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Hi I'm Brian and I'm here to help!
It's a process to determine if your system is low on refrigerant. There are many factors involved. There are many other things that can mask themselves as a refrigerant issue too. The fact that it cooled fine last season doesn't really lend itself to a refrigerant issue either. Refrigerant leak can't be ruled out either though. If your duct developed some serious leakage, it could look like your system is low on gas or if the evaporator (cooling) or outdoor coil has gotten dirty over the years, it could look like a refrig. problem too. It's important to take some temperature and pressure readings and that will point an experienced tech to the root of the issue. Even a compressor that is getting hard to start can look like a refrig. issue even though the system appears to be running normally. The quickest seat-of-the-pants test is to feel the temperature of the larger of the copper lines right where it goes into the outdoor unit after the system has been running for at least a few minutes. That line should be beer-can cold. If it's warm or too cold, then there's an issue with either airflow or refrigerant.
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