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Why Do I Need Refrigerant Top Offs?

AC Refrigerant Top Off


Have you ever had a technician come to your house and perform a refrigerant charge-up, top off, or refill service? Throughout the hot Austin summer months, many homeowners call us asking for this same service. A request like this can be concerning because there is really only one reason a refrigerant top off is necessary: your AC needs repair


Sure, you probably did have another HVAC company come out and resolve your cooling issues with a quick refrigerant top off. But doing things quick isn’t always doing things RIGHT. Even the  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that homeowners should “request that service technicians locate and repair leaks instead of “topping off” leaking systems to protect the environment, minimize future service calls and repair costs, and reduce equipment operation costs by improving performance.”


A simple refrigerant top off service without any accompanying repairs is a guarantee you’ll need another top off in the future. And with the changing regulations around air conditioning refrigerants, a refrigerant top-off service could be very pricey.


Why Does Refrigerant in AC Need A Top Off?

Let’s go back to basics: every AC unit contains a coolant for refrigeration. This fluid, usually a chemical refrigerant, recirculates through components to provide you with cool air. 


All air conditioning systems have an ideal amount of refrigerant required to perform as expected. This is expressed in pounds of refrigerant. If your AC system has too much or too little refrigerant, you can experience comfort and performance problems.


AC refrigerant is not fuel like your gas tank in your vehicle. It stays inside the system components forever, only escaping if there is a leak. You do not need to “fill up” your refrigerant every year.  

The coolant inside air conditioners is like the air inside of a bike tire. A bicycle doesn’t work well when they are low on air pressure, and over inflating tires can be damaging as well. The air pressure needs to be just right. If there is a microscopic leak in the tire, filling it up with plenty of air can get you by for a short while. But ultimately, you’ll need to patch the hole to fix the problem. A tiny hole can grow into a bigger problem, so it’s important to get a leak fixed!


Likewise, air conditioners can get leaks. An air conditioner leak is a common side effect of regular system wear and tear. So anytime the refrigerant in your system is lower than expected, it’s a sure sign of a leak. 


Tracking Down an AC Leak


We have many methods to locate an AC refrigerant leak.  Occasionally, the leak could be in a location that’s difficult to reach or in a component that cannot be repaired and must be replaced. 


A refrigerant top off is a stopgap to get the system cooling again. But beware: without repairing the leak, your refrigerant is escaping from your system even immediately after a refill. 


It’s essential to deal with the root cause of the problem by sealing the leak or replacing the component. If you don’t, you will need a refrigerant top off again and again. 

What’s So Bad About A Refrigerant Top Off? 

If you don’t repair the source of the leak, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need to call the technician to charge up the system with more refrigerant. 


If the leak is tiny, the refrigerant will leak slowly. As those tiny leaks grow into larger leaks, the chemical escapes more quickly. Repairing the leak is the best way to protect your comfort – and your wallet. 


Plus, leaking refrigerant is harmful to the environment. Some refrigerants cause damage to the ozone layer – yikes! By ensuring you repair the leak, you’re doing your part to contribute to a healthier planet. 

Call McCullough to Solve Your Refrigerant Leak

Let’s seal find and seal that leak! Our NATE-certified technicians here at McCullough can pinpoint the refrigerant leak in your system and resolve the problem for good. 


We also offer AC maintenance and tune ups which include a check on your refrigerant charge. That means we can catch and repair leaks before they cause noticeable comfort problems. 


Trust your local Austin experts with your AC repair. We’ll do everything we can to repair your system. If we can fix it, we will. If we can’t, we’ll provide a quote on an affordable AC replacement. We’re here to help – contact us anytime at (512) 866-9821 .

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