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There is a very common scenario that we run across with new home buyers. They just purchased an existing home within the last year, or last few months, and we get called out because they are having problems cooling their home. Come to find out there is a refrigerant leak in the air conditioning system. Could this have occurred after they purchased the home? Yeah, however due to the frequency that this occurs you have to come to the conclusion that many of these refrigerant leaks existed prior to purchasing the home.
When a potential home buyer gets to the final phases of purchasing an existing home they get a home inspector involved. In regards to the air conditioning system, an inspector will look at what kind of shape the air conditioning system and duct system are in, confirm its age, verify the system is cooling/heating to the set point on the thermostat, and even verify the temperatures coming out of the registers are where they should be. What they are not doing is searching for a refrigerant leak.
There are sellers out there that know they have a refrigerant leak in their air conditioning system that has not been fixed. They have been putting refrigerant into their system, whether it be routinely or just once. If the system has a leak it is typically expensive to repair. So instead of fixing the problem, they have refrigerant put into the air conditioning system before the home inspection. Everything looks great for the home inspection, then months later the problem shows up.
If you are purchasing a home, at the time of the home inspection have a licensed air conditioning professional look over the air conditioning system and DO A LEAK SEARCH. The leak search portion will consist of inspecting the system for traces oil, and using a leak detector. If there is a leak, it is possible that a technician may not be able to easily locate it, but this is not common. You are far better off spending around $100 for this service before you buy the home, than to find out afterwards that you will need to spend over $1,000 on a repair, or worse have to buy a new air conditioning system that wasn’t in the budget.