Refrigerant Low and High Pressure Gauge for AC Outdoor Unit - Lewiston, SA

The Science Behind Air Conditioner Refrigerant

When it comes to cooling our homes, modern equipment and air conditioning units are a marvel of science and engineering. Behind the sleek exterior of a split system air conditioner lies a complex system of components that work together seamlessly to provide us with comfort, even on the hottest days. At the heart of this technological wonder is the often-overlooked hero: the refrigerant.

In this blog, brought to you by Accustom Air, we invite you to explore the fascinating world of air conditioner refrigerants and understand how they contribute to the energy efficiency and cooling prowess of your beloved AC system. We’ll delve into the science behind refrigerants, their role in the cooling cycle, and their benefits to your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. So, let’s embark on a journey to uncover the secrets of the invisible substance that keeps us cool and comfortable during scorching summers.

What is air conditioner refrigerant, and how it works

When you turn on your air conditioner on a sweltering summer day, the magic behind the scenes is driven by a vital component known as refrigerant. This colourless, odourless substance is the unsung hero of your cooling system, transforming hot, humid air into a refreshing indoor oasis. Let’s dive into the world of air conditioner refrigerants to understand their role and importance in keeping us cool and comfortable.

Refrigerant is the lifeblood of an air conditioning system. It’s the substance that transfers heat from inside your space to the outside, leaving you with a comfortable indoor environment. Here’s how it works:

  1. Absorbing Heat: The refrigerant circulates through a closed loop of coils and pipes. The indoor unit absorbs heat from the indoor air, turning from a low-pressure gas into a high-pressure, high-temperature gas.
  2. Releasing Heat: The heated refrigerant is then pumped to the outdoor unit, releasing the absorbed heat to the outside air, causing it to condense and change into liquid.
  3. Cooling Effect: As the refrigerant returns to the indoor unit and evaporates, it cools down and can absorb more heat, continuing the cycle.

This continuous cycle of absorbing and releasing heat keeps your indoor space comfortable.

Types of Refrigerants:

Over the years, various refrigerants have been used in air conditioning systems. Some common ones include:

  • R-22 (Freon): This refrigerant was commonly used in older AC systems but is being phased out due to its negative environmental impact. Its production has been largely discontinued.
  • R-410A: This is one of the more environmentally friendly refrigerants commonly used in modern residential and commercial AC systems.
  • R-32: Another environmentally friendly option, R-32, is used in newer AC units.

How much refrigerant is in a home air conditioner

The amount of refrigerant in a home air conditioner, often referred to as the refrigerant charge, can vary depending on the size and design of the air conditioning system. The specific amount is typically measured in pounds or ounces and is crucial for the system’s proper operation. Here are some key points to consider:

  • System Size: The amount of refrigerant in a home air conditioner is directly related to the size and capacity of the unit. Larger air conditioning systems designed to cool larger spaces or multi-story homes require more refrigerant than smaller units for single rooms or smaller apartments.
  • Manufacturers’ Specifications: Each air conditioner is designed to operate optimally with a specific refrigerant charge as specified by the manufacturer. The manufacturer’s guidelines and specifications should always be followed to ensure the unit’s efficient and effective performance.
  • Refrigerant Lines: The refrigerant charge is distributed through a closed-loop copper or aluminium refrigerant line system. These lines connect the indoor and outdoor units of the air conditioner. The amount of refrigerant in the lines must be carefully balanced to maintain proper pressure and temperature levels.
  • Refrigerant Type: The refrigerant used in the air conditioner also affects the charge. Older units may use refrigerants like R-22, which have been phased out due to their environmental impact. Modern units use more environmentally friendly refrigerants like R-410A or R-32.

Air conditioner refrigerant leak symptoms

Air conditioner refrigerant leaks can lead to various symptoms that can affect the performance of your cooling system. Detecting and addressing refrigerant leaks promptly is crucial to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of your air conditioner. Here are some common symptoms of refrigerant leaks:

  1. Reduced Cooling Capacity: One of the most noticeable signs of a refrigerant leak is a decrease in the cooling capacity of your air conditioner. Your home may take longer to reach the desired temperature and need help maintaining it on hot days.
  2. Warm Air Blowing: If your air conditioner is blowing warm or room-temperature air instead of cool air, it may indicate a refrigerant leak. Inadequate refrigerant levels can prevent the system from producing cold air.
  3. Hissing or Bubbling Sounds: Sometimes, you may hear a hissing or bubbling sound near the indoor or outdoor unit of the air conditioner. This sound can be an indication of refrigerant escaping from the system.
  4. Ice Buildup: Ironically, a refrigerant leak can lead to ice formation on the evaporator coil or refrigerant lines. While this may seem counterintuitive, it happens because the remaining refrigerant expands too rapidly, causing the coil to become excessively cold and freeze.
  5. Increased Energy Bills: When your air conditioner is low on refrigerant, it has to work harder and longer to cool your home. This increased workload can increase energy consumption, making the system less efficient.
  6. Uneven Cooling: Refrigerant leaks can lead to uneven cooling throughout your home. Certain rooms or areas may feel warmer than others, even when the thermostat is set to the same temperature.
  7. Icing on the Outdoor Unit: In addition to ice buildup on the indoor unit, you may notice frost or ice forming on the outdoor unit, particularly in hot weather. This indicates a problem with refrigerant levels.
  8. Higher Humidity Levels: Refrigerant leaks can also impact the air conditioner’s dehumidification capabilities. You may notice increased humidity in your home, leading to a less comfortable indoor environment.
  9. Longer Cooling Cycles: An air conditioner with insufficient refrigerant may run longer cooling cycles as it struggles to reach the desired temperature. This can contribute to wear and tear on the system.
  10. Coil Corrosion: Prolonged exposure to moisture from a refrigerant leak can lead to condenser coil corrosion. Corroded coils can result in more extensive and costly repairs.

If you suspect a refrigerant leak based on any of these symptoms, it’s essential to contact Accustom Air for inspection and repair. Fixing refrigerant leaks yourself is not recommended, as it requires specialised equipment and expertise. A professional technician can identify the source of the leak, repair it, and recharge the system with the correct amount of refrigerant to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. Addressing refrigerant leaks promptly saves energy, extends your air conditioner’s lifespan, and helps maintain a comfortable indoor environment.


As we conclude the science behind air conditioner refrigerants, we understand their pivotal role in home comfort. Beyond merely cooling the air, refrigerants orchestrate a delicate dance of physics and thermodynamics, transforming warm air into a refreshing breeze.

At Accustom Air, we believe that knowledge empowers better choices. Armed with insights into your efficient air conditioner’s inner workings, you can appreciate your cooling system’s artistry. With the right refrigerant and proper maintenance, you can maximise cooling efficiencies, achieve precise air temperatures, and enjoy a comfortable living space while conserving energy.

So, as you bask in the comfort of your air-conditioned haven, remember the unsung hero, the refrigerant, working tirelessly behind the scenes. It’s a testament to human ingenuity, making scorching summers and sweltering days more bearable. If you have questions or need expert guidance on your air conditioner’s refrigerant, our team at Accustom Air is always here to assist you on your journey to cooling perfection.