What is Freon?
Freon is a brand name and registered trademark of The Chemours Company, to refer to their non-combustible gas that is used as a refrigerant in air conditioners. Freon repeatedly undergoes evaporation processes to help in producing cool air that is then circulated around your air conditioning system. Freon is also used as an aerosol propellant, and controversially, includes chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer.
What color is Freon in an air conditioner? Freon is colorless, and mostly odorless. Now while this may sound ideal, it does make it problematic for detecting if the substance is leaking from your air conditioning unit. But never fear. Manufacturers have long recognized this concern, and that is the reason that Freon is blended with refrigeration oil when used in air conditioning units, which has a green tint. Some Freon also has green ultraviolet visible color added to help with locating leaks.
Is Freon dangerous?
If contained within your air conditioning unit and not leaking, Freon is not likely to cause you any harm. If you spill a small amount on your skin, or lightly detect the odor in the air, any harm is likely to be mild. However, if Freon is inhaled deeply, it can cut off oxygen to your cells and lungs. Long term exposure to Freon leaks can cause irreparable brain and cell damage to the body, due to it being deprived of oxygen. In the worst cases, exposure to Freon leaks can even cause death from asphyxiation.
Freon therefore has the potential to be incredibly dangerous, and if people are not able to associate the signs of a leak with a problem that needs immediate attention, they can slowly suffocate over time. Freon leaks smell somewhere between sweet and chloroform, but keep in mind this is a very subtle smell, and you are better off relying on other leak detection methods.
Can you keep using your air conditioner if it is leaking Freon?
You should absolutely never continue to use your air conditioner if it is leaking Freon. Continued exposure to the leak will lead to hypoxia, which is the brain being starved of oxygen. This impacts your ability to think clearly and rationally, and has been shown to lead to instance of violent, unpredictable behavior. This state also makes it less likely you will be in a position to have the leak addressed, even if you were aware of it being a serious problem prior to your brain experiencing hypoxia. Eventually, death from asphyxiation will result for everyone being exposed to the leak.
What should you do if you have a Freon leak?
If you suspect you may have a Freon leak, you should firstly stop using your air conditioner immediately. Check the unit for any signs of a leak, looking for the distinctive green tinge in the added refrigeration oil. Also, seeing water on the floor near your unit, or feeling it is not running as efficiently as it normally does, could be indicators of a Freon leak. Other tell-tale signs are ice forming on your evaporator coils or hearing a hissing sound from your unit. If you detect a leak, or if you are still not sure, it is best to get a professional to inspect your air conditioning unit. They may be able to repair the leak so that you can get back to using your unit safely.
It is worth noting, however, that Freon has not been used in air conditioning units since 2010. These newer units instead use something called Puron (R410A), which studies have shown does not negatively affect the ozone layer. By 2015, Puron has been considered the standard for all new air conditioning units. And any units made since 2020 will not use Freon, due to a ban on the substance. If you are worried that your air conditioning unit may have a leak and are not sure whether it uses Freon, you should definitely stop using the unit immediately and call on the services of a professional.