If you have opened up your refrigerator and found that the food is warm even though the fridge is running, there is a possibility that you have a freon or coolant leak. You must correct this problem as soon as possible because freon is hazardous to the environment. Given the toxicity of freon it is vital that you contact a repair service for this type of repair if you are unsure what kind of coolant is being used in your unit.
What is Freon?
Freon is a gas that very cold when it is compressed into a liquid. Freon is in a sealed system in your refrigerator. If your appliance was manufactured before 1995, your unit would most likely have freon or R-12 as its cooling gas. Units built after 1995 most likely use 134-A coolant. New models (2010 and newer), may use a different gas that is even more effective than the older models.
In most states, you must be a licensed technician to purchase R-12. If your unit uses R-12, you will need to contact a service rep to make the repair because you will not be able to purchase the coolant. Some states have even outlawed the use of this coolant altogether.
It is crucial that you know the exact type of coolant your unit uses. If you put a new coolant into the unit that does not match what it is currently being used, you will seize up the compressor, and it will no longer run.
Where is Freon Located?
The freon system in your refrigerator is located on the backside of the unit. It is a three-part system consisting of the compressor, the condenser, and the evaporator. These units are connected by copper lines.
What is the Purpose of Freon?
Freon is a gas that becomes very cold when it is compressed, not a liquid. When you add coolant to your system, it goes through the compressor to become a liquid where it then moves through the condenser and evaporator to cool the unit. As it moves through the system, it becomes a gas again, and the process is started over.
Is a Freon Leak Dangerous?
A freon leak can be very dangerous. Inhaling excessive amounts of freon can cause harm to your throat, sinuses, and lungs. If you suspect a freon leak, it is important to have it repaired immediately.
Freon is also very dangerous when allowed to seep into the ground. It can be serious contamination to soil and groundwater. If your freon is leaking, you must properly fix the leak and try to clean the residue from the leak.
How to Spot a Freon Leak
Spotting a freon leak can be a little difficult since it is a gas. The most common way of spotting a leak is if you smell a chemical or musty smell around your unit. You may also see a puddle near your fridge that looks very oily.
If you are searching for the leak in your unit, you will need to dry off all of the lines and then spray them gently with soapy water. If the gas is escaping, bubbles will form on the line. This is a very slow process, but it will help you find the line to replace. If you have a leaking line, make sure that you replace this before adding any more coolant to the system.
You can also purchase a freon leak detector. Which is a battery powered handheld device with a probe on the end of it that should beep or signal if it detects leakages.
How to Repair Freon Leak
If you open up the back of your refrigerator, you will see the compressor, the condenser, and the evaporator, as well as several copper lines. This is your freon system. However, you will need to use your owner’s manual to determine which piece is which so that you can find the right copper line to refill the freon.
You will need to:
1. Find the large copper line that is coming out of the compressor. This will be your fill line.
2. You will then need to install a saddle valve or a schrader valve. The saddle valve is a clamp which will puncture the line so that you can add more freon to the system at a later point. The schrader valve is a valve that you attach to the end of the line. Either works.
3. vacuum out all of the air out of the system. This requires a special tool that can often be rented from a local hardware store. Below is a picture of an air vacuum pump. This unit will have a hose attached to the end that you will connect to the valve.
4. Add the coolant after you have vacuumed the line. The coolant/freon will come in a bottle/can that will have a hose and a gauge on it.
Add the coolant using the correct valves so that the air is not leaked out. Once you have added the correct amount, you will need to add PAG oil to the line so that it can lubricate the compressor and allow the coolant to move freely through the system. Once this has been added, seal the valve so that the coolant cannot leak out.
How to Avoid Freon Leaks?
Freon leaks are generally caused by two types of issues, faulty equipment or punctures.
- refrain from moving your unit around too much.
- Regularly maintenance you refrigerator (which includes cleaning the the dust and debris in an around the essential parts and mechanisms)
Consult A Repair Service
Although a freon leak may be able to be repaired as a DIY project, it is always in your best interest to consult with a repair service for this type of repair. Freon and similar coolants are very dangerous to work with, and a mistake could be harmful to you or your refrigerator.
Freon leaks are not as common as many people would believe. If your refrigerator is not cooling properly, there is a good chance that it is a different problem, such as a faulty piece in the cooling system instead of a coolant leak.
If you are not comfortable with trying to repair your own fridge, it will be very beneficial to have a service company inspect the unit to determine what is wrong so that you can have a safe and speedy repair.