Learning About HVAC Equipment

« Back to Home

Why Too Much Refrigerant Is Bad For Your Air Conditioning System...And Your Wallet

Posted on

An air conditioning system's refrigerant is its lifeblood, and without the refrigerant, there can be no cooling. However, though refrigerants are essential to the operation of air conditioners, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. An overcharged air conditioning system doesn't only run inefficiently—it can fail outright, resulting in thousands of dollars of repair bills. Below are some of the harmful effects that you can expect if your air conditioner is overcharged and why having a technician properly charge your system is important:

What can happen to your system if overcharged

An excess of refrigerant is not only a needless waste of material and an expensive investment for no reason, it can be detrimental to your air conditioner in several ways:

Increased electrical load

A negative effect of having too much refrigerant in your air conditioner is the excessive use of electricity. The overcharge of refrigerant causes your system to work harder to move the refrigerant, and this leads to higher utility costs when running your air conditioner. Though this is not the most serious problem that can occur, it still is a costly one over the long term if your system has to run harder and use more power.

Disruption of balance between high and low pressure sides

Though it may seem counterintuitive, an air conditioning system that contains too much refrigerant will not be able to cool as well as a properly charged one, if at all. An excessive refrigerant load will reduce the cooling ability of your air conditioner by upsetting the balance between the high side and low side.

When refrigerant leaves the air conditioner's compressor, it is in a liquid, high-pressure state. The compressed refrigerant enters the evaporator coil where it loses pressure and converts into a gaseous state. Following this, the refrigerant gas passes back into the compressor where the cycle begins anew. For the system to be in balance and function as designed, the pressure cannot be too high on the low pressure side of the system; if it is too high due to an overcharge, then cooling becomes impossible.

Permanent damage to the compressor

Another danger posed by an overcharged air conditioning system is permitting the flow of liquid refrigerant too far along inside the system. Should liquid refrigerant be pumped through the entire system and return to the compressor in that state, the compressor can be permanently damaged. Air conditioning system compressors are designed to convert gases into liquids, but they are incapable of performing the reverse procedure. Known as liquid slugging, the introduction of liquid refrigerant into the compressor will cause destruction of pistons and other components. Slugging can occur due to other reasons, such as the failure of expansion valves, but overcharging of the system is a prime cause.

Compressor runs in reverse

High refrigerant pressures inside your air conditioning system can lead to the unusual circumstance where your compressor runs in reverse. Should the pressure be unbalanced between the high and low side, the powerful motor that runs the compressor can be "pushed" into rotating backwards. A motor running in reverse will not provide cooling output, and worse, seize up should it fail to be properly lubricated. The oil pump that provides much-needed lubrication to components inside the motor will not operate properly in reverse, thus allowing overheating to occur.

Why a licensed technician should recharge your system

As you have seen, too much refrigerant inside your central air conditioning system can lead to serious trouble. The measurement of refrigerant inside your system requires the use of special tools and skill, and adjustments to the refrigerant charge should be made only by a trained, licensed professional. Never attempt to make changes to refrigerant levels on your own, or you may experience the frustrating, expensive problems associated with overcharging as a result. Contact a company like Comfort Solutions for more information.