Refrigerant is the lifeblood of your air conditioning system. If and when it disappears due to a slow leak or a defective A/C component, you'll probably be tempted to take care of the problem yourself. After all, how hard can it be to replace your missing refrigerant?
Unlike changing the oil in your car, recharging your HVAC system's refrigerant is a task that's best left to the professionals. The following offers a few reasons why a refrigerant recharge shouldn't be considered an easy DIY project.
You Don't Have the Tools
Recharging your A/C system's refrigerant requires a few unique tools, many of which you might not have lying around the house. These tools include pressure gauges for monitoring refrigerant pressures throughout the entire system and equipment for removing and reclaiming refrigerant.
On the other hand, your HVAC technician has a wide assortment of specialized tools at his or her disposal. There's a good reason why homeowners pay professionals good money to perform various HVAC maintenance tasks.
You Might Not Have the Knowledge
Air conditioning systems can be surprisingly complicated in their overall operation. Even if you have the right tools for the job, you might not have enough knowledge about your A/C system to safely and confidently add refrigerant.
Not only must you have working knowledge of the A/C system you're recharging, but also of the actual recharging process itself. Not knowing how to properly add certain refrigerants could result in system-breaking mistakes. For instance, adding liquid refrigerant to an A/C system too quickly would wash the oil out of the compressor, leading to eventual compressor damage and failure once the system is up and running again.
Mistakes Can Be Costly & Even Deadly
A simple mistake, such as using the wrong refrigerant for your A/C system, could prove expensive to undo. For instance, adding too much refrigerant to your A/C system could cause system shutdowns and increased wear on the compressor and various other components. Meanwhile, using R-410a in a system meant for R-22 can quickly lead to compressor failure. These problems can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to fix.
Making a mistake when it comes to HVAC refrigerant can also result in serious and even fatal injury. For example, using propane or R-22a in lieu of the proper refrigerant recommended by your A/C system's manufacturer could create an explosion risk due to its flammability.
Working in close proximity to refrigerant can also be poisonous if the proper precautions, such as the use of protective gloves and a facemask, aren't taken. Most refrigerants can also prove dangerous to the environment when released into the atmosphere. For example, certain types of refrigerant have been found responsible for depleting the ozone layer, prompting an ongoing industry-wide phase-out.
You Might Not Be Satisfied with the Results
Every homeowner prides him or herself on a job well done. This may not be the case with your home's A/C system. Whether it's a perceived decline in overall cooling comfort, the time-consuming nature of the job or the frustration that comes from making multiple mistakes, you might not be happy with how your DIY attempt turns out.
A DIY Recharge Could Cause Future A/C Failure
Did you remember to use the right refrigerant? How about testing the entire refrigerant system for leaks? Missing these and other crucial steps can easily turn your A/C system into a ticking time bomb. If you're not careful, it will be only a matter of time before your A/C system fails catastrophically, resulting in expensive repairs or even replacement.
There are other things you can do to keep your A/C system in good shape, including regular A/C filter replacements and thermostat replacements. It's always a good idea to leave the more complicated maintenance tasks in the hands of air conditioning services.