Can a leaking air conditioner coil be repaired? The answer to this question depends on the severity of the leak. If it’s a very small leak, then an experienced HVAC technician may be able to repair or seal the leak. However, if it’s a big leak then you’d be better off replacing the AC coil altogether.
In this guide we explain why and when it may be possible or not possible to repair or replace a leaking air conditioner coil.
When you need to wait longer for the AC system in your home to cool the air, you may have a leak in the evaporator or condenser coils. A leak allows refrigerant to escape, reducing the ability of your AC system to properly cool the air. Many homeowners simply refill the refrigerant and ignore the leak. However, this requires you to continue adding refrigerant every year or two.
Depending on the severity of the leak, you may be able to repair the leaking air conditioner coils. In fact, instead of ignoring the problem or replacing your air conditioner, repairing or replacing the coils may provide the most cost-effective solution.
Detecting a Leak in Your Air Conditioner System
The first sign of a leak is often that it takes longer to cool your home. When the refrigerant levels are low, the evaporator coil does not work as efficiently. It is less effective at cooling the air that passes over the coils.
There are two sets of coils in a typical air conditioner unit, the evaporator and condenser coils. Both coils are essential to the operation of your AC system. They also both hold the refrigerant at different stages of the cooling cycle. A leak in either coil can result in low refrigerant levels.
Besides the coils, there are several components that are also responsible for transferring the refrigerant. The compressor, copper tubing, and valves all provide points where a leak can occur and cause refrigerant levels to drop. However, most leaks originate in one of the coils.
Difference Between the Evaporator and Condenser Coils
The evaporator and condenser coils are both critical to the performance of your air conditioning system. When a leak occurs, repair or replacement may be needed.
To cool the air in your room, a blower fan is used to draw the warm air into the air conditioning system. As air enters the AC system, the compressor transfers the liquid refrigerant through an expansion valve, which rapidly cools the refrigerant before it passes into the evaporator coils.
The cool refrigerant can then absorb heat from the warm air brought into the air conditioner unit by the blower fan. As the water vapor from this warm air hits the coils, it condenses and drips into the drip pan. These steps allow the air conditioner to cool the air and remove excess moisture.
After absorbing heat from the warm air, the refrigerant passes through copper tubing to the outdoor condenser unit. The compressor is then used to pressurize the refrigerant and turn into a hot gas. The gas flows from the compressor to the condenser coils.
The condenser unit also contains a fan, which blows air on the condenser coils to remove heat from the refrigerant. As the refrigerant cools, it transforms back into a hot liquid. It then travels through copper tubing to the expansion valve that rapidly cools the refrigerant, repeating the cooling cycle.
The evaporator and condenser coils both play important roles in the cooling cycle. A leak in either set of coils can cause the refrigerant to leak out.
The Risks of Repairing Air Conditioner Coils
When you have a leak in an air conditioner coil, the most common recommendation is to replace the coil or purchase a new air conditioner system. While it is technically possible to repair these coils, there are several important issues to consider.
The coils are constructed from copper tubing. Copper corrodes over time, weakening the coils. This is often what leads to the leak in the first place.
Attempting to repair the brittle coils may cause more damage. For example, by fixing a small leak in one area of the coil, you may place additional pressure on another weak spot, creating a new leak.
Most HVAC technicians will not attempt to repair these leaks. They understand that the repairs may not solve the problem and that the amount of time needed to complete the repairs will result in a significant repair bill.
While you may pay up to $2000 to replace a coil, hiring a professional to repair it may not be much cheaper.
Another issue with attempting to repair the coils is the amount of pressure used to transfer the refrigerant and turn it into a hot gas. The repairs may not be strong enough to withstand this pressure, causing the leak to reappear.
The Leak May Not Need to Be Repaired
When you have a leak, the refrigerant levels will slowly decrease, limiting the performance of your air conditioner. Depending on the size of the leak, some HVAC technicians may advise you to hold off on replacing the coils.
The refrigerant can be recharged so that your AC system continues to cool your home. The cost of refilling the refrigerant varies, depending on the type and amount of refrigerant needed.
You may pay between $150 and $750 to hire a technician to complete this task. However, if the leak is small enough, you may not need to refill the refrigerant for another year or two.
Before choosing to replace the coils, you should compare the costs. Get a quote for the replacement and compare this to the cost of refilling the refrigerant while also considering the size of the leak. In many cases, you may be able to hold off on replacing the coil for another season or two.
Can You Repair Leaking Air Conditioner Coils?
It is possible to repair leaking air conditioner coils. It is a time-consuming task with no guarantees of a successful outcome. You can attempt to solder the damaged area. However, the weakened coils are more likely to crack or break in other areas.
While experienced HVAC technicians may have better luck attempting to repair the coils, they rarely perform these repairs. Again, there is no guarantee that the repairs will work. It may also take a long time to complete the repairs, increasing the labor costs.
In the end, the cost of repairing the coil may outweigh the cost of replacement. While you can attempt to repair it yourself, you are likely better off replacing the leaking air conditioner coil.