Heat Pump Repairs: Refrigerant Leaks

Trane-systemsConsidering the fact that we live in an area that is so hot for much of the year, and that what winter weather we do have tends to be pretty mild, using a heat pump in Tucson, AZ really makes a lot of sense. Now, heat pumps are able to both heat and cool homes thanks to their unique design. Specifically speaking, they are able to achieve this goal by reversing the flow of their refrigerant cycle.

A central air conditioner uses refrigerant in its operation as well. If you’ve ever dealt with a refrigerant leak in the summer, you know just how serious of a problem it really is. Because a heat pump uses refrigerant to keep your home comfortable all year long, it is even more problematic. We have some information to help you better understand how it is that a heat pump works, and how to spot signs of a refrigerant leak in your system.

How Does a Heat Pump Use Refrigerant?

Refrigerant is a heat transfer fluid that moves with ease through various stages, from gas to liquid and back again. With a central air conditioning system or a heat pump in its cooling mode, refrigerant is evaporated in the indoor evaporator coil of the system. During this evaporation process, the refrigerant draws heat out of the air around the coil, and that cooled air can then be distributed throughout the house. The hot refrigerant travels to the outdoor unit, where its heat is released.

Now, a component called the reversing valve in a heat pump allows for, aptly enough, the reversal of this operation. The direction in which the refrigerant flows is reversed, and the function of the indoor and outdoor coils are reversed. When in heating mode, refrigerant is evaporated, rather than condensed, in the outdoor coil. This draws heat out of the air outside. The refrigerant is compressed, boosting its thermal energy, and is then condensed indoors. Its heat is used to very efficient heat air for distribution throughout the house.

How Does a Refrigerant Leak Affect This Process?

Severely, unfortunately. If your heat pump develops a refrigerant leak, it needs to be repaired immediately. The longer that you wait to have any leaks pinpointed and repaired, and the refrigerant recharged as needed, the worse off your comfort, your system, and your budget are likely to be. But how can you tell if your refrigerant is leaking?

  • You hear a hissing or gurgling sound near the indoor or outdoor heat pump components.
  • You have trouble effectively heating and cooling your home throughout.
  • You see ice develop on your heat pump. (Keep in mind that some icing is normal, and that heat pumps have defrost cycles. If you see ice in the summer or you see ice getting thicker and thicker, refrigerant leaks are a real possibility.)
  • Your energy costs go up.
  • Your system starts shutting down/short cycling.

If the refrigerant leak is in a refrigerant line, repairs can be made. If the reversing valve is the point of the leak, it will have to be replaced. Only certified technicians can work with refrigerant, so be sure to dial our number when you suspect a leak in your system.

Goettl Air Conditioning can handle your heat pump repair needs.