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Refrigerant Flooding: What You Need to Know

Atlanta Heating & Air Solutions Mabelton
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Short-cycling isn’t the only problem that can affect your air conditioning system’s performance. Another common problem is refrigerant flooding. It can affect all types of refrigerant-based air conditioning systems. What is refrigerant flooding exactly?

What Is Refrigerant Flooding?

Also known as compressor floodback or refrigerant floodback, refrigerant flooding occurs when liquid refrigerant enters the compressor of an air conditioning system. The liquid refrigerant essentially floods the compressor.

What Is the Compressor?

The compressor is the part of an air conditioning system that moves refrigerant from the evaporator coil to the condenser coil. After collecting heat at the evaporator coil, refrigerant travels to the compressor where it’s compressed. The compressed refrigerant then travels to the condenser coil where the heat is released.

Compressors, however, are designed specifically to compress refrigerant in a gas state. They aren’t designed to compress refrigerant in a liquid state. Refrigerant, of course, changes between a gas and liquid state as it moves into and out of your home. The evaporator coil will typically convert refrigerant from a liquid state to a gas state. With refrigerant flooding, this conversion doesn’t happen. Refrigerant will remain in a liquid state as it travels from the evaporator coil to the compressor.

The Dangers of Refrigerant Flooding

With refrigerant flooding, your compressor may sustain serious damage. Compressors contain lubricating compounds, such as mineral oil or synthetic oil, to reduce friction between their moving parts. If liquid refrigerant enters your air conditioning system’s compressor, it may remove these lubricating compounds. The liquid refrigerant will collect the lubricating compounds, after which it will move them to other parts of your air conditioning system.

Without the necessary lubricating compounds, your air conditioning system’s compressor may seize up. Compressors are motorized devices. Like other types of motors, they feature an oil-filled crankcase that provides lubrication. Refrigerant flooding will remove oil from the crankcase so that the compressor is vulnerable to friction- and heat-related damage. Damage such as this can cause the compressor to seize up.

Even if it doesn’t render the compressor useless, refrigerant flooding can reduce the efficiency of your air conditioning system. Air conditioning systems work by moving heat through refrigerant. The refrigerant picks up heat inside your home, and upon reaching the condenser coil outside of your home, the refrigerant will release the heat. With that said, less heat will be released from the refrigerant if it’s in a liquid state rather than a gas state.

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