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What Is a Refrigerant Leak Detector?

To use a refrigerant leak detector, the technician first confirms that the detector is sensitive to the type of refrigerant being used.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2014
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A refrigerant leak detector is a device which can detect and pinpoint leaks in a refrigerant system. There are a number of manual methods which can be used to check for leaks, but using an electronic refrigerant leak detector can be faster and more accurate. However, there are some precautions to be aware of when using this type of tool, as it can be dangerous or useless, depending on the situation. Several companies make different models which are available through companies and catalogs which supply heating and cooling professionals.

Refrigerant leaks are a problem for several reasons. In the first place, they interfere with the functioning of a refrigeration system. Leaks will cause losses in pressure and efficiency which may cause the system to stop functioning entirely, or may add considerably to the costs of operating the system. When people need a functioning system with a high level of control, it is critical to address refrigerant leaks before they become a problem. People who have noticed a decline in efficiency may want to consider having a professional check the system for a leak, as leaks are a common cause of malfunctions.

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In the second place, refrigerant can be dangerous. Some refrigerants are not safe to ingest or inhale, which means that a leak can put people and animals at risk. In addition, some refrigerants can act as ozone-depleting or greenhouse gases, which means that, as a general rule, one wants to avoid releasing them into the environment whenever possible. Thus, a refrigerant leak detector is also important for health and environmental safety.

To use a refrigerant leak detector, the technician first confirms that the detector is sensitive to the type of refrigerant being used. Not all leak detectors will respond to all refrigerants, which means that a false negative could occur if the wrong type is used. It is also advisable to check for flammable gases, because some refrigerant detectors heat up to operate and they could cause an explosion, a very undesirable state of affairs.

Once it has been confirmed that the refrigerant leak detector is appropriate and safe to use, it can be turned on. Refrigerant leak detectors are extremely sensitive and will pick up very trace amounts of refrigerant, confirming whether or not a leak is present. They can also be used to find the area in the system where the leak is occurring. Once the site of the leak is located, the system can be repaired and then checked again to confirm that the leak has been addressed.

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