You may not have heard of refrigerant huffing, but it’s an alarming practice, typically among teenagers. The abusers remove refrigerant from air conditioners either by trapping it in plastic bags or breathing it directly. Central air conditioners and heat pumps have condensers that sit outdoors and have valves that can be opened to expel the gas.
Huffing is a serious problem because of the health risks associated with this activity. It can cause death, brain damage, heart and liver damage, and long-term lung problems. The degree of damage depends on how much refrigerant is consumed and how often the inhaler has been abusing it.
Your A/C valves have caps that can be removed. The best way to prevent someone from tapping into your air conditioning system is to place a safety cap on the valve that locks and requires a key for access. Homeowners who are most at risk are those whose condensers sit outdoors in very accessible and noticeable locations.
If your air conditioner isn’t cooling your home adequately, your refrigerant level may be low, possibly caused by someone draining some of the gas from your equipment. Other reasons could be pinhole leaks or bad connections along the coil’s pathway into your home’s blower. The only way to know for sure why your A/C is having issues is to have an HVAC technician check your equipment for leaks. If there are none, a huffer may be responsible for the low levels.
Even if your coolant levels are within the manufacturer’s specifications, it’s still a good idea to use a locking safety cap for your A/C to prevent future abuse. Nobody wins when someone abuses your equipment. The abuser risks life and long-term health and the victim ends up with higher utility bills and expensive refills.
If you’d like to learn more about the problem of people huffing refrigerant and how to prevent it from happening outside your house, contact Ernst Heating & Cooling. We’ve provided HVAC services for the Metro-East area since 1951.
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.