How long does Freon stay in an AC unit? (All you need to know)

After 2020, the production of Freon gradually decreased because it was phased out. This is because how the common refrigerant gas is said to play a defining role in depleting the ozone layer of the sun which protects the earth from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.

In other words, with the supply of freon going down, it is fair to wonder what will happen to your AC unit if the refrigerant stored in it gets extinguished and there is no more supply. This automatically begs the question as to how long exactly the freon stays in an AC unit.

Do AC units lose Freon over time?

No, it is not possible for an AC unit to lose its reserve of Freon with the passing of time. As long as your AC is in good condition and does not have any damaged parts, it is not possible for the freon to get used up.

You might wonder what is the utility of Freon if not for being used. The answer to this is, Freon is just the name for a type of refrigerant gas that is stored inside the AC for the purpose of cooling the collected air. There is a copper pipe sealed on both ends inside the cooling unit of the air conditioners and this is what houses the refrigerant gas.

When the collected air is passed through the refrigerant, it cools and then is blown into the room. Therefore, the refrigerant gas of Freon as we know it is not a fuel that gets actively used when the AC is in operation.

In a closed loop, the gas moves from one side to another and performs the function of cooling the air over and over again.

There are also concerns over whether or not freon loses its effectiveness over time and the answer to that too is no, freon does not get any less effective over the years.

However, there are exceptions to everything and the only way the stored freon can get extinguished is if the copper pipe storing it is damaged and has a leak.

How long does freon stay in an AC unit?

How long does freon stay in an AC unit

Freon has no expiry date to speak of and can stay in the air conditioner for as long as it is being used and maintained. It is used as a refrigerant gas, which is to say that the primary role of freon is not like a fuel that burns in order to power a device but to cool the air that is collected by the AC.

When this collected warm air is sent through the stored refrigerant, it cools down and the blower of an air conditioner distributes this cold air across the room.

So the refrigerant stored inside your AC will not expire or run out after a while and in theory it should last forever unless there is some damage to the coil in which case the freon will start leaking through the damaged or crack and quickly extinguish itself if not spotted and fixed.

How to know if your refrigerant is low?

How to know if your refrigerant is low

While it is true that the chances of refrigerant leaking from the AC is very low, it still cannot be completely ruled out as a possibility. There are some telltale signs of the refrigerant level getting low.

The refrigerant gas inside the air conditioner unit is responsible for cooling the air. So the first and foremost sign of a lowered level of refrigerant is the AC emitting warm air. Sometimes the AC also emits lesser amounts of air than usual but this is usually because of a dirty filter and can be solved by cleaning or changing the air filter.

However, if the AC is giving out warm air it definitely means that there is not enough refrigerant in the AC to cool the air properly.

Another easily detectable sign is a hissing and bubbling sound coming from the AC when it is on and ice on the refrigerant line. This happens because the refrigerant leaks out of its designated spot and moves towards the cracks causing the hissing sound. The ice results when the evaporator coil turns cold when running low on refrigerant and starts to freeze.

Finally, if you see that the units of consumption on the AC have increased, it is because the compressor is working twice as hard to cover for the deficit occurring because of low refrigerant thereby pushing the whole cost up.

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Can AC leaking Freon make you sick?

Freon is an extremely toxic gas and yes it can make you sick.

Inhaling freon refrigerant gas can be harmful to human health and the especially susceptible to it are little children, the elderly, and animals. If one were to inhale large amounts of this gas then they will need immediate medical attention as people have been reported to go into a coma for 3-4 hours on inhaling Freon.

That said, not every household that reports a freon leak from their AC also gets a sick person. Why does this anomaly happen? It is because if the room where the leak takes place is ventilated or has open windows or is large enough then the gas dissolves away with the outside air before it can harm inhabitants of the house.

However, in many cases, the leak occurs in confined rooms where ventilation is not sufficient and it can lead to poisoning complications in health.

Freon poisoning should be taken with utmost seriousness as it can also cause death. Some of the symptoms include- coughing, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, headaches, and irritated ENT canals. Some severe symptoms include blood vomits, seizures, a sense of confusion, labored breathing, and coma.

If you suspect a freon leak compared with these symptoms then the immediate course of action should be medical assistance. 

What does freon gas smell like?

Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon gas that is used in electronic machines such as Air conditioners and Refrigerators and is a colorless and odorless gas compressed into semi-liquid form. But when the gas is present in higher concentrations it may have a sweet ether-like odor.

Some claim that freon smells like a paint thinner and so if there is no one painting inside your house yet a faint smell of paint seems to be coming from the AC, then you best call a professional to take a look at the unit.

Can I stay in the house with Freon leak?

Now, this is a very subjective query as there is no right answer to this. No one can just abandon their house or their room when they discover the freon is leaking and move someplace else.

So no matter what you do, you might just have to coexist with this leaking refrigerant gas, at least until you manage to fix the problem either by yourself or have professionals over to have a look at the air con unit.

Considering all of the above, should you stay in close proximity to an ac that is potentially leaking freon refrigerant gas knowing how toxic and volatile the gas is? The answer is a definitive no.

Until you get around to calling professionals over to fix the AC, it is best to vacate that particular room where the AC unit is located. Keep the room ventilated and vacated but make sure to not delay the repairs for long.

The reasons for that are two- firstly, freon is labeled as a greenhouse gas that is directly responsible for depleting the ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere and this is the very reason why freon production is being phased out.

Keeping an AC unrepaired and leaking freon for a long time might get you in trouble with the law and you might have to pay hefty fines.

Secondly, an AC with leaking freon will cost you quite some money to get repaired and this cost will only go up as continuous leakage will freeze the coil completely and it, and some other parts may need total replacement.

What to do if there is a leak?

If you suspect Freon leaking from your air conditioner unit then swiftly perform the following:

  • Turn off the Air conditioner unit.
  • Vacate the room immediately.
  • Cover your face and then open the windows.
  • Wash your eyes and the insides of your mouth with water. Make everyone who was in the said room do the same. Even pets.
  • If symptoms of freon poisoning begin to appear then waste no time getting yourself to a hospital and seeking emergency treatment.
  • Call professional contractors who can repair the AC.
  • After you have made sure that the last of all remaining refrigerant gas is gone from your home, feel free to use the AC again.

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Final words

Wrapping up it can be said without a doubt that the refrigerant gas leaking from an AC unit is not only detrimental to the air conditioner itself but also to the people around it.

The toxicity of the gas is a proven fact and this is why ACs have often been said to be one of the contributors to global warming as it uses the gas Freon as a refrigerant.

Although the gas does not need to be actively used as a fuel, when manufacturing the unit and filling the coil with the gas, some of it escapes into the atmosphere. Escaped freon from millions of such ACs harms the environment drastically and this is the very reason it has been outlawed.

The use of freon has declined and while nothing can be done about the ACs and refrigerators that already have freon inside them, the newer models do not anymore. In a bid to deal with global warming, the production and distribution of Freon are thus being phased out.

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