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Refrigerant Leaks: How They Affect Your Commercial HVAC Equipment

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What type of commercial air conditioning in Everett, WA do you have? If your business is like most, your AC system consists of a series of rooftop units, also known as packaged HVAC units. They might also be heat pumps, which means they work at providing heat when it’s required. No matter the type, this unit may suffer from refrigerant leaks—a serious repair issue. 

The role of refrigerant

Like residential air conditioning systems, commercial rooftop ACs run by circulating refrigerant. The refrigerant is put under pressure in the compressor, turning the chemical blend into a high-pressure, hot gas. The refrigerant then releases heat through a condenser coil, which is blown outside, and the cooled refrigerant then passes through an evaporator coil, where heat is absorbed and the air temperature lowered. The air around the evaporator coil is then pushed by the blower in the unit into the ventilation system of the building, spreading cooling through the work space.

Refrigerant runs in a closed loop through the AC, which means that any refrigerant leaks can become a problem.

Refrigerant is not “used up” during normal operation

This is where we need to bring up an important fact about refrigerant that non-HVAC pros often don’t know. Refrigerant is not a fuel source that the air conditioner uses up as it runs. This is the reason you don’t need to have your HVAC system given a regular “refill” of refrigerant. The amount of refrigerant put in the system originally (known as its charge) is supposed to stay the same for the lifetime of the system. Refrigerant is a heat transfer medium, not a source of energy. 

Refrigerant leaks

Leaks along the refrigerant lines or at connection points are the only way the refrigerant charge in an AC can decline—and this is a major problem. Your commercial air conditioning equipment is designed to operate at a specific refrigerant charge. Too little refrigerant puts the system in danger. Not only will it lower how much cooling the system can put out, it will cause the compressor to eventually overheat and burn out. Other problems refrigerant leaks cause include the evaporator coil icing over and a rise in indoor humidity.

To repair refrigerant leaks, commercial HVAC professionals must not only seal the leaks but also restore the lost refrigerant to return the system to its original charge. (And not more. An overcharged system is just as bad as an undercharged one and will also have a failed compressor eventually.)

Refrigerant leak detection

How can you know your commercial HVAC system has leaks? You’ll probably notice symptoms in your business:

  • Higher humidity
  • Lower cooling output and hot spots
  • A rise in energy costs

These could warn of other problems with the HVAC system, but you want professionals on the job as soon as possible to find out what’s wrong. Only professionals can locate leaks, seal them, and then restore them to the correct refrigerant charge.

If you have reason to suspect you have trouble with your commercial cooling system, call on our technicians. We are certified and union-trained for light commercial systems.  

Evergreen State Heat & AC serves King County and Snohomish County. Contact us to handle any commercial air conditioning repair work you need done.

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