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Refrigerant Leaks

There are many reasons for wanting to stop refrigerant leaks in HVAC mechanical equipment. Some of the most obvious are partial or total loss of cooling capacity, decrease in efficiency, system damage, costly repairs and cleanup, etc. The list goes on and on. In many cases, leaks bring on additional power consumption and more downtime, two things that HVAC contractors’ customers don’t like and don’t want.

HVAC contractors do their best to educate customers on the problems of leaky refrigerant. Checking for leaks during a preventative maintenance inspection can minimize out of pocket costs. “Fix refrigerant leaks”, Refrigerant is expensive, and when it leaks, it can cause huge harm to the environment. Additionally, if moisture reacts with the refrigerant, it can cause damage to your compressor and other parts of your air conditioner. If you notice any refrigerant leaks, get them fixed right away!

Leaks don’t discriminate either. They can show up in large commercial and industrial chillers and freezers as well as smaller residential refrigeration units or air conditioners. The most obvious way to prevent leaks in any system is through proper installation, service, and routine maintenance. Prevention is always the best way to precede detection. However, even proper maintenance can’t always stop a component from leaking, which is why detection methods are so vital.


What was once the sight and sniff method for leak detection has now been replaced by easier, more reliable methods, thanks to technology and some plain common sense. Soap, ultraviolet (UV) light, and electronic testing can be effective and accurate ways to test. One such effective way is by using hand-held leak detectors. These detectors can sense excess presence of the gas, which may also carry adverse health effects.

The traditional way to detect leaks is to inject dye into the system and locate the leaks with a black light. Fluorescent dyes can be used with refrigerants. The dye remains at all the leaks, leading to easy identification of damaged areas in HVAC systems.

Another way to detect leaks is the bubble leak method. In this method, gas is blown over the piping and components in a controlled environment. When a leak is present, pressure bubbles can be seen coming from the leak.

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