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Common Myth to A/C Freon Leaks

Posted by Probe Specialists on August 4, 2015 at 4:30 PM

Common Myth to A/C Freon Leaks

Many homeowners believe that, over time, an air conditioner uses Freon. We just need to tune-up the a/c and top-up the Freon, right? In reality, an air conditioner has a sealed refrigerant system that should never "use up" or run out of Freon. The Freon or refrigerant is only the medium used to transfer heat from the inside of the home to the outside. The only resource that is expended is electricity.


If the Freon is not consumed in the process of cooling your home, then it must be lost only by a leak in the copper tubing. For many years, the air conditioning industry has used copper tubing to harness the pressure of refrigerant and bring comfort to the masses. Copper is soft and abundant, and easy to seal in the field with brazing alloy. If copper is such a good material, why do we see so many Freon leaks? Is this due to poor field connections, poor manufacturing, or is there a third possibility?

A Look for the Root Cause

A number of years ago, an engineering study determine the true cause of leaks within A/C systems. Service technicians noticed that leaks from field or factory connections in the first year are fairly rare. The problem leak develops in older air conditioner, starting in preteen years 4 -7 and continues as the air conditioning system ages. These leaks occur in the copper tubing wall not the connection points or braze joints. The source of these leaks is what the engineers set out to find in their study.


The Real Cause of Freon Leaks


We know that copper tubing develops leaks, but what is causing the Freon leak in the first place? The leaky a/c coils that were studied had microscopic pin holes seemingly drilled throughout the coil tubing and the study revealed that the culprit was formic acid. Formic acid was corroding the copper and drilling these tiny pin holes. But where is the formic acid coming from? Formaldehyde in the home can convert into Formic acid on the a/c coil. It is extremely mild, but over a period of 5 years, it will produce pinholes in copper tubing. We call this process formicary corrosion, and it is the main reason for corrosion of copper tubing. If you have researched indoor air quality, you'll know that formaldehyde is a major pollutant in our homes. An infamous case of severe formaldehyde in the living space was the FEMA trailer provided to Katrina victims. While less severe than a FEMA trailer, most homes have a measurable amount of formaldehyde in the indoor air, and this will always cause formicary corrosion and freon leaks.


The bottom line, deterioration to the coils most often requires replacement of the coil or an investment in a new Air Conditioning System. Often home warranties companies consider deterioration to the coil a preexisting conditions and leaves the home owner at risk.


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