If high summer temperatures have been giving your air conditioner a workout, but it seems your home has become difficult to cool and your energy bills are rising, you might be a victim of refrigerant huffing. Drug abusers, mainly teens, have started inhaling air conditioner refrigerant to get high. Not only is it hard on your air conditioner, it can be deadly for the abuser.
The easiest way to stop the practice is to have a locking safety cap installed on the service valve of your outdoor condenser. HVAC technicians use the service valve to adjust the amount of refrigerant in your system. Abusers remove the cap on the valve and either huff the refrigerant onsite or capture it in a bag for later use. If you startle someone who is actively huffing, the combination of adrenalin and refrigerant in the body may be enough to stop the heart.
Even if you don’t encounter someone refrigerant huffing, the health effects of this drug abuse are long-term, including heart, lung and brain damage. Low refrigerant also damages your air conditioner because it has to run longer to effectively cool your home. The extra wear and tear can result in premature part failure, along with higher electric bills. Should the pressure drop too low, the system won’t run at all.
The best approach to stop the practice is to have an HVAC contractor measure the pressure in your system. He or she will look for leaks in the coils and connections and fix them if that’s the problem. When no leaks are present, you’re probably the victim of refrigerant huffing. The safety cap will solve the problem.
It’s especially important to have your system checked if your A/C uses R-22 (commonly called Freon). The federal EPA limits the amount of this ozone-depleting refrigerant that can be produced annually, and the cost is rising. Recharging your system will cost a lot more as time goes by.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Illinois and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about refrigerant huffing and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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