What Is an AC Recharge?
If you’ve heard people talking about a home AC recharge, what they’re technically referring to is adding more refrigerant to their units. The term “recharge” is a bit misleading: it really means refilling the refrigerant in your system. Refrigerant is a chemical that absorbs heat and provides refrigeration (cooling) as it transitions from a low-pressure gas to a high-pressure liquid.
Freon (also known as R22) is the name of a widely used refrigerant. Another is Puron. (It’s worth noting here that new production of Freon or R22 has been phased out in favor of the more environmentally friendly Puron, also known as R410a.) AC systems use refrigerant to remove heat from the air and carry it outside, where it releases the heat as exhaust. If refrigerant levels are low, your AC unit cannot properly absorb heat from the air in your house.
Getting a Home AC Recharge
Many people wonder, ‘can I recharge my own home air conditioner?’ The answer is no; it’s not recommended, because refrigerant is toxic. Freon and other refrigerants can be poisonous to humans and animals if they are mishandled. That’s why, when it comes to figuring out how to recharge home AC systems, your safest and most efficient option is to follow Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, which specify that only a certified professional perform a home AC recharge.
AC contractors carry specialized home AC recharge kits containing home AC gas refills. They’ll top off the refrigerant levels required to fully recharge your AC unit, check the refrigerant pressure, and make sure the system is leak-free; in essence, they’ll fine-tune your unit and restore it to full working order. Professional AC contractors who work with home AC Freon recharge kits (or other refrigerant recharge kits) are fully trained in all aspects of workplace safety. They must properly handle and dispose of refrigerants according to EPA guidelines.
When Should You Get a Home AC Recharge?
If your AC system is working correctly, it may never require a recharge. When manufacturers make these units, they typically fill them with enough refrigerant to last 15-20 years, which is the average lifetime of these products.
However, a twice-yearly professional HVAC tune-up is always recommended to make sure your system is functioning optimally—and that includes checking the amount of refrigerant and topping it off if needed.
Signs You Require a Home AC Recharge
There are several telltale signs that you may need an AC recharge:
- Your vents are blowing warm air
- The AC unit is continuously running but fails to cool your home
- Your electrical bills have increased
- You’ve noticed a buildup of ice on the AC refrigerant line
- You hear a bubbling or hissing sound coming from the refrigerant line
Home AC Recharge Costs
The cost of a home AC recharge varies greatly depending on your unit’s size and the type of refrigerant it requires. Home AC recharge services can cost as little as $100. However, if you have a large AC system, you might pay more than $600. Keep in mind, prices can vary depending on where you live.
As mentioned, the EPA has phased out Freon for more environmentally friendly alternatives. This shift has led to a steady increase in the cost of Freon because it is no longer in production.
While the price of refrigerant can be high, the labor cost to perform an AC recharge should be fairly low: a technician can complete a recharge in a couple of hours. Talk to your professional about likely costs.
Repair vs. Replacement
If you find that your AC unit is in need of a home AC recharge, should you repair or replace it? If it’s between 15-20 years old and is leaking refrigerant, it may be a good idea to replace it with a contemporary system that will be more energy efficient and provide improved cooling capabilities. In this case, the appliance is reaching the end of its lifespan, and more problems will likely emerge in the near future.
If your unit is newer and you can attribute the leak to poor manufacturing, your best bet may be to replace it. However, for the majority of modern units where this is not the case, repair is probably the best option. Whether or not you repair or replace an AC unit depends on the parts that malfunctioned, the labor involved, and the size of the refrigerant leak. A professional diagnosis will help you make the best decision.
First American HVAC Coverage
If you’re worried about potential problems that can arise with home systems such as your HVAC, invest in a home protection plan to protect your budget when breakdowns happen. First American offers plans that can cover many major home appliances and systems, including air conditioning.
Plus, if your home warranty plan includes HVAC coverage, you can save money if you need to deal with home AC recharge costs unexpectedly. First American offers plans with no limits on the amount or cost of refrigerant needed to get units that use R-22 (Freon) working again. Learn more about what our home warranties cover and get a home warranty quote.
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.