refrigerant coverage at no additional cost. Check out our home warranty costs and plans for more details and choose the best plan for your household and budget.
Get more home repair and maintenance ideas on the American Home Shield® blog.
AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.