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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: 02 July 2015
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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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Feryll
Post 3

I have a friend who trained to work on refrigerators and those large cooling systems. He repairs them and services them. However, since he recently learned that the guy who trained him is sick because of all of the refrigerant he has breathed in over the years, my friend is thinking about moving on to another profession. Refrigerant leaks can be dangerous when you are exposed to them over months and years.

Drentel
Post 2

@Laotionne - The answer to your question is yes. Mechanics have detectors to determine whether your cooling system is airtight. And this is something you want to have checked sooner rather than later. There are fines for releasing refrigerants into the air in some places.

My first car was used, and one of the systems that no longer worked was the A/C. This was a bit of an inconvenience during the summer months. There were plenty of times when I was driving in city traffic during the middle of the day that I would be soaked by the time I arrived at my destination.

When I was finally able to save enough money, I took the car to a

guy who worked on cars at a shop in his backyard. He wasn't a certified mechanic, but he knew everything there was to know about cars and how to repair them. However, he had no way of being certain that my A/C system was airtight after he repaired it.

He pumped the Freon into the system and the A/C worked for about a week. Then it stopped. All of the Freon had escaped. This stuff is not cheap, so I decided to just let down the windows and deal with the heat. It was less expensive that way.

Laotionne
Post 1

Can a refrigerant leak detector help to find a leak in the air conditioning in a car? My air conditioner doesn't cool very well, and I think it might be losing freon or whatever kind of refrigerant it uses.

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