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2 Air Conditioning Refrigerant Problems

Seen through heating and AC air conditioning unit

The refrigerant inside of your home's air conditioner is what enables it to effectively cool your home. Liquid refrigerant absorbs your home's heat inside of the component known as the evaporator coil and turns the refrigerant turns into a gas. The rest of the air conditioning system changes it from a gaseous back to a liquid state, as well as to power its circulation.


In a properly maintained system, this process repeats over and over again with a high degree of efficiency. Yet sometimes things go wrong with regard to the control of your refrigerant. If you would like to expand your knowledge of common refrigerant problems, read on. This article will outline two key refrigerant control issues to be aware of.


1. Migration

An air conditioning system operates in distinct cycles. During the on-cycle, gaseous refrigerant flows from your home's evaporator coil to the compressor located in your backyard condensing unit. The compressor increases the speed and pressure of the refrigerant, moving it on to the condenser, which turns it back into a liquid.


During the off-cycle, liquid refrigerant flows into your home's evaporator coil. The blower system circulates warm air around the coil, which is filled with cool refrigerant. The refrigerant absorbs heat, and in the process turns back into a gas. Once all of the refrigerant has absorbed as much heat as it can, the cycle repeats.


Refrigerant migration involves gaseous refrigerant moving into the compressor at the wrong time - in other words, during the off-cycle. In the compressor, the refrigerant soon condenses to a liquid. The presence of liquid refrigerant in the condenser can lead to serious problems. For one thing, it will dilute the compressor oil, leading to a lack of sufficient lubrication.


Migration occurs when the compressor's temperature falls below that of the evaporator. This causes a change in system pressure, which prematurely drives refrigerant through the suction tubes. During the heat of summer, migration usually does happen since exterior temperatures generally stay much higher than those inside.


Therefore, migration tends to be most problematic when running the air conditioner during periods of more moderate weather. If the problem becomes chronic, it can be resolved through the installation of a crankcase heater. This heater raises the temperature of the compressor oil, making migration less likely to occur.


2. Flooding

Like migration, flooding involves the flow of refrigerant from evaporator to compressor. The difference lies in two key things: the refrigerant's state and the timing of the leak. With migration, the refrigerant is in its gaseous state. Flooding, by contrast, occurs when liquid refrigerant escapes the evaporator and flows to the compressor.


While migration happens when the compressor is not running, flooding, on the other hand, takes place exclusively during the on-cycle.


In a well-working system, flooding should never occur. Expansion valves inside of the evaporator normally prevent refrigerant from leaving until it has entered a gaseous state. Yet if one or more expansion valves fail, then flooding may occur. This problem can also stem from other issues such as air filter clogs and evaporator fan burnouts.


As with migration, flooding leads to system damage by diluting the compressor's oil. The mixing together of refrigerant and oil will pull some of the oil out of the compressor completely, resulting in lower cooling efficiency. The oil that does remain in the compressor will not be able to lubricate or cool the compressor as effectively as it should.


If you believe that your air conditioning system suffers from either migration or flooding, you must seek professional assistance as soon as possible. Please don't hesitate to call the cooling pros at Covington Air Systems, Inc.