How To Check The Refrigerant Level of an AC At Home?


Do you want to know how to check the refrigerant level of your AC at home? Before even checking the refrigerant levels with a professional tool, you can figure out that something is not right by the performance of your air conditioner.

Typically, the first sign that the refrigerant levels are low is the warm air produced by the air conditioner. But it can also be a sign of other problems. If you are not sure if you need to fill up the refrigerant in your AC at home, Hurliman Heating can help you.

How do you know if the level of refrigerant is low?

In general, it is possible to know the refrigerant level in an AC unit by using a set of gauges that will connect with the system when it is turned off. Once you have the readings, you can compare them with the standards and figure out if you have to refill them or not.

Connecting a set of gauges to your air conditioning system can be pretty technical. It is better to call a technician who can do it for you and let you know if everything is okay or if you have to replenish the refrigerant.

They will also tell you if your system has potential leaks and repair them. But even before an actual test with the appropriate tools, you can still figure that there is a refrigerant problem. The first sign of it is the terrible performance of the AC unit and the lack of cool air.

The air conditioner will not manage to get the heat out of your home and replace it with cold air. As a result, the air circulating over the coils will not cool properly, and it is going into your warm house.

You can figure out that the refrigerant is responsible for this situation because when you turn on your AC unit, the air coming out is cool at first but will become warmer right after.

Risks of low refrigerant levels

A low level of refrigerant in the AC unit can create problems for the system much more severe than lowering its performance. When the refrigerant is low, the coil will freeze. Consequently, the airflow to the condenser will be restricted, causing additional strain to the air conditioner and wearing it out faster.

In addition, when leaks are letting out refrigerant, there can be problems for people and pets since it is toxic. The consequences of low-level refrigerant are:

  • Excessive AC wearing
  • System damages
  • Increase in electric bills
  •  Low AC system performance

The cooling coil cannot operate at a higher efficiency level with lower refrigerant levels, forcing the system to run excessively to cool the environment to the desired temperature. The result is an increased electric bill when compared to similar earlier periods.

If the situation persists for too long, it can permanently damage the AC unit and some of its parts, such as the compressor electric motor, which can burn out due to the overwork. It is pretty expensive to replace the compressor. It is way better to refill the refrigerant and do regular maintenance.

What are the causes of low refrigerant levels?

In general, it is easy to think that the refrigerant inside an AC unit is consumed with the usage, but it is not the case. In an AC system, the refrigerant constantly circulates in a closed space without losing volume. Therefore, if there is a loss of refrigerant, it is most commonly due to a leak.

Leaks can appear in time through the usual wear and usage of the air conditioner. In addition, some parts are subject to deterioration, such as the rubber seal used on the AC service valve and the outdoor condenser. If it wears out, the refrigerant can get out of the system.

Leaks can also occur within the refrigerant lines because of internal corrosion, although less common. You can detect the presence of leaks by the ice on the outdoor condenser and the indoor evaporator coil.

The most obvious sign of low refrigerant is the temperature not getting cooler, although there can be other causes for poor air conditioner performance, such as dirty filters.

Another way to detect leaks is to locate a hissing sound or noise coming from the air conditioner. Since an AC refrigerant is situated in a highly pressurized location, the pressure is released with force when there is a hole, making an unmistakable sound.

What are the other signs of a low refrigerant level

The uncomfortable temperature is one of the first signs of a low refrigerant level inside your AC unit. Next, you will notice that it takes too long for your air conditioner to cool the house or that only warm air is coming out of it. But there are more clues.

Here are the clues to look for when suspecting a problem with the refrigerant level:

  • It takes too long to cool the house
  • You can’t get the temperature you set
  • You get high electricity bills
  • Ice is built on the refrigerant lines
  •  Noises coming out of the AC unit
  • Water leaking near the furnace

It becomes evident that something is wrong if you set your thermostat to reach a specific temperature, but it is never reached even though your AC has been running for a long time.

Ice build-ups are also a huge clue. You know you have to refill the refrigerant if you see it around copper tubing or the evaporator coil. In addition, the same ice will eventually melt, creating a puddle near the furnace, giving you an additional warning sign about the lack of refrigerant.

Sometimes a poor airflow in the house can cause similar problems with your air conditioner, but once you have checked that nothing is blocking air from circulating, you know that the refrigerant is causing the problem.


To check the refrigerant level in your AC unit, you need the help of professionals. They can use professional tools to determine if there is enough refrigerant once connected with your system.

However, even without tools, you can still figure out you need to refill the refrigerant. If you have doubts and need help, do not hesitate to contact us.


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