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Do Air Conditioners Emit Harmful Gases?

With climate change a growing concern, many homeowners are looking for ways to do their part to protect the planet. This includes taking a closer look at many things we take for granted, like air conditioning and its environmental impact. 

One question we get a lot at Crew Heating & Cooling is, “Do air conditioners emit harmful gases?” As Humble’s professional AC repair services, we have the answer to this and other concerns and advice on how you can help the Earth while still keeping cool.

Air Conditioners and Harmful Gases

The answer to the question, “Do air conditioners emit harmful gases?” is no, but there’s more to it than that. Because air conditioners don’t burn fossil fuels, they don’t create gases like carbon monoxide. 

That doesn’t mean that the units don’t have any global warming potential (GWP) or present any environmental or health risks. Poorly maintained or damaged air conditioners can create several risks to air quality and human health.


Refrigerant is critical to an air conditioner’s function. Warm air passes over coils that contain compressed refrigerant, which pulls out moisture and heat to produce cooler air. 

Older air conditioners contain R-22 (Freon) gas as a coolant. However, R-22 gas is a chlorofluorocarbon, a type of gas known to deplete the ozone layer. Leakage from a damaged air conditioner can harm the environment and release toxic fumes that can make you and your family sick. 

Over the last 15 years, manufacturers phased out R-22 in favor of the more environmentally friendly R-410A refrigerant. However, new rules call for replacing R410-A with a non-chlorofluorocarbon option by 2025. 

Reducing Air Conditioning’s Environmental Impact

Because air conditioners are most harmful to the planet when they malfunction and have a refrigerant leak, the best way to prevent gas leakage is to keep up with maintenance. Having a professional HVAC technician inspect your air conditioning system annually to check for leaks or signs of impending trouble keeps refrigerants where they belong.

Even though the answer is usually “no” when someone asks, “Do air conditioners emit harmful gases?” you can do a lot to maintain a planet-friendly cooling system.

Invest in an EnergyStar-Rated Air Conditioner

EnergyStar appliances won’t prevent the release of harmful gases into the environment, but they do use less power, which saves both money and the Earth.

Clean the Air Conditioner Regularly

Airflow is critical to a properly functioning air conditioner, so keep the unit as clean as possible and debris-free. This includes changing the air filter every 45 to 60 days (which reduces wear and tear and increases efficiency), keeping the outdoor unit free of debris, and keeping the vents open and clear of toys, furniture, or anything else that can block airflow and reduce efficiency.

Fix Leaks Quickly

Even a small leak in a refrigerant line can release toxic gases into the air. Stay alert for signs of a problem, like warm air blowing from the vents, a hissing sound coming from the air conditioning unit, or a sweet odor, all of which indicate a refrigerant leak. Only a certified professional can add or replace refrigerant in an air conditioner because of its toxicity, so call an HVAC company for help as soon as you notice signs of trouble.

Cool Your Home Naturally

You can reduce wear and tear on your air conditioning equipment and reduce the risk of toxic gases entering the atmosphere by limiting your air conditioning usage or, at the very least, taking steps to reduce how hard the system has to work. 

On days when it’s cool enough to do so, open windows to allow in fresh air and give the air conditioning a break. But when the air conditioner is running, confirm all the windows and doors are closed to prevent the cooled air from escaping, forcing the system to work harder. It’s also helpful to keep blinds or drapes closed during the warmest parts of the day; rooms will naturally remain a few degrees cooler, so the air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard.

Keep Your Air Conditioner in Top Condition With Help From Crew Heating & Cooling

If you notice signs of a refrigerant leak or have concerns about the environmental impact of your air conditioner, call Crew Heating & Cooling at (832) 345-9932 for fast, friendly help. We can handle questions like, “Do air conditioners emit harmful gases?” and help when your AC unit is not turning on or not working as well as it should, keeping you cool no matter how hot it gets under the Texas sun.