If your portable AC is not cooling, you might assume that it’s running low on refrigerant.
However, unlike residential AC systems, portable ACs are not made to be recharged.
Portable ACs can not be recharged unless modifications are made to the unit. If your portable AC is leaking refrigerant, it is usually cheaper to get a new portable AC unit instead of recharging it.
In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know about recharging portable ACs.
I’ll also discuss if you can use a recharge kit on a portable AC and how to tell if your portable AC needs recharging.
What to do if your portable AC has a refrigerant leak
In the United States, refrigerant leaks in portable ACs must be repaired if they are discovered. If the leak is not repaired, the portable AC must be retired from use.
Portable ACs are hermetically sealed from the factory, which means that under normal operating conditions, they will not “use up” freon.
The only time that an AC will lose refrigerant is if it has a leak.
If your AC has a refrigerant leak, then the leak will need to be repaired before recharging it.
Refrigerant leak repairs on portable ACs must be performed by a licensed technician.
The licensed technician will locate and repair the leak if it is small enough to patch.
If the leak is large or a component needs to be replaced, the portable AC cannot be repaired since parts for portable ACs are generally not available for purchase.
How to recharge a portable air conditioner?
Portable air conditioners require service valves to be recharged, so valves will need to be added to the AC by a licensed technician before recharging the unit.
After the service valves are added, the portable AC can be recharged by a licensed technician.
In most areas, you are not legally able to add refrigerant to a portable AC without the proper license. In the United States, adding refrigerant to a portable AC requires an EPA Section 608 license.
Even then, you’ll find that most HVAC shops won’t repair portable air conditioners. Why is that?
It’s not worth their time. Most HVAC shops have enough business servicing residential and commercial HVAC systems.
If you really need to get your portable AC repaired and recharged, your best bet is to find an appliance repair shop since they usually work on those types of machines.
Can you use a recharge kit on a portable AC?
You cannot use a refrigerant recharge kit on a portable AC because portable ACs do not have service valves.
Service valves are needed to add or remove refrigerant to an AC.
Some portable ACs have small copper process stubs that a licensed technician can braze a service valve onto.
Another option is for a licensed technician to install a piercing service valve onto the portable AC’s refrigerant line.
Even if your portable AC has service valves, you cannot use a typical refrigerant recharge kit. Most refrigerant recharge kits have R-134A, while most portable ACs use R-410A or R-32.
How to tell if a portable AC needs recharging
A portable AC only needs recharging if it has a refrigerant leak.
If your portable AC has a refrigerant leak, the leak will need to be repaired by a licensed technician before it can be recharged.
Here are the signs that your portable AC has a refrigerant leak and needs recharging:
- Portable AC is blowing warm
- Evaporator coil is frozen up
- Portable AC is leaking water
However, in most cases, it is not worth it to recharge a portable AC.
The cost to repair and recharge a refrigerant leak on a portable AC is often close to the cost of replacing the entire unit.
If your portable AC has a refrigerant leak, I recommend retiring it from use and getting a new one instead of repairing it.