Here’s the thing: Window air conditioners can spend their whole lifespan without recharging. Refrigerator lines are a closed system (unlike car ACs, for example); the R22 or R401A refrigerant can’t escape and doesn’t need to be replenished.
So why do we wonder how to recharge a window air conditioner?
It’s all had to do with time. When window AC units become older, the closed Freon system can not be as wholly closed as we hope it would be.
If you’re trying to figure out how to rechange a window AC unit, you probably have an even bigger problem to worry about: A leak in the refrigerator lines.
Leaking window AC results in depletion of Freon and the need to replace the Freon manually. However, before recharging the AC, we need to deal with the primary issue at hand: The leaking window AC.
It makes little sense to put Freon in a window air conditioner if we know there is a leak. It’s like trying to add air to a car tire with a hole. No matter how much air (or Freon in our case) we put in, the air will still leak out.
Another thing we have to considers is this:
How do you really know if your AC is low on Freon?
In other words, your window AC doesn’t work, how do you figure out if the problem is the lack of Freon or something, well, anything else?
To put it simply: Yes, you can rechange your window air conditioner yourself. It’s not the easiest job in the world, it does require specialized HVAC equipment, but with the right attitude, it can be done.
To learn how to properly recharge a window air conditioner, we will use the classic 9 step-by-step Freon refill guide. Here is how it has to be structured for everybody to actually rechange the AC adequately:
- How to check if your window AC is actually low on Freon (Steps 1-3).
- How to locate the leakage and fix it (Steps 4-6).
- How to properly refill the Freon into the refrigerant lines (Steps 7-10).
Important note before you start: Safety first! Adding Freon to a window AC unit can be dangerous; you can hurt the unit or yourself. Make sure to follow the required safety measures like turning off the thermostat wiring, breaker, and weaving safety glasses, gloves, as well as using proper HVAC equipment.
In the US, every homeowner is permitted to add Freon to the AC. However, if you find the job too difficult, the EPA requires you to hire a professional with proper certification for rechanging your AC unit. Below the Freon replacement guide, you will find a way how to contact professional HVAC technicians to help you out.
Diagnosing If Low Refrigerant Levels Are The Actual Problem (Steps 1-3)
A window AC that is low on Freon will still cool but as it used to. It’s the same principle with a hole in a tire; you can still drive but not as far.
Determining a mid-level decrease in the output airflow temperature is the main indicator of low levels of refrigerant. To test if the decrease in the output airflow temperature is actually mid-level (not room temperature or properly cool), we’ll use one of the simplest HVAC tools – a digital thermometer.
Step 1: Measure The Temperature Of Window AC Airflow
This is quite straightforward. Get close to the air handler with a ready digital thermometer. It will take about a minute at most to correctly measure the temperature.
Probably you’re trying to figure out if Freon needs to be changed because the airflow from your window AC is not as cold as it should be. We are just measuring this to make sure the difference in temperature is in line with low Freon levels problems.
Step 2: Measure The Room Temperature
Room temperature is the benchmark. We’ll need it to calculate the difference in temperature that the window AC unit is still capable of making.
Use the digital thermometer to measure the room temperature and note it down.
Step 3: Calculate The Temperature Difference Window AC Is Still Capable Of
Calculate the difference between the measured room temperature and the temperature of the window AC output airflow.
Example: Room temperature = 86 °F. Airflow temperature = 70 °F. The difference is hence 86 °F – 70 °F = 16 °F.
Here is a rule of thumb to get an idea if leaking Freon is truly the culprit:
- If the temp. difference is higher than 20 °F, you don’t have to change the refrigerant. Cleaning the filters will probably do the trick.
- If the temp. difference is between 10 °F and 20 °F, you most likely have a Freon leak. This calls for window AC refrigerator recharging.
- If the temp. difference is below 10 °F, you have a more serious problem than leaking Freon. You can check how an HVAC technician fixes AC’s that aren’t working properly here.
Locating The Freon Leak And Use A Quick Fix To Seal It (Steps 4-6)
Fixing a refrigerant leak seems, at first, like a daunting procedure. And it’s true; for bigger systems like central AC units and ductless mini-split systems, you should contact your HVAC guy to seal the leak.
Fortunately, however, you can deal with small leaks yourself. First of all, however, you have to expose the refrigerant lines and find exactly where the Freon is leaking:
Step 4: Unmounting The Window AC And Exposing The Refrigerant Wires
Your window AC unit, be it a saddle unit or one of the quieter window AC units, is installed on the window. Unplug the unit, clear away the installation kit, and take it down to be able to fix it. Most DIY enthusiasts do this in their garage.
Use a screwdriver to undo the panel on the unit (usually located on the backside of window AC units; the side facing outdoors).
First, locate the compressor. It looks like a car battery, usually colored black.
Secondly, note the two lines that go from the window AC unit’s mainframe to the compressor. These are the refrigerant lines; one delivers Freon to the compressor and the other is the Freon outflow line.
Be aware that both of these lines contain R22 or R410A refrigerant that is under high pressure.
Step 5: Locate The R22 Or R410A Leak
Go along both refrigerant lines and look for leaking Freon. Chances are there will be a small pool of R22 or R410A, depending on your refrigerant, under the leak. That’s the easy detection.
