What Every Homeowner Needs To Know About Air Conditioners & Huffing

There is a dangerous and deadly trend that may be causing your air conditioning unit to have problems. Yes, you did read that sentence right. Addicts are huffing refrigerant right out of air conditioning units. Here's what every homeowner needs to know to protect their family members and neighbors, as well as their air conditioning units.

Huffing Refrigerant Is a Dangerous & Deadly Trend

Refrigerant is a chlorofluorocarbon that can cause people to feel high when they inhale it. However, it is extremely dangerous and can kill brain cells, damage organs, and cause abnormal heart rhythm. It can also lead to death. In 2013, a 12-year-old girl in California died after huffing refrigerant from the air conditioning unit in the backyard where she lived with her grandmother.  

According to the Alliance for Consumer Education (ACE), 1 in 5 teenagers in America have gotten high by inhaling (or huffing) common household products, including refrigerants. That's an alarming statistic to think about. Given the high incidences of this type of usage, it's important to understand what the symptoms of refrigerant poisoning are.

Symptoms of Refrigerant Poisoning

Refrigerant is tasteless and odorless. So, you won't be able to tell right away if someone has been huffing refrigerant like you could if they were huffing paint. You will need to know the symptoms since there is no obvious giveaway. Symptoms of very limited exposure include dizziness; heart palpitations; headaches; and eye, nose and throat irritation.

However, when someone huffs to get high, they are typically exposed to greater quantities, which can cause hallucinations and reactions similar to that of alcohol intoxication. Chronic abusers may have sudden weight loss and a rash around their mouth. They may lose strength and lack coordination.They may become depressed and develop psychosis.

If a loved one, or someone in your neighborhood, has these types of symptoms and you are also having problems with your air conditioning system, the person may be huffing the refrigerant from your air conditioning system.

Signs Your Air Conditioner Is Low On Refrigerant

First, it's important to understand that your air conditioner is a closed-loop system. This means that the refrigerant that is inside the closed loop does not get used up. The only way to lose refrigerant from your air conditioner is to either have a leak in the system or to physically remove the refrigerant, such as someone would do when huffing.

Here are a few warning signs that the refrigerant in your air conditioner is low:

  • high electric bill
  • it doesn't cool your house enough
  • compressor motor overheats
  • frost on the coils

Call your HVAC technician to check the refrigerant level in your air conditioning system if you have these or other problems. The technician will likely check for a leak in the system first, just to be sure. Hopefully, a leak will be detected.

Ways to Prevent Huffing from Your Air Conditioner

Whether you do have problems with your air conditioning system or you just want to prevent anyone from huffing the refrigerant from your unit, it's a good idea to secure your air conditioner. The last thing you want is for someone to get severely ill or die from huffing on your property. Fortunately, there are several things you can do.

  • install locking caps on the refrigerant containers
  • enclose the air conditioner with fencing
  • install motion detector lighting and an audible alarm system
  • set up a surveillance camera

Speak with an HVAC technician from a company like A Bailey Plumbing for more information about how to prevent someone from huffing the refrigerant from your air conditioner. Also, ask him or her to show you how to check the refrigerant level of your system.