How Refrigerant Works
Contrary to popular belief, an airconditioner utilizes (but does not consume) refrigerant to cool the interior air in a building. The only way a unit will lose refrigerant is if there is a leak somewhere in the system.
A refrigerator or air conditioner will never require a refrigerant recharge unless the system develops a leak. The sealed unit harnesses coolant fluids but does not consume them. The system is responsible for collecting, pressurizing and converting the coolant before recycling it for the next session.
The Evolution of Manufacturing Techniques
For many years, central cooling systems were equipped exclusively with evaporator coils made of copper. This was for two reasons. Copper is flexible enough to take on any shape and copper coils transfer heat efficiently.
Technological developments led to the use of aluminum coils because they are effective, more efficient and less expensive. Most HVAC manufactures now use aluminum in place of copper.
The Trouble with Copper Tubing
Copper is abundant and easy to work with on the job
site but it costs more than aluminum. Any system with copper coils will cost more to purchase. Many vendors defend the high cost by pointing out that copper is more durable and less likely to sustain damage.
Research results identified the following three facts about coolant leaks:
1 – Units less than one year old rarely have leaks.
2 – Leaks typically develop after the unit has been in service for a minimum of four years.
3 – Most leaks occur within the copper tubing walls and rarely occur at connections.
What Causes Leaks
Many leaks are associated with various brands of products and specific changes to unit designs to make them more efficient. Many copper coil manufacturers had moved to using thinner tubing in order to bring the price down closer to the cost of aluminum.
Thinner tubes are weaker and less durable resulting in more leaks. Research into the problem suggests that microscopic holes in the tubing allowed refrigerant to leak out. Additional study results indicate a link between Formic acid and coolant leaks.
Almost all buildings are susceptible to formaldehyde pollution. As the formaldehyde converts to Formic acid, it corrodes the copper tubes. This type of corrosion happens slowly and usually takes a minimum of five years to occur.
To reduce formicary corrosion, many manufacturers have begun replacing copper coils with ones made of aluminum.
Of course, cost is a factor when marketing any product and every vendor must face the fact that copper coils are more expensive to manufacture than coils made with aluminum.
Now that consumers are aware that leaks are less likely with the more affordable aluminum coils and they receive the same level of efficiency, there is no reason for any property owner to pay more for a cooling system that utilizes copper coils.