To understand the answer, we have to dive into the the technical side of the business.
The refrigeration system in your air conditioner works within a closed-loop system, in that the refrigerant circulates through your outdoor condenser into your indoor evaporator coil in a continuous process. It continues to be functional as long as the refrigerant remains at the proper level.
For a clearer example, think of refrigerant like the air in a tire. That air stays within the closed space and does not need to be refilled unless some leaks out. When it does go flat, partially filling up the tire or refilling the tire without addressing the leak is ill-advised, as it does not make a meaningful impact on the flat tire.
Juxtapose that with gas in your car. As it burns off, you must replace it constantly. If you add a small amount of gas, your car will still function properly—regardless of the gas level in the tank.
Your HVAC’s refrigeration system operates more like your car’s tires, not your gas tank. When your air conditioner gets low on refrigerant, it has a leak somewhere. We always recommend against adding refrigerant without finding and attempting to fix the leak.
At this point, you may be thinking you can still cut costs by adding just a small amount of freon after fixing a refrigeration leak. Unfortunately, this approach is unlikely to make a positive impact on cooling your house. Your system requires a certain quantity of refrigerant, at a certain pressure. Otherwise, it will not function properly.
When your system gets low on freon, you should have a certified HVAC technician:
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