Air Conditioners: The Devastating Effects Of Refrigerant Overcharge

Posted on: 7 May 2016

An air conditioner's refrigerant is usually recycled. As a result, the only times that the system needs its refrigerant to be topped up tends to be when there is a refrigerant leak. And given that low refrigerant levels can lead to problems such as evaporator coil icing, refilling the refrigerant is necessary if you want to maintain the efficiency of your air conditioning system.

However, while having enough refrigerant in an air conditioning system is a must for the system to be effective at making a home comfortable, having too much of it can end up destroying the system. Here are some of the negative effects of an air conditioning system overcharge that you should be aware of.

Operating pressure increase and a drop in air conditioning efficiency

Most air conditioning systems are closed systems. As a result, the existence of too much of the refrigerant in the system is bound to increase the overall system pressure. This has the effect of elevating the pressure of high-pressure areas to abnormally high levels. It tends to also raise the pressure levels of low-pressure areas. This usually affects the efficiency with which the refrigerant changes states.

To maximize the cooling effect produced by the evaporation of the refrigerant at the evaporator coil area, manufacturers usually design this area as a low-pressure area. However, this will not be the case if the air conditioning system has too much of the refrigerant. The not-as-low-as-it-should-be pressure at the evaporator coil will reduce the capacity of the refrigerant to absorb heat from the air passing over the coils, something that will then reduce the efficiency of the cooling process. You air conditioning system will therefore have to work harder, something that will increase your energy bills.

Destruction of the compressor

By increasing the pressure of the refrigerant gas, the compressor usually plays a critical role when it comes to the conversion of the refrigerant from a gas into a liquid. And since its parts are designed to "compress" a gas, the presence of liquid refrigerant in the compressor area is likely to damage the compressor's moving parts.

The presence of too much refrigerant in an air conditioning system increases the chances of the liquid refrigerant entering the compressor area simply because there's just too much of it in the system. And since the system is designed with a given volume of refrigerant in mind, the change-of-state process that happens at the evaporator coil area will also not be as effective at converting all of it into a gas. This, in addition to the fact that abnormally high system pressure can affect the functioning of the thermostatic expansion valve – the valve may end up allowing more liquid refrigerant than it should allow into the evaporator coil -- , increases the risks of the destruction of the compressor. This is something that will call for expensive HVAC repairs.

Given the effects that a refrigerant overcharge can have your air conditioning system, it is usually advisable that you seek the services of a qualified HVAC contractor as soon as you notice a decrease in the efficiency of your system – especially if it happens immediately after a recharge. Click here for additional reading.


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