A dangerous practice, mainly among teens, is putting your air conditioner at risk and harming the long-term health of the environment and people who abuse your system. Refrigerant huffing has emerged as a way to get high. Anyone who has a central air conditioner at home with an outdoor condenser at ground level is at risk for this abuse.
The only protection that homeowners have is to install a locking safety cap on the condenser’s valve. The valve on condensers supplies the port for adding refrigerant and without a locking cap, anyone can remove it and access the refrigerant. Abusers either inhale the refrigerant on-site or capture it in a plastic bag to use later.
While it’s not good for your A/C to run with low refrigerant, it’s worse for people to inhale this chemical. It can cause sudden death or long-term health problems with the heart, lungs and brain. Startling someone who is huffing refrigerant can stop the heart, and unless medical care is immediate, the incident can be fatal.
Symptoms of low refrigerant in your system include reduced cooling and higher energy bills. If you’re experiencing either of these, contact your HVAC professional, who can check your system for leaks or loose connections throughout the coils. If there are leaks, the contractor will fix them before refilling the system. If your system uses R-22, often known by the trade name Freon, asking the contractor sooner than later to check your system and install the lock can save you a good deal of money.
The cost of R-22 is on a steep rise, due to the EPA’s mandate that the supply of this chemical be phased out by the year 2020. Each year, the amount available will decrease, which escalates its price. R-22 is also the most toxic, so putting the safety cap on your air conditioner will prevent an abuser from serious health problems.
If you would like to learn more about protecting your air conditioner, contact Paschal Heat, Air & Geothermal. We’ve provided HVAC services for northwestern Arkansas for over 40 years. We look forward to protecting your A/C and others from dangerous refrigerant huffing.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about air conditioners and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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