Refrigerant Huffing: A Serious Problem
If you’ve never heard of refrigerant huffing, don’t feel alone. It’s an emerging trend among teenagers, primarily, that has devastating health consequences and damages your air conditioner. Central air conditioners have outdoor condensers that use valves for filling the system with refrigerant. Abusers remove the valve covers and let the refrigerant escape to get high or capture the gas in a bag for later use.
The practice can be fatal, especially if you surprise someone who is inhaling the refrigerant. The combination of adrenalin and the refrigerant can stop the heart and if medical attention isn’t immediate, it can be fatal. Over time, refrigerant huffing can cause long term heart problems, as well as lung and brain damage.
Although the problems low refrigerant creates for your air conditioner are not nearly as serious as the health problems for the abuser, it’s still an issue. Low refrigerant increases the amount of electricity your system uses and low levels contribute to wear and tear. If levels drop too low, your A/C won’t run at all. If your system uses R-22 Freon, the cost of replacing it is going to continue to escalate, since this product is being phased out.
The best recourse you have to protect your condenser and prevent someone from abusing your equipment is to install a locking safety cap on the condenser’s valve. If your air conditioner doesn’t seem to be working as well as it did last year, it would be good to contact an HVAC contractor soon to diagnose the problem. If no leaks or loose connections exist, low levels may have been caused by refrigerant huffing. HVAC technicians can install the locking cap to stop the practice of huffing. The caps need a key to remove them.
If you would like more information about refrigerant huffing and getting a locking cap installed, contact Sobieski Services. We provide HVAC services for the Wilmington, Westchester, Dover and Newark areas.
Sobieski serves Wilmington, Delaware and the surrounding areas. Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC & plumbing systems).
Image Credit: Peter Kaminski