Can Air Conditioners be Recharged?

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So, the air conditioner in your home isn’t cooling the rooms as well as it used to, and you’re wondering if it is possible to recharge it. You probably think if you need to recharge it or if it can be recharged at all. We looked into the entire process, and this is what we learned.

Air conditioners can be recharged to full capacity. Recharging is required when the level of the refrigerant drops in the system, and it needs to be refilled.

Keep reading to find out why it might need recharging in the first place.

Why Your Air Conditioner Is Losing Refrigerant

We’ve already established that your AC can be recharged when the level of refrigerant drops. So why do the levels drop in the first place?

Air conditioners lose refrigerant only when there is a leak. It is a closed-loop system and the refrigerant level should not drop under normal conditions.

When there is a crack through which refrigerant may leak, it will. So what causes the leaks in the system that could cause this loss in refrigerant?

Wear and tear over time

As is the case with all things that we use, your AC unit becomes older as time goes by. The many components and parts that make up your system become older, and after some time, they begin to wear down.

Rubber components in and around the valves erode, making it easier for refrigerant to seep out over time.

Rust development

Rust is a common problem that you find in many air conditioning units that are old, and they tend to cause the assembly joints to weaken and eventually give way, allowing for some refrigerant to start leaking out.

Rusting air conditioning unit

Pin Point Leakage

This kind of leak occurs generally only for very old AC units, but it isn’t really a form of wear and tear, because it is caused by acid making a pin-sized hole in the tubing.

When formaldehyde accumulates inside your AC unit, it eventually transforms into formic acid. Formic acid is considered to be mild, but corrosive all the same.

This is why it takes so long for any of the accumulated acids to burn a hole into your system, but when it finally does, the leaks don’t stop, and it eventually costs a lot to fix them. In most cases, it is not worth fixing it at all since soon it will start leaking from another spot.

So how does formaldehyde get into your AC unit anyway? Simply put, formaldehyde generally naturally exists in all homes, although in small negligible amounts. However, these levels can go up in homes where people smoke, and also in instances where there are newly manufactured products in the home like new wood flooring or furniture.

It’s inevitable that formaldehyde exists in your home, but now you know two things you can do to help keep its levels low!

Accidental damage

This is a rarer occurrence, but it is possible for your AC unit to be damaged from people directly interfering with it. Situations like vandalism or accidental damage could result in a leak in the system, which will need to be fixed immediately.

When the AC unit is beyond repair and needs to be discarded it is important that it is not thrown away with general garbage and that you do not disconnect it yourself. I recommend reading my article about recycling AC units if you are faced with replacing the ac unit.

Refrigerant Leaking Is Dangerous!

If you have a sneaking suspicion that your AC unit is leaking refrigerant, you should call a professional right away to have the issue checked. This is because there are risks that could potentially mean the difference between life and death,

Leaky Air Conditioner At Home On Wall

Refrigerant poisoning can happen when the refrigerant leaking out of an AC unit is accidentally inhaled. Problems can range from dizziness to headache, nausea, and open irritation of the eyes and throat.

Refrigerant poisoning can happen when the refrigerant leaking out of an AC unit is accidentally inhaled.

If left unchecked, prolonged exposure can even lead to loss of consciousness and, in very rare instances, death. You need to act quickly from the moment when you notice the leak, to protect yourself and your loved ones.

You Must Never Try to Recharge Your AC Unit On Your Own!

Although there are plenty of guides out there explaining in steps how to recharge an air conditioning unit, you mustn’t take them as a guide to recharging your conditioner on your own.

Not only is refrigerant dangerous when accidentally exposed, but it may also be harmful to the environment. Depending on which type of refrigerant is in use, leakage could lead to further depletion of the ozone layer, which increases the greenhouse effect.

Read our article about the environmental impact of air conditions if you would like to learn more.

You don’t want to contribute to global warming by taking a risk with refrigerant gas, so it is better to call for a professional to make the whole process much easier.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency even stipulates this, and here you can read more about their policies on the handling of refrigerant by experts.

When your AC unit begins to show signs of leaking and needs recharging, be ready to call for professional help to not only protect your life but also to protect the earth.

