If you step outside to see colored fluid leaking out of your air conditioner, your first thought may be that it's time to buy a new unit. Refrigerant leaks can be expensive and time-consuming to repair, so it is true that replacement is often the best choice. But this is not always true. Here is a closer look at when it may and may not be worthwhile to repair an air conditioner that is leaking Freon.
Is it really Freon?
Many people refer to all refrigerants as "Freon." However, the terms are not synonymous. Freon is a trade name for a specific refrigerant called R-22. This refrigerant used to be used in almost all air conditioners, but it has since been phased out. Now, most air conditioners use a different refrigerant called Puron, or R-401A.
It's important to know which refrigerant your air conditioner really uses. If it truly does use Freon, then you will want to just have the air conditioner replaced, since Freon is either unavailable or very expensive. If you have a newer AC unit that uses Puron, then repairing it is much more reasonable since this refrigerant is affordable and widely available.
To tell whether you have Puron or Freon, just look at the color of the refrigerant that is leaking out. Freon is light green, and Puron is pink.
Is the leak in the line or coil?
The location of the refrigerant leak also matters. If the leak is in the suction line, it's pretty easy to deal with. Your HVAC contractor will probably just replace the suction line. The parts are inexpensive, and the labor should only take a few hours. Once the line has been replaced, your AC contractor can add more refrigerant to the system, and you'll be set to go.
Leaks in the evaporator coil are a bit more cumbersome to fix. If the leak is in one of the bends in the coil, it may be difficult or impossible to patch, so your HVAC contractor will probably just recommend replacing the unit. If the crack or hole is in a straighter section of the coil, then it should be easier to patch. In this case, your contractor may recommend a patch as long as your AC is in otherwise good condition.
Some refrigerant leaks really are worth repairing. It really just depends where the leak is located and what kind of refrigerant you have. Contact a company that offers air conditioning repair services in your area in order to learn more.