A refrigerant or Freon leak may make your home less comfortable because your home isn’t cooling down as it should. Not only will this make your energy costs higher, but human or animal exposure to Freon can be dangerous.
If you suspect Freon leaking in your home, you’ll want to learn how to detect the signs of a refrigerant leak, what you should do if you find a leak, how to identify health symptoms you may experience as a result of exposure, and how to prevent future leaking.
How to Detect a Freon Leak
Freon leaks are not as common as you may think, but they do still occur. The most common way Freon leaks occur is if there are small puncture holes that allow the chemical to escape.
Freon can also leak out as a result of poor installation, damage to the unit or any of its parts, factory defects in your appliance, or formic acid or formaldehyde corrosion of the metal. Some people incorrectly believe that Freon can be slowly depleted through regular air conditioning use.
There are certain issues you may notice in your home that are indicators of a Freon leak. If your home takes a while to cool down or warm air is coming out of your registers, there could be Freon escaping from your appliances.
The way Freon works is by absorbing the heat from inside your home and then carrying it outside. If there’s a low level of Freon in your system, it will take a lot longer to absorb and remove the heat from your home.
The evaporator coils will freeze if there is not enough Freon since they will not be able to absorb as much heat. Additionally, if there’s a leak in the refrigerant lines of your AC unit you will be able to hear a hissing sound.
You can also spot Freon leaks in your air conditioner by observing tiny bubbles in the evaporator coils and tracing it back to find the hole. If you start smelling a foul odor escaping your HVAC system while it is running, then you may have a Freon leak.
What To Do If You Find a Leak
If you do discover a Freon leak in your home, you want to immediately get all children and pets out of your home for their safety.
Next, open all of your windows and doors and strategically place fans, if available, to blow the contaminated air outdoors. Aim to keep your home as well ventilated as possible.
Then you’ll want to call a technician to have the leak stopped.You will want to have it fixed as soon as possible because the problem will likely worsen over time.
Because Freon is a lethal toxic substance, leaks should be handled by an expert such as an air conditioning repair technician.
A reliable HVAC technician can help you determine whether a simple repair is needed or if it is more wise to upgrade your home’s entire system. At the very least, they’ll be able to recharge your system with refrigerant.
A service technician will find the Freon leak and upon your approval they will provide options for repair. If the leak can be repaired as a cheap solution then you’ll be lucky. If the work is more complex, the cost might be greater and they’ll discuss the cost up front before they proceed with the work.
Their goal was usually to fix something once and for all so you want to be sure that they find the root cause and address that before repairing everything.
Health Effects of Freon Exposure
Freon is tasteless and odorless, but it can still have a large impact on your body. Your health can be affected from contact with Freon depending on how you have been exposed to the substance. In more severe cases, the Freon is inhaled.
If inhalation occurs, this can lead to refrigerant poisoning. Accidental refrigerant poisoning is rare, but is more common in people who work directly with refrigerant chemicals and and people who abuse the substance recreationally as a drug.
Typically, mild exposure to refrigerants and a well-ventilated area usually don’t end up being too serious.
Symptoms you may experience if you have mild to moderate refrigerant poisoning include dizziness, headache, irritation of eyes, ears, and throat, vomiting, chemical burn on the skin, nausea, and coughing.
The upside is that Freon is not known to cause any serious long-term health consequences. It does not damage the liver nor is it a carcinogen, mutagen, or teratogen.
If you are trying to figure out how much Freon you may have been exposed to you want to remember that there is a finite amount of the chemical actually contained in the refrigeration system so you can’t have been exposed to any more than that.
Freon is more dense than air so it will sink to the floor initially after it leaks out. the closer to the floor that you are the more Freon you are likely to have inhaled. This is a concern mostly for pets and small children.
In pets, especially dogs, Freon can also have a negative impact because they are more sensitive than humans to the heart sensitizing effects of the refrigerant.
If left untreated, the poisoning from this refrigerant can lead to scary, life-threatening issues such as irregular heartbeat, buildup of fluid in the lungs, loss of consciousness, seizures, labored breathing, and confusion or mental fatigue.
If a small amount contacts your skin or you experience a localized leak in your home, do not fret too much. However, if you are experiencing any health symptoms as a result of any Freon exposure in your home immediately contact emergency services or consult your physician.
Environmental Effects of Freon Leaks
Freon leaks are also unsafe for the environment. Freon contributes to the depletion of the ozone layer. Because of this adverse effect, Freon is actually being phased out.
There are many changes and rules involving Freon and other refrigerants. For example, the use of ozone-depleting refrigerant, chlorofluorocarbon-12, in new motor vehicle air conditioning systems ended in the mid-1990s in the US.
Since then, the most common refrigerant used in m-vac systems has been hydrofluorocarbon 134a. HFCs are intentionally made fluorinated greenhouse gases that are used in applications where ozone-depleting substances are used.
Like ozone-depleting substances, HFCs are powerful greenhouse gases with high global warming potential. In 2012, as a result of that knowledge automobile manufacturers began to transition to new climate-friendly alternative refrigerants.
Then, in July 2015 it was ruled that by model year 2021 and Mvac systems in newly manufactured light duty vehicles would no longer use HFC-134a.
While this might not seem like it applies to your refrigerant, you want to be aware of any environmental impacts you’re making due to the use of your refrigerant.
There are many different refrigerants that are listed as acceptable subject to use conditions that are unacceptable by the Significant New Alternatives Policy Program. There are many refrigerants that aren’t ozone-depleting and you want to ensure that that’s what’s being used in your home.
Being eco-friendly is very important especially with the state of the environment today. The world has evolved into a global community where air pollution, disasters and diseases have spread.
When there is a lot of chaos, it’s very necessary to preserve the earth and the living things that exist on it. As human beings, many people forget that we have a responsibility to maintain the earth and the environment.
This means you must do everything you can to keep it safe and protect it. There are many issues that have grown to a greater extent and this is why the concept of eco-friendliness is popular.
Ensuring that you’re using an environmentally-friendly refrigerant is a small step towards eco-friendliness, but it’s a necessary one to ensure that the world is being kept safe and that you’re doing your part in the global community.
How to Prevent Freon Leaks
One of the best ways you as a homeowner can help prevent Freon leaks is by hiring professionals to do regular inspections of the appliances that contain Freon.
A professional will be able to identify any early warning signs of a leak and take care of any issues while they are inexpensive to fix and before they get worse.
Another simple way to help prevent a Freon leak from forming in your air conditioner is to prevent your dog from peeing on and around the outside the air-conditioning unit as dog urine is very acidic and can corrode refrigerant coils.
Freon leaking in your home can be dangerously toxic for your family and for the environment. If you have reason to believe that Freon leaked in your home and you are experiencing any negative symptoms, put your safety first by calling emergency services or poison control.
Early detection is key and a professional repairman will be able to work on the compromised appliance and prevent any further leaks from happening.