The word “leak” strikes fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned homeowners. Many go into a state of denial, hoping for the best and delaying the inevitable repair. But when it comes to your heater or air conditioner, delay has serious consequences…
Whether you’re dealing with leaky refrigerant, an air leak from your ducts, or any other issues, a leaky HVAC system can be costly. So it’s better to just face the music!
Regular maintenance is a must if you want reliable comfort that won’t cost a fortune. And one of the most important components of this maintenance is ensuring that there are no leaks anywhere in your heating and cooling system.
In this blog post, we’ll be exploring how even minor leaks in your HVAC system need to be addressed (and quickly!) in order to avoid serious consequences.
Understanding HVAC Leaks: The Culprits Behind Costly Repairs
If you’ve ever had your HVAC system serviced, chances are the technician did a thorough check for leaks. That’s because any and all leaks need to be addressed before anything else can be done.
Leaks in your HVAC system can have major consequences (which we’ll cover in detail later on). The most common problems that cause HVAC leaks are:
Condensate Drain Line Issues
Some heaters and most air conditioners create moisture in the form of condensation. This needs to be removed from your system, and it’s done via a condensate drain line. However, tiny clogs or breaks can occur in this line over time, causing leaks.
In states like Tennessee, high humidity can further increase the likelihood of a condensate drain line issue.
Your ductwork is responsible for distributing air throughout your home. But if there are any holes or gaps in the ducts, you’re going to be dealing with a major air leak. Up to 30% of costs related to energy waste can be attributed to air leaks that were totally avoidable. It’s probably safe to assume you’d rather not throw 30% of your money away!
Your HVAC system relies on refrigerant (sometimes referred to as “freon”) to facilitate heat exchange. This refrigerant is kept in sealed copper coils, but if it leaks out, it can cause your system to malfunction and lose efficiency.
It can also be dangerous to breathe or touch. While there’s no need to panic, it’s best to steer clear of these toxic substances. Direct contact with the refrigerant can cause skin irritations and other health issues.
Refrigerant leaks aren’t always staring you right in the face. They can come and go based on pressure, temperature, vibration, and other factors. And some are too small or inconsistent to detect without the right tools, so it’s best to have a professional come in regularly to test your HVAC system.
5 Signs of a Leaky HVAC System
If you have a dog, you’re probably aware of the subtle cues that they give you when something’s wrong. A tucked tail, a shiver, or an unusual bark can mean anything from fear to illness.
Well, your HVAC system has its own unique language, and it communicates to you in certain ways. To prevent the consequences of leaks, it’s crucial to pay attention to these indicators:
Water Puddles or Stains Around the Unit
A little water around your outdoor AC unit is normal, but any puddles or stains indoors could indicate a condensate drain line problem, and it’s one of the easier issues to fix. So make sure to check for any suspicious moisture around the unit (especially after running it).
Decreased Energy Efficiency
Leaky refrigerant, bad ductwork, and other issues can cause your system to work harder than it should, which means higher bills.
In fact, research shows that if your ducts are leaking, 20% of the air passes through them, and your HVAC system is working 50% harder! And that translates to a huge increase in energy costs.
Increased Energy Bills
Have your energy bills taken an unexpected and unwelcome hike? As we mentioned above, that could be a sign of a leaky HVAC system that’s struggling to maintain energy efficiency. And this can cause an instant hit to your wallet.
However, it’s important to note that energy bills fluctuate seasonally. So before you jump to any conclusions, make sure to compare the current bill with one from the same month of the year prior.
Unusual Odors or Sounds
From a musty, mildewy odor to a full-blown rotten egg stench, your nose can indicate something going wrong with your HVAC system. Smells can be caused by mold, dust, faulty wiring, and more.
Some smells are normal, for example, a faint oil smell when the unit is running or a “burning” smell when you first turn it on for the season. But if that smell lingers, there could be a bigger problem.
Listen to the sounds of your HVAC unit as well. A steady hum is normal, but any grinding, gurgling, or rattling could signify an issue with the system.
Uneven Cooling or Heating
Does one end of your home feel like an ice skating rink while the other is like a sauna? Uneven cooling or heating could point to leaks in your ducts, a malfunctioning thermostat, or several other issues.
Dangers of Ignoring HVAC Leaks: Risks You Can’t Afford to Overlook
When it comes to HVAC leaks, turning a blind eye can have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond costly repairs. No one wants to take time off work and fork out money for something that could have been easily avoided with regular maintenance. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye on the signs of HVAC leaks and address them immediately.
