Cost to Fix Freon Leak

njmama1February 23, 2009

We bought our house (built 2002) in July of 2008. We noticed right away that the A/C unit started freezing up. So I brought out a service technician who told me we had a freon leak (of course). He refilled and told me that it should last until about May 2009, at which time I needed to decide between repairing the leak or buying a new unit. He said fixing the leak would be about $1000, and a new unit would start at $3000 for the lowest model and go up from there. Of course, a new unit is out of the question. But is $1000 a reasonable amount to fix a freon leak? My father-in-law says he's crazy.

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I would get 2-3 more estimates. What did he do, refill with freon and stop the leak with duck tape? The cost to "fix" the leak depends on what they will do -- maybe replace parts where the leak is likely. Do they know exactly where the leak is and can they fix it with confidence? You need to know before deciding. I don't think this guy has been entirely honest with you.

By the way, the new AC units built to conform to the new standards put in place about 2 years ago are much more efficient than yours is likely to be. So in the end replacing your unit may pay off with lower AC costs in a few years. That should take some of the sting out of the steep cost of replacing your system, if that seems like the right option.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 10:09AM
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Keep in mind that repairing a leak may involve: detective work, replacement of a coil, part of the line set, reclaiming the freon, purging, triple vacuum and recharging. R22 is now more expensive. Maybe an independent guy will be cheaper, but he still has the value of his knowledge, schooling, certifications, and tool investment.

$1000 could or could not be a bargain.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 11:25AM
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The owners often complain about the time charges to find the leak.

Few techs are interested in hours of searching with a sniffer followed by a not very expensive repair.

Get some more estimates and ask to be shown the leak location.

Leaks buried inside a coil can be nearly impossible (damage getting in for the repair) but many others are accessible.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 11:36AM
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Sometimes when you by a house you pay for an insurance that covers the cost of major appliance repairs (A/C included) for the first year you live in the home. You may have to pay a nominal fee like $300 and the new home owners insurance pays the balance to fix the problem. If you purchased this type of insurance you may be able to squeak out of this pretty cheap. Just don't let the tech that the insurance company sends out charge it and run. Next year the bill will be on you. If it's only a 7 year old house the leak is probably not gonna be in a coil unless its been leaking since it was new.(Which may be covered by a Mfr. warranty). I wouldn't pay another company to charge the system unless they repair the leak. If they can't show you or tell you where the leak is they should be in a different business. Geeeeeeeze. Don't judge all companies by that 1st tech you had out there. There's good techs and so-so techs in every field of maintenance and repair. Also try not to call in the middle of July if you can avoid it. Your more apt to get a higher bid thrown at you when you need something NOW.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 3:11AM
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1000 to fix a leak sounds a bit high, sometimes repairing a leak can be a daunting task, other times it,s a simple matter. I would definitely suggest you get a couple of more estimates. Many companies do not like to repair leaks and would rather replacethe unit. So they give high estimates. Definitely get more estimates. Good luck Iggie

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 11:00AM
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At our last house, we had one unit that had a freon leak.
The repair was about $300.
I guess it depends on where the leak is.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 1:46PM
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This happened to me today, tech said i needed 4 lbs of freon and to find and fix leak etc would be about $1000. then he said he could put some stuff (stop leak) in there and the freon for $200. I let him do it, wa this a scam?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 6:08AM
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    Bookmark   July 12, 2011 at 2:04PM
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From the perspective of one in the hvac service biz for over 35 years I will say that freon leaks are one of the biggest aggravations in the business. Unless they are very obvious they are not worth searching for. Usually they begin in the evaporator coil and where they fail, at the return bends, is non repairable. If you can get through a season with a couple pounds you may want to consider that. If not it is time to begin thinking new.
Finding and repairing leaks can nickel and dime you to death.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 9:41AM
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Note that this answer is in 2013, so the prices I quote may be higher than for some.

As someone who has repeatedly dealt with the aggravation of a Freon leak I can spell out the options. If your house is new, usually within the first year (in some cases 2 years) any defects covering AC and heating is covered by the manufacturer. When you start noticing the AC not keeping up or freezing and get it looked at, one of the first things they do in maintenance is measure the Freon level with their temperature gauges. If they notice it's low, this should be your first major red flag. Freon should never be low because Freon should NEVER leak. Many times the technician will top off the Freon, but may omit mentioning this is the sign of a very small leak, since it costs them more to repair it under warranty and they get no profit. This is not a permanent solution.

When there is a leak, MOST of the time the Freon is leaking around the coils, which are EXTREMELY expensive to replace. We're talking about a roughly $2000 repair job to replace the copper coils, when you can get a new system for $4000. In cases where your system is 10 years old, replacing the coils is foolish anyway as the system may not be good for much longer. Furthermore, by 2015 there will be a ban on the sale and production of any more Freon so you may as well choke out what life you can out of the system and be ready to get rid of your Freon system to be replaced by the new models. Now there IS a cheaper alternative that can be performed, and this is best for very small leaks where you only notice your Freon lowering slowly and by little. Each company has a different name for the product; josephine mentioned "stop leak" and my company calls theirs "Super Seal". What happens is they hook up a can of special sealant to your AC system and what it does is it runs throughout the entire unit and adheres to the walls and linings, so any openings from a very small leak should be sealed off. This only takes a few minutes to perform. You will also likely have to be charged for a Hard Start Kit (which will look like another tiny can) to be utilized at the same time, since any time a foreign substance is entered into the unit it drives the Amps way up, and you need the kit to keep the Amps low enough to perform properly. (These kits are used at the same time as the sealant, you won't be able to buy one and not the other if you want the sealant to work.) The kit will stay connected with your unit, although the sealant can is removed once it's done. This type of job can still cost you around $500 easily, not counting the cost of bringing a tech to your house in the first place. Then you'll also need to pay to refill any of the lost Freon (many systems may have 5 lbs of Freon, and 1 lb can be approx. $200). If you agree to the sealant they will not do a sniffer test to detect the leak, because theoretically the seal will fix the leak(s) no matter where it's located, so you can also save on cost by not doing that inspection. If you're really not sure of the leak you may do the test, but the sealant will probably still be the option you take if they find it around the coils. It could be a cheaper repair if it's elsewhere. If you're under warranty ask or demand this if you are noticing Freon leaks. For those of us with older systems, if the Freon leak persists after using the seal, they will credit the money you spent on the sealant (and amp-tamping kit) towards the cost of buying a new unit. Make sure of this before you agree to the sealant! Companies can have different policies, and a shady company will just rip you off and not have a policy of crediting the money spent towards a new purchase if their quick-fix fails.

Other things that may go wrong with your system is the dual starter assembly failing (it's not unusual for one of these to blow after 6-10 years). This is what powers your condenser coils, so if you have no air running and your unit is not frozen up, then you may have a blown dual starter assembly. These can be replaced for $275-$350, but automatically come with 5 year warranties. Also make sure the lint screens in your vent are new, as clogged ones place additional and unnecessary strain on your unit.

Another thing to add is after getting the sealant you should wait months (maybe until the following year) to pay a tech to measure your Freon level again. This is the way you will determine if the leak was fixed. A very small leak you will not be able to detect as having been fixed after a short while.

This post was edited by lasenna on Thu, Jun 27, 13 at 6:09

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 6:00AM
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hi lasenna, thank you very much for your in-depth post. I also wanted to report that our quote for Freon was $86/lb.

The tech said that he could look for the leak but our leak was likely in the coil or somewhere that would not be fixable or worth fixing, and so looking for the leak would also be most likely a waste of money. This was based on his experience and assessment of our situation. The service call was $80.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 6:04PM
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