Low A/C Refrigerant/Freon: What You Need to Know

You may have heard of refrigerant and freon, and know that it is crucial to the function of your A/C system, but what does it actually do, and how do you know if you’re low on refrigerant? As a leading HVAC and A/C company in the Tampa area, we’re used to hearing these types of questions from all of our customers. We’re here to break down some of the most asked questions about A/C refrigerant!


What is Refrigerant?

To keep it brief, refrigerant is a liquid used in the cooling cycle of an air conditioning system. It absorbs heat from the environment and provides air conditioning when used with the correct parts. Commonly referred to as Freon, Freon is the brand name for R-22 refrigerant, the refrigerant used by many air conditioning systems. However, due to safety concerns, there is a general phase-out of R-22 in favor of more environmentally conscious refrigerants such as R-410A.

Does my A/C unit use/consume refrigerant when it’s running?

No, your A/C system does NOT consume refrigerant while it’s running! This is one of the most commonly believed myths about refrigerants. Refrigerant is used in the coils and is cycled through from a gaseous state to a liquid state, so it should not “run out” during this process. This means that refrigerant typically only gets low when there is a leak in your system.

What happens when my refrigerant gets low?

Since refrigerant is the “lifeblood” of your air conditioning system, your A/C will not function properly without it. There are a few signs that your refrigerant is low, including: 

  • Higher Energy Bills, even if you haven’t adjusted your home’s thermostat or temperature. 
  • Warm air coming from your air vents, instead of cool air
  • Ice or frost on your air vents, especially on your refrigerant lines or coils
  • Bubbling or hissing from your outside A/C unit (indicates leaking!)

Of course, these could be symptoms of other problems with your A/C system, so you should always call a professional to inspect your unit before you assume you have a refrigerant issue.

How do I know my A/C unit is low on refrigerant?

It’s hard to know when your A/C unit is low on refrigerant, which is why you should always look for those symptoms discussed previously. But there isn’t a light that comes on or a tank that shows you how much refrigerant you have, or that tells you when you need more. That’s why you should always call in a professional to take a look at your HVAC system if you think you’re low on refrigerant!

What should I do when my A/C unit is low on refrigerant?

Depending on the status of your A/C unit and how bad the leak is, sometimes adding a little bit more refrigerant will solve the problem, or “recharging” the refrigerant. However, you should eventually plan for an electrician to come and patch the leak before it gets too big and wreaks even more havoc on your air conditioning. 


If you need a refrigerant recharge or would like to schedule an A/C repair, trust Air Rescue to do the job. As Tampa’s leading HVAC installation, repair, and heating provider, we have over 70 years of experience, offering top-tier HVAC services to homes and businesses alike. Our highly trained electricians are committed to delivering the highest level of service to you. Fill out a contact form to request more information, or give us a call at 813 612- 5600.