The risks of ignoring your system’s needs include:
Mold and Mildew Growth
Yes, comfort is the goal of any HVAC system. But it should also be a source of healthy air. When leaks occur, your system can become a breeding ground for trouble!
Moisture can build up in the ducts creating a prime environment for the growth of mold spores that then circulate through your home.
Exposure to mold can lead to:
- Respiratory issues
- Decreased air quality
Also, mold can take your property value down with it. You may need to invest in costly air purification systems or even complete mold remediation if you let the problem get out of hand…
Damage to Your HVAC System and Property
On a hot summer day in Tennessee, comfort is a must. But if you ignore the signs of a leak, then your HVAC system may fail when you need it most.
Leaky refrigerant can damage compressor components and corrode copper coils. It can also lead to corrosion in other metal parts like fan motors and bearings. That means big repairs or even replacement bills! And with the average cost of a new unit ranging from $1,200 to over $14,000, that’s something you don’t want to overlook (although financing can certainly make this easier to budget for).
A leaky HVAC system can also cause damage to your home in the form of ceiling and wall stains, warped wood floors, ruined carpeting, and more. Unless you’re planning some HGTV-worthy renovations, you’re better off keeping an eye out for the signs of a leaky HVAC system.
Decreased Energy Efficiency
There’s no worse way to spend your hard-earned money than to pay more for energy bills than you should! But with a leaky HVAC system, you could be paying more than necessary for your comfort.
The reason? Leaky HVAC systems run longer and harder, working to combat the effects of leaks. That means your energy bills can skyrocket due to a decrease in airflow and poorly functioning equipment.
It’s also important to consider the effects of outdated equipment. According to Energy Star, upgrading to a high-efficiency system can save you upwards of 20% on heating and cooling costs.
So if your current system is over 10 years old, or if the cost to repair leaks is nearing 50% of the cost of a replacement, it may be time for a new HVAC system.
Think beyond your comfort and finances when it comes to the consequences of leaky HVAC systems. Refrigerants are known contributors to environmental damage. And if your system is leaking, you may be releasing harmful gasses into the atmosphere.
If you have an older system, then your unit may be filled with R-22 refrigerant, a chlorofluorocarbon that has been banned due to its environmental impact.
The Environmental Protection Agency has established regulations for proper refrigerant disposal and recovery when it comes time to replace systems or repair leaks. So if you think your HVAC system is too old or leaking, then make sure you call on a technician who knows the proper disposal and recovery procedures.
By promptly addressing and repairing refrigerant leaks, you play a crucial role in reducing your carbon footprint and preserving the environment for future generations.
Certain refrigerants like R-22 are being phased out to protect our precious environment. The government is serious about this, and they’ve implemented regulations under the Clean Air Act to enforce the phaseout. So ignoring a refrigerant leak can actually be illegal…
When you turn a blind eye to those leaks, you’re risking expensive repairs, legal trouble, and fines!
Timely HVAC Maintenance: Your Cost-Effective Investment
Prevention is always better than cure, which also holds true for your heater or air conditioner! Regular HVAC maintenance plays a vital role in:
- Avoiding leaks
- Extending equipment life
- Keeping energy bills low
- Saving money on repair costs
A tune-up may cost a few hundred dollars, but the savings you receive from your first energy bill alone can make up for it!
Here’s why timely HVAC maintenance should be at the top of your homeowner’s to-do list:
- Leaks can be spotted early before they cause serious damage to your home or wallet.
- Your HVAC technician can keep an eye out for wear and tear, which could result in costly repairs down the line.
- Regular maintenance ensures your system continues to run efficiently, saving you money on energy bills.
- Indoor air quality can be improved with regular filter changes.
- You can feel confident that your system won’t malfunction when you need it most.
Don’t let those pesky HVAC leaks bring you down! Stay one step ahead of costly repairs and ensure a blissful indoor climate by reaching out to the experts at Lee Company.
Our team of qualified HVAC professionals is equipped with the knowledge and expertise to meticulously examine your system, sniff out potential leaks, and swiftly tackle them before they morph into expensive nightmares. Plus, you’ll enjoy optimal performance, energy efficiency, and a more comfortable indoor climate.
Ready to get that leak in check? Contact us 24/7 for emergency services or schedule an appointment today.
Need HVAC repair or maintenance?CALL US NOW AT 615.567.1000