Refrigerant Leak: Causes and Dangers

Posted: 2022-08-25

Your air conditioner is an essential piece of equipment in summer. It effectively removes the heat in your home and adds cool air, giving you the comfort you need. One of the reasons why it does so is because of the process of refrigeration, made possible by a substance called refrigerant. Without it, your home will never have the cool air you desperately want during the hot season. And this important substance can leak and find its way out of your cooling system.

Four Seasons Air Specialists is your leading HVAC company in North Oaks MN. We are experts at detecting a refrigerant leak and getting air conditioners back in shape.


One of the misconceptions concerning refrigerant is that an AC uses a little bit of it each time it cycles, causing it to leak out over time slowly.  This belief is false. The truth is, the refrigerant consistently charges itself. Therefore, there is no reason for your AC’s refrigerant levels to decline unless there is a leak somewhere in the system. If you notice a continuous decline in your AC’s cooling power, it’s either the system is having airflow issues, there is corrosion of metal parts, or there are factory defects within the system. And you can’t forget that without the right amount of refrigerant, your system won’t have the ability to cool your home effectively.

Possible Causes of Refrigerant Leak

Your air conditioner's wear and tear is one of the most common reasons for refrigerant leaks. Over time, the joints and connections in your AC can weaken and wear down. Also, rubber seals around the service valves, or access fittings, can deteriorate and cause the refrigerant to leak. Moreover, if you delay or ignore HVAC repairs and maintenance for an extended period, you will face this issue sooner than expected.

Mechanical vibrations can also cause a refrigerant leak in your AC. The compressor motor, located outside, is an essential component of your AC. If your outdoor unit is poorly sealed, it can cause severe vibrations, which weakens your refrigerant lines. In addition, if the refrigerant lines were improperly installed, to begin with, even mild vibration caused by the system’s operation could wear holes in the copper coils, leading to an AC refrigerant leak.

Another possible cause of the refrigerant leak is physical damage to the unit. Children, animals, and lawnmowers can cause damage to the outdoor unit. Also, lawnmowers can toss their cuttings toward the outdoor unit, leading to the accumulation of debris. Meanwhile, children and animals can accidentally hit or throw something at it while playing. These things can cause all sorts of physical damage, which can lead to a refrigerant leak.

Effects of Refrigerant Leaks

An air conditioner leaking refrigerant poses danger to the environment; it’s also a health and safety risk. Having said that, not every refrigerant in use today presents the same level of danger.

Some of the most known refrigerants today, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are harmful to the environment. R22, which is used in older air conditioning systems, is presently being banned from manufacturing and importation because of its ozone-depleting effects.

Refrigerant leaks can also cause adverse effects on the human body. Exposure to leaking refrigerant can cause several adverse symptoms and even cause death. These symptoms include labored breathing, irregular heartbeat, seizures, bleeding in the lungs, nausea, vomiting, headaches, irritation of the eyes, ears, and throat, cough, skin burns, loss of consciousness, and decreased mental status.

When a person is exposed to leaking refrigerant, they are at risk of refrigerant poisoning. Severe refrigerant poisoning indicates symptoms such as:

• seizures
• irregular heartbeat
• vomiting of blood
• fluid buildup or bleeding in the lungs
• burning sensation in the esophagus
• difficult, labored breathing
• and loss of consciousness

In occasional but extreme cases, severe refrigerant poisoning can be fatal.

Protect Your Family. Deal with Refrigerant the Right Way

If your AC is leaking refrigerant, try not to fix it yourself. Doing so can be quite dangerous because you’ll be dealing with a poisonous substance. So, be sure to call your trusted White Bear heating and air conditioning contractor to detect the leak, seal it off, and recharge the unit with the right amount of refrigerant.