In most cases, detecting the leak is not so easy. HVAC technicians use several methods like dye detection, electronic detection, nitrogen detection, oil detection, and even soap bubble detection to locate the leak in bigger units.
In a smaller unit like a 10,000 BTU window AC unit, it’s much easier to detect the leak by careful visual observation of the Freon lines.
Finding and sealing the leak is essential for the refrigerant recharge to be effective. Here’s how you seal the leak:
Step 6: How To Seal A Refrigerant Leak
With bigger units, you will need specialized HVAC equipment to seal the leak. If, however, you are dealing with a small (15,000 BTU or smaller) window AC unit, you can do that yourself with something as simple as a Freon leak repair kit.
Basically, these kits are easy-to-use, no pump downs or syringes needed “glues” that seal the leak of small AC window units. They are made specifically for non-professionals who are trying to recharge an air conditioner. The best-selling direct injection Freon kit is the Leak Saver; it costs about 40 bucks, you can get it here.
Here is a photo from their marketing material (might sound a bit over the top) but the important thing is that this Leak Saver actually does the job of sealing the window AC leak very well:
Once you have sealed the leak, you again have a closed system. Now you can confidently recharge the refrigerant lines of the window air conditioner with the – important – the right refrigerant.
Recharging Window AC Unit With Freon (Steps 7-9)
Now, we can finally learn exactly how to put Freon in a window air conditioner.
Here is the essential part:
Use the right kind of Freon. You can’t R22 refrigerant is a window AC unit that uses R410A, for example. Check the specification sheet or the label on the unit; you will find exactly what type of refrigerant you need to recharge your window air conditioner with.
Recharging the AC will require some specialized HVAC equipment like gauges for Freon charging. If you don’t have one, you can check Step 8; there you’ll find a $30 gauge set for Freon charging that you can also use with car AC:
Step 7: Locate Freon-Adding Line And Attach The Tap Valve
You have two refrigerant lines, but there is only one in which you can add Freon. First of all, we have to locate that one. It’s usually the larger of the two lines; some refrigerant lines also come with an ‘Add Freon Here’ description on the line.
Once you have the right refrigerant line to add refrigerant into, attach a tap valve. You will find all the directions on how to attach a tap valve to the refrigerant line on the documents that came with the valve. Follow them and have the tap valve attached. That’s the 1st step in recharging a window AC unit.
Step 8: Connect Gauges And Release The Air From Refrigerant Lines
If the Freon was leaking, there is a change that it was replaced by air. Before we can put the Freon in the window air conditioner, we have to release the accumulated air located within the refrigerant lines.
First of all, check the gauges and make sure they are turned off. Now we will use the tap valve we have just added.
Connect the blue tube to the:
- Tap valve you’ve just installed.
- Compound gauge.
If you don’t have a set of gauges, you can easily get them.
Do note that this cheap gauge set will work for R22 refrigerant but not for R410A refrigerant. R410A refrigerant gauges are more expensive: the best one is by Yellow Jacket and it costs about $150. You can get an R410A gauge set for AC units here.
After you have attached the blue tube properly, put the window air conditioner in the maximum output fan speed setting (usually designated as “High” or “Turbo”). Keep it running at that maximum airflow output for 5 minutes so that the remaining Freon starts flowing.
This is very important: Take the correct Freon bottle. R22 for R22 window AC units, R410A for R410A units, and so on.
Connect the Freon bottle containing refrigerant you will recharge your window AC unit with to the yellow tube. When the connection is secure, open the freon valve.
To release air, loosen the at-gauge yellow tubing for a bit. Keep it loosened for 2 seconds before tightening it back up. This simple process will remove the excess air from the refrigerant lines.
Step 10: Putting Freon In The Refrigerant Lines
To start adding the Freon into the refrigerant lines, open the low side valve only (opening the high-pressure valve can be extremely dangerous; leave it closed). Now you’re actively pouring Freon into the refrigerant lines.
It’s kind of like adding pressure to a car type, right?
The one thing you need to know is when the window AC refrigerant lines are recharged (completely full). There might be some variation between different types of refrigerant lines, producers, and Freon type but most commonly you are recommended to stop the Freon input when the pressure on the gauge reaches 70 psi.
When you reach 70 psi, the window AC units have been fully recharged. Job well done!
Remove everything: The gauges, Freon, and remove all the tubing.
The last step is to make you close the new valve you’ve installed. When you remove the blue tube, just keep in mind to close that valve, and you have successfully put the Freon in the window AC unit.
I Can’t DIY This: Who Do I Call?
This is the basic 10 step way how to put Freon in the window AC unit. Hopefully, everybody with a bit of technical skills can use it to recharge a window air conditioner on their own.
However, the task of diagnosing, finding, and fixing the leak, and putting Freon in the big refrigerant line is quite daunting and it’s completely understandable that most people would prefer help from a professional.
Do keep in mind that while you can add Freon to a window AC yourself, EPA requires that everybody you hire to do it for you, has to have proper HVAC certification to recharge the unit.
If you don’t really know which HVAC technicians have certification, you can simply use this HVAC technician form here. Input your requirements, and you will get 4 free quotes from certified technicians near you to help you out; you can compare the prices and experiences of the guys that can help you recharge the window unit.
All in all, you can DIY add Freon to a window AC unit using this 10 step-by-step guide. Hope this helps.