Whenever a vital component that is related to the refrigerant in a heat pump sustains cracks or holes, it starts leaking refrigerant, also called Freon. This will trigger a decline in your heat pump’s performance. And in some cases, your heat pump will stop heating the house altogether. As much as it’s important to consider heat pump repair in case of refrigerant leakage, you would want to understand the causes behind a leakage as well so you can prevent the problem. So, here we go.
Causes Of Heat Pump Refrigerant Leakages
Like any other appliance, heat pumps also sustain wear and tear over time. The refrigerant travels between the condenser coils and evaporator coils through the connection pipes. They are made of copper and so are the pipes connecting them. They corrode over time and there comes a point when the corrosion triggers cracks or holes in the coils or the connections.
As these cracks or holes appear, Freon begins leaking from them. Moreover, with time, the rubber seals of the valves and other connections can also loosen leading to leaks.
For fixing wear and tear problems due to age, sometimes, you can get away with repairs. However, mostly, when a heat pump has completed its lifespan and starts showing corrosion and leaks, the best option is to replace the unit.
But how you would know if the problems of your heat pump are age-related or something else? A heat pump can last for 15 years. So, if a heat pump has been installed for more than 10 years and has cracked coils, you should consider a replacement instead of a repair. It will have more benefits as well like you won’t have to repair a newer unit because, in their initial years after installation, they require the least repairs. Moreover, heat pumps are becoming more energy efficient. So, a newer model will reduce your energy bills.
On the other hand, if the age of your heat pump is under 10 years, then a repair would be a more cost-effective option. In any case, hire an expert to inspect your unit and suggest you the best option.
Lack Of Maintenance
Regular maintenance of your heat pump extends your unit’s life because problems are identified early on and fixed before they become a huge issue. This also includes refrigerant leaks. Experts check the unit for leaks and if they detect any pin-holes or cracks, they suggest a repair or replacement.
The maintenance of a heat pump includes many things, but one that can prevent or decrease the risk of refrigerant leaks is cleaning the unit. As dust and debris build up on the condenser coils, evaporator coils, and the connections, it speeds up the corrosion process if not cleaned regularly.
Formicary corrosion occurs on copper tubes that cause pinhole leaks. They are tiny holes in coils that leak refrigerant.
How does it occur? When formic acid or acetonic acid forms on the coils, they slowly eat away or corrode the copper tubing which leads to pinhole leaks. This corrosion is difficult to prevent, but you must know that formic or acetonic acid that builds up on the coils comes from the nearby atmosphere. This is because many products like paints, cleaning solvents, adhesives, insulation, and others have these acids.
Although formicary corrosion occurs slowly, it can become a problem once it starts showing its dangerous results. You can slow it down even more by regularly cleaning your HVAC unit with the products and techniques recommended by the manufacturer of your heat pump.
That said, if you’re operating your heat pump in a highly corrosive environment like near industrial sites, laundry sites, water treatment facilities, and others, the coils will sustain leaks within a few years. Other things that can speed up formicary corrosion are living near an ocean and having a pool in the backyard.
In these areas, you should consider HVAC units that have aluminum coils and connections. Moreover, there are aftermarket coil coatings available as well that can protect your heat pump coils for longer.
Poor installation is another cause of refrigerant leakage in heat pumps. If you notice refrigerant leakage, bad heating, or low refrigerant levels within a few months of heat pump installation, then it’s highly likely that the leak is due to improper installation.
This kind of leakage can be because of overtightening of connections or leaving connections loose enough to leak Freon. The installation of an HVAC unit requires expertise and the right equipment. For this, you must only hire a heat pump installer who is capable and has a proven record of excellent HVAC installation. Because, if the installation is poor, it will cause refrigerant leakage, which in turn, leads to the breakdown of other components of the unit as well.
This is something out of your hands. In some cases, an HVAC unit can have factory defects which will cause it to leak Freon upon installation or cause the failure of any other component.
If a piece of equipment is defective, it might also not warm your house enough, cause airflow problems, and other problems. This can be a headache to deal with because this means you will have to replace the heat pump.
Therefore, make sure to buy an HVAC unit from reputable manufacturers who make reliable products and also provide warranties. And avoid unknown manufacturers at all costs.
How A Refrigerant Leak Is Identified?
Determining which part of the coils, connections, or components have cracks or holes that are letting refrigerant to leak is a difficult process.
There are manual methods of identifying a refrigerant leak but they are not effective. If the cracks or holes are big, then you may be able to detect them by looking for corrosion in usual areas or bubbles formation in the leaking areas. Sometimes, a hissing sound from the leak can help in identifying the part that’s leaking refrigerant.
However, most refrigerant leaks are slow and difficult to detect with a visual inspection. So, technicians use a refrigerant detector, sniffer. This is also a time-consuming process and the professional may have to disassemble various parts of the heat pump to detect the cracks or holes.
How Is A Refrigerant Leak Repaired?
When a refrigerant leak is detected, it takes hours for the expert to fix the leak. This will only be done after evaluating the condition of your heat pump. If the components of the heat pumps are worn, the expert may suggest you avoid spending money on the repair and replace the heat pump, but if the heat pump is newer, a repair may be possible.
The process of a leak repair takes time because the technician can’t solder the holes or cracks straight away. If done, the pressure of the refrigerant will reopen the cracks or holes in a few seconds.
So, before patching the holes, the technician will have to remove refrigerant from the unit. It’s only after removing the refrigerant that the patching process begins. Afterward, the air from the coils is vacuumed out and refrigerant is refilled into the unit.
A heat pump refrigerant leak can impact the performance and lifespan of your unit. So, not only you should have it fixed immediately by consulting heat pump repair services McLean, but you should also consider the above causes so you can prevent Freon leakage in the future.