Recharge Home AC: All You Need to Know

Is your air conditioner not cooling your house like it used to or is the air conditioner running constantly, but only blowing out warm air?  If so, you may need to recharge your home AC.

Residential air conditioning units are designed to never need to be recharged, however, there are times when your air conditioning unit will need this service. But it is important to realize that if an HVAC recharge is required because the refrigerant has leaked, there is a problem that will need to be addressed.

Most likely, your air conditioner has some sort of leak at one of the fittings, a corroded coil or a leak in a refrigerant line due to it being crimped during installation or repair. Yes, HVAC technicians do make such errors, so it will need to be fixed and the entire unit will need a refrigerant refill.

How to Recharge your AC

That brings you to the questions, ‘What does it mean to recharge your AC unit and how is it done”

We wish we could tell you it’s a DIY job, but it isn’t. The information below will help you understand what has to be done to complete an HVAC recharge, as well as any other important information about the reasons and why you may need to call for service for your air conditioner.

Recharging your air conditioning unit will call for a refrigerant refill done by a pro. Refrigerant refill is a commercial grade freon kit or R-410A, the most common type used in residential central ACs.

Buying or purchasing the commercial freon and the other materials needed to recharge an AC unit is something that homeowners cannot do due to EPA codes and restrictions. Freon and R-410a are very volatile substances and should only be handled by a licensed HVAC technician that specializes in how to recharge AC equipment.  Hiring a HVAC technician to recharge your air conditioning unit is the only way to go to ensure that you are safe and your AC unit is properly repaired/recharged.

Why Did the Refrigerant Leak?

Did you know? If it can be demonstrated that the cause of the refrigerant leak was technician error, then that AC contractor should fix the work at their cost. If you have recently had the AC installed or worked on, bring up this possibility to the technician inspecting it. If they’re from a company other than the one that made the mistake, ask the technician to document in writing the cause of the problem and take pictures they can then text to you.

Contact the company that messed up, and share the information you’ve received. You’ll have to pay the second company, the one that diagnosed the issue, their service fee, which ranges from $75 to $150 based on where you live and how long the technician was at your home. But that will still be less than the cost of the repair and refrigerant refill.

Troubleshooting your Air Conditioning Unit Before Getting an HVAC Recharge

Maybe a refrigerant leak isn’t the issue! Before you decide to contact and hire an HVAC technician to come out and recharge your AC unit, you should troubleshoot to determine the exact problem to know if a recharge is required.  The first thing to check is the air filter. It may need to be cleaned or replaced. Another problem that can occur is that the coils on the condenser unit may need to be thoroughly cleaned.

Both these issues can cause your AC unit to act as though it needed to be recharged by inhibiting the dispersion of the heat removed from your home. This makes the AC ineffective and also very inefficient.

Signs your Air Conditioner Needs a Recharge

Besides the fact that your home is not as cool as you would like, there are other signs to look for to determine whether or not your air conditioning unit needs to be recharged. Below are some signs that your air conditioner may need to be recharged:

  1. The air conditioner unit is running constantly, but the unit is not cooling properly.
  2. The vents or registers are blowing warm air, rather than cool or cold air.
  3. Your electric bill is higher than normal, this will happen due to the air conditioner unit constantly running in order to try to reach the required temperature sent from the thermostat.
  4. There is ice built up on the air conditioner unit, most likely on the refrigeration lines or condenser coils.  If the ice reaches the condenser pump then the whole AC unit can freeze up.
  5. There is a hissing or leaking sound coming from the refrigerant lines.
  6. Water is present near the furnace due to condensation.

Types of Refrigerant Used in an HVAC Recharge

AC Recharge R22 vs R410

There are two different types of refrigerant that can be used to recharge your AC unit.  The newest and safest refrigerant available is called R-410A.  It is more energy efficient and also is better for our ozone layer, since it doesn’t have ozone depleting features. Any air conditioner made after 2010 will require R-410A to recharge the AC unit.  In January of 2020, the EPA banned the use of HCFC-22, which is known as freon or R-22 refrigerant.  Regardless of what type of refrigerant is needed to recharge your AC unit, you will need to have a professional do the job who has the required 608 certification.

Avoid a Refrigerant Overcharge

This won’t happen if you hire a competent HVAC contractor that knows how to recharge AC units.

However, as noted, some do make mistakes. Adding refrigerant to a system that doesn’t need it will over-pressurize the system and likely lead to compressor damage or a leak at one of the fittings or in a weak spot in the coil. Finally, an overcharged AC unit can cause too much condensation or even frost on the air conditioning unit.

Just thought we’d mention that – and how important it is to hire a well-qualified company. That’s why we recommend using our partner service to get free estimates from some of the top HVAC companies in your area. There’s no obligation. The contractors are licensed, insured, have the 608 certification and have a track record of quality work.

How Much Does it Cost to Recharge your AC Unit?

Keep in mind that the need to recharge your air conditioner is a very rare occurrence, and usually only is needed when there is a leak or rupture of some sort within the refrigeration lines or the condenser coils.

Depending on how old your air conditioner is and what size it is, will determine the type of refrigerant that will be needed and how many pounds of refrigerant is required to fully recharge the system.  R-22 isn’t being made anymore, and frankly, sellers who have stock left seem to be price-gouging. It’s 3-5 times more costly than R-410A. A simple online search of both will prove that.

On average, the cost for an HVAC technician to recharge your air conditioner will run around $100-$250, and possibly more depending on additional costs. Most often there will also be a disposal fee of $50-$150 to dispose of the freon or the R-410 refrigerant still remaining in the system. Most often the technician will want to drain what’s in there to start fresh.

Besides the HVAC technician fee and the disposal fee, there are some other factors that will influence the price.  Below is a list that can cause your recharge to be more or less expensive:

  • The climate you live in.  Warm climates, such as Florida or California, will cost more due to a higher demand.
  • The season that the repair is needed.
  • Summer will be more expensive than the winter months due to supply and demand.
  • How much the refrigerant supplier charges for the materials
  • The amount of refrigerant that the AC unit requires

Summary Conclusion

There are a few different reasons why your air conditioning unit might need to be recharged, but the most likely reason is due to a leak in the refrigeration lines.  Unfortunately, only an HVAC technician with the proper knowledge and certifications can legally recharge your AC unit with the proper refrigerant. If you have an air conditioner that was built before 2010, then it will need to be recharged with R-22, which we noted above is now very expensive because it is in short supply. As a result, the recharge cost will be higher than if your AC needed to be recharged with R-410A refrigerant.

In short, if your AC unit is blowing warm air or your home is not getting to a comfortable temperature, then you should call an HVAC technician to fix the problem and probably recharge your air conditioning unit.  Below are a number of different links to websites that also deal with AC units and recharging air conditioners.

Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.

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