Split Air Conditioning Systems In Offices: What Should You Do If Your System Has A Refrigerant Leak?

Split air conditioning systems are highly prized for their power, energy efficiency and compact size and are widely used to keep offices and other commercial spaces cool throughout the continent. However, while most split air conditioning systems are very reliable, problems can occur, and one serious problem unique to split AC systems is refrigerant leaks. 

What are refrigerant leaks in split air conditioning systems?

Split air conditioning systems get their name from the way they are laid out — an outdoor condenser is attached to one or more indoor cooling vents by refrigerant piping running through the walls of your office. The liquid refrigerant in these pipes is cooled to a very low temperature in the condenser, then sent through the piping to the indoor vents, which use the chilled liquid to create cool air inside your office.

After years of service, or accidental damage caused by office renovation or other causes, the refrigerant piping in a split air conditioning system can start to leak. This is a more serious problem than you might think — most varieties of refrigerant used in air conditioning systems are toxic and can cause irritation on contact with bare skin. Worse, evaporating refrigerant from a leak can contaminate the AC's air supply, creating toxic gases that can cause severe lung problems and allergic reactions.

How can I detect a refrigerant leak in my office split air conditioning system?

Refrigerant leaks in split AC systems are not always easy to spot, especially if they occur in pipes that are built into your office walls. However, the following 'symptoms' can all signify a refrigerant leak:

  • Gradual loss of cooling power
  • Unusual hissing noises coming from the condenser or the indoor vent(s)
  • Water dripping from vents
  • Ice crystals forming around vent openings

Bear in mind that most of these symptoms can be caused by unrelated issues with your split system. However, if you notice a sweet, cloying smell coming from your system's vents, shut down the system as quickly as possible — this smell is caused by evaporating refrigerant liquid being expelled from your vents and can be extremely dangerous in smaller or poorly ventilated offices.

What should I do if my office's split air conditioning system suffers a refrigerant leak?

If you think that your office's split AC system is leaking refrigerant liquid, you should call in a professional air conditioning service as soon as possible. Detecting and repairing a refrigerant leak safely simply isn't a DIY job, and professional services will have the tools and experience necessary to quickly find and seal any and all refrigerant leaks in your system. They can also replenish your system's supply of refrigerant if too much liquid was lost during the leak. Look for someone who provides air conditioning repair for more information.