Working with an air conditioning contractor is similar to working with a car mechanic. The people you choose to work with are the experts in their field, and you need to trust that the recommendations they make are in your best interest. Unfortunately in both situations, that’s not always the case. One example of this is when air conditioning contractors advertise routine “refrigerant boosts.” Today we’re going to talk about what refrigerant boosts are, how some untrustworthy contractors use them to take advantage of customers, and the only times when they are necessary!

What are refrigerant boosts?

A refrigerant boost is a term that’s used to describe charging an air conditioning system with more refrigerant. The term can be misleading when it’s used by low-quality contractors because it’s sometimes spun as a routine service that can “boost” the performance of your system at any time. Although there are specific circumstances when your air conditioner needs a refrigerant boost (as you’ll see below), a large majority of the time it is not necessary and can end up damaging your system.

When you should be suspicious of refrigerant boosts

  • A contractor tells you “it’s time” for a refrigerant boost. People often mistakenly think that air conditioners use up refrigerant the way that a car burns gas. Some low-quality contractors will take advantage of this misconception by scheduling routine refrigerant boosts or telling homeowners that “it’s time” to boost their systems’ levels. The truth is that if your air conditioner is working properly it will always maintain the same refrigerant levels. As a result, do not trust any contractor who tries to boost your refrigerant levels for no reason regularly.
  • A contractor suggests adding refrigerant without measuring current levels. There are certainly some common symptoms of air conditioners that are low on refrigerant. However, low refrigerant levels are only one of many possible causes of those symptoms. If you call for an air conditioner repair and the contractor tells you that your system needs more refrigerant, be sure to ask whether or not they measured your system’s levels. If they didn’t, they may end up overcharging and damaging your system without fixing the original problem.

When are refrigerant boosts actually needed?

There are only three times when your air conditioner will need a refrigerant boost:

  1. When it’s first installed. Your air conditioner will need its first supply of refrigerant when it’s installed.
  2. When it’s improperly charged. A technician might not add enough refrigerant either during the installation of your system or after repairing a leak (below). In either case, more refrigerant will be needed to ensure your system has an adequate amount.
  3. When a refrigerant leak develops. This is the most common time that you’ll need a refrigerant boost. Refrigerant lines can develop cracks and holes over time that allow refrigerants to leak out. If this is the case, your contractor should repair the leak first and then add more refrigerant. Simply adding refrigerant without fixing the leak will not solve the problem.

If you have any questions about refrigerant boosts, or if you’d like a cooling system serviced or installed in your home, contact Jerry Kelly Heating & Air Conditioning, your St. Louis air conditioning contractor. We provide service all over the St. Louis area, including towns like Ladue, Lake St. Louis, and Manchester, MO.

photo credit: wfryer via photopin (license)

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