What Does the Law Say?

Under the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, your home air conditioning unit can only be recharged by a trained professional. This is a measure put in place to help prevent or reduce the emission of refrigerant substance that is o-zone layer depleting, as well as to make sure that the refrigerant contents are safely disposed of. So make sure to have a professional on hand to help when you need your AC recharged.

How Do I Know If My AC Needs Recharging?

Before you even get to start recharging your AC unit, you need to make sure that it actually needs recharging in the first place. Always check for these warning signs before you decide whether or not to recharge it.

remote controlled air conditioning unit
  • Your air conditioner is constantly running, but your house doesn’t feel any cooler. It could also be that the amount of cooling feels less strong than it used to be, and it is now easily noticeable.
  • When you put your hands up against the AC, you don’t feel like the air coming out of it is very cool. It’s easy to tell, especially if you’re used to feeling the AC up close because you’ll notice the drop in temperature almost right away.
  • You could also be able to notice this if you set a certain temperature on your thermostat, and it is never reached even though the AC is on. It means the AC is not cooling like it should, probably because of low refrigerant levels.
  • If yours is a unit that is placed outside, you will notice the formation of ice along the refrigerant lines. That’s probably the most obvious sign that your AC needs recharging, along with a proper assessment for leaks.

It’s important to note that if your AC needs recharging, it’s most likely because a leak has developed inside the system. Refrigerant does not actually get “used up,” and an AC system does not run on refrigerant, but power. That’s why checking for leaks should always be the first step, because it is always the first cause.

It’s important to note that if your AC needs recharging, it’s most likely because a leak has developed inside the system.

Only consider recharging your AC when you see any of these signs first.

How Much Will It Cost You to Recharge The AC?

Depending on which type of AC you have, the cost of recharging could range from about $100 and $400. This is an average value, affected by factors such as the type of refrigerant you use and the size of your AC unit. The cost of recharging sometimes goes high, especially when you have a leak that needs fixing, depending on its severity. Check for warranty, because it could help to shoulder some of the repair cost, especially of the AC unit is fairly new. Now, if your AC is old or too damaged, only a professional can tell. You may be advised to replace the unit altogether, which will eventually be your own choice.

open wallet next to t succulents on a wooden table

What Refrigerant Should You Use?

You don’t really need to know which refrigerant your AC uses if you call a professional to recharge it. But In case you are curious here is some info on the different types used in AC units.

In the past, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were the most widely used refrigerants, often referred to as R12. They were phased out when stock production was ceased because of their danger to the environment by increasing the greenhouse effect.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were developed to replace them, referred to as R22. Although to a lesser degree than CFCs, HCFCs also contribute to the greenhouse effect and are currently also being phased out in favor of Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are much safer for the environment. If you see a canister or cylinder marked as R134 or R410A, then it is most likely an HFC refrigerant!

So What Is Freon?

Freon is the trademark name of a group of refrigerants that are used in many US homes. As of 2010, Freon products are being phased out because they are CFC, HCFC types of refrigerant which are dangerous to the environment for how they increase the greenhouse effect. Learn more about it here.


To summarize, yes, air conditioning units can be recharged, and the process is direct and easy to follow. However, according to EPS regulations, you must have a professional on site to make sure that any o-zone depleting, harmful refrigerant substance is well handled and disposed of.

Remember to always make sure that your AC unit needs recharging first before actually going through with it. Inspect carefully for the signs that it might be running low on refrigerant. If you’re going to buy refrigerant, go for an environmentally friendly variant first, but if it is unavailable, you will have to settle for the next best thing.

Amazon Basics Window-Mounted Air Conditioner with Mechanical Control - Cools 150 Square Feet, 5000 BTU, AC Unit

When the AC unit is beyond repair and needs to be discarded it is important that it is not thrown away with general garbage and that you do not disconnect it yourself. I recommend reading my article about recycling AC units if you are facing replacing the ac unit.

Freon is just a brand name, read the refrigerant code name to see what type it is.

You don’t have to let another summer come and go with the sweltering heat, making staying at home akin to being trapped in a heat box. Use this information to recharge your AC successfully.

Related article: Should AC Vents Point Up Or Down?

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