Refrigerant leakage is the most frequently found fault in a refrigeration system and efficient detection is highly critical. If the refrigerant leaks, it reduces the performance of the system and eventually damages it. The leak often happens when your HVAC system has been working overtime, especially when cooling RVs or travel trailers.
As an HVAC technician, you are probably aware of the several methods you can use for leak detection. Knowing which method to use in each set of circumstances is the making of a skilled technician.
- Simple soap and water
Applying soapy water to a suspected leak alerts you to the leak with the formation of bubbles. Simple and straightforward to use and no specialist tools required.
- Ultraviolet Dyes
Adding a UV dye to a system and using UV light to look for leaks is ingenious. Should be used with care because the presence of UV dye may affect system performance.
- Electronic Detection Methods
Use electronic tools correctly and in the right context and you are on your way to becoming a leak detection whizz.
Since you can’t rely on your nose to sniff out the source of the leak, we have come up with some of our best AC leak detectors in the buying guide below:
1. Corona Refrigerant Leak Detector
Also known as Negative Corona, these are electric sensors, much like a heated diode. The core sparks to make a corona, and the alarm is triggered whenever the leaking refrigerant breaks the corona.
This is one of the oldest methods of leak detection around, and it is highly susceptible to dirt, dust, air and water contamination, