Is Air Conditioner Coolant Poisonous?


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If your air conditioner has suddenly stopped working as well as it used to, you may be wondering what might be causing this. You might also be wondering if the coolant in my air conditioner has stopped working correctly, is there a chance it can be poisonous? 

Air conditioner coolant can be poisonous only if the coolant is made up of Freon, there is a Freon leak in your air conditioner, and you breathe it in for an extended period. Freon has also been shown to be harmful to the environment. Repair your air conditioner as soon as possible if a leak occurs.

If you have discovered that your air conditioner coolant is made from Freon and you suspect there may be a leak, don’t panic. This article will discuss how this air conditioner coolant can be toxic, how to detect a Freon leak, what to do if there is a Freon leak, and how you can prevent leaks in the future.

How Air Conditioner Coolant Can Be Toxic

When actively used in your air conditioner, Freon does not present any toxicity and is not poisonous. However, when a Freon leak occurs in your air conditioner, being exposed to this substance for a long period of time can be toxic to your health and the environment. A Freon leak, though, only presents a danger to your health when you are actively exposed and breathing in the substance.

The Two Forms of Freon

Freon can be a liquid or a gas, and both are potentially harmful to your health when exposed to either form. It is a cooling agent; therefore, the chemicals within the Freon are the real issue when it comes to a potential Freon leak. 

Freon, both in its liquid and gas form, do not have a color and generally do not produce an odor. Although some say it smells of oil, nail polish, and other types of scents, there is not a confirmed scent for Freon, and it is generally supposed to be odorless. 

Symptoms of Freon Exposure

There are a couple of signs that you may be exposed to Freon, and there is a Freon leak in your air conditioner. There are a variety of symptoms you may experience depending on the severity of the exposure. Some of the symptoms of Freon exposure from a leak include:

  • Dizziness from inhaling the gas.
  • Frostbite from the liquid form of Freon.
  • Throat, nose, and lung irritation.

How Does a Freon Leak Happen?

Although the Freon shouldn’t leak, there are instances where it can happen. Mainly a Freon leak in your air conditioner is caused by temperature changes. 

To put it in simple terms, the metals and parts that make up your air conditioner can stop working overtime when exposed to temperature change, vibrations, or from the presence of certain chemicals, for example. These parts, or coils, can get cracked or damaged.  

How To Detect a Freon Leak

The number one way to detect if your air conditioner is leaking Freon is by testing how powerful the unit is now compared to how it used to be. In other words, do you notice that your air conditioner is not getting as cold as it used to? If the answer is yes, you may have a Freon leak. 

There are a couple of other signs that you may have a Freon leak in your air conditioner. According to Universal Air & Heat, some of the signs of a leak include:

  • The air conditioner is not getting cold enough.
  • Feeling warm air blowing out of the AC unit.
  • Hearing a hissing sound.

Also, it is important to note that you should not try and sniff out a Freon leak. It is not an effective method and has not been shown to accurately detect a leak in your air conditioning. 

What To Do if You Suspect a Freon Leak

The most important step you can take when you suspect or detect a Freon leak is to contact a repair technician to fix your air conditioner for you. In this case, it is best to contact a professional who will know how to fix it in the correct manner.

Detecting a Freon Leak Yourself

If you want to be sure that the problem is, in fact, a Freon leak before you hire someone to come fix it, there are a couple of ways you can detect the problem yourself. 

The first method is to simply use the common warning signs of a Freon leak, such as testing the performance of the air conditioner, hearing weird noises, and so on. 

The second method is purchasing a product that is specifically designed to detect these leaks. If you want to confirm a Freon leak yourself, I recommend the Elitech WJL-6000 Freon Leak Detector from Amazon.com. This leak detector is easy to understand and use, is fast at detecting leaks, and allows you to detect a Freon leak yourself before reaching out to a professional to fix it. 

How You Can Prevent a Freon Leak

After all this information, I am sure you are wondering, how do you prevent a Freon leak from happening? The short answer is simple; it really shouldn’t be happening in the first place. The refrigerants in your air conditioning unit are not meant to leak, and they shouldn’t. Unfortunately, though, there is always a chance that it can happen, but there are ways to make it less likely to occur.

Take Care of Your Air Conditioner

It may seem quite simple, but it’s the most important way to make sure there is less of a chance you will experience a leak in your AC unit. If you want to hear from an expert on how a repair technician will maintain your air conditioning unit as well as even more information on leaks, here’s a 15-minute video from The Air of Authority:

You Can Replace the Type of Coolant Used 

If you have a leak and you call a technician, they can replace the Freon, and your air conditioner unit will be good to go. There is another option, though, and that is to use a completely different coolant all together. 

According to One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning, because of its impact on the environment, Freon is actually starting to be replaced with a different type of coolant. This coolant is called Puron, or R-410A, and is being used because it was shown to be more environmentally friendly and less toxic. 

If you want to make the switch, you will most likely need to change your air conditioning unit as a whole and buy a new one. Many new air conditioners are already being built without using Freon, though, as many places are trying to get rid of the use of Freon. 

Final Thoughts

In summary, air conditioner coolant is only toxic when you have a Freon leak and are exposed to the gas for a long period of time. It can also be harmful in its liquid form, as it can cause frostbite. Nonetheless, it can impact your health, and it has been shown to have a negative impact on the environment. 

Therefore, make sure to get your air conditioner fixed as soon as you suspect or detect a leak. With the usage of Freon dwindling, though, you may not even need to worry about potential exposure to this substance in the future.

Chris Hewitt

Chris is a Texas-based freelance writer who loves the outdoors and working in his garage. When he's not enjoying the Texas sun, he can be found tinkering with all sorts of things in his workshop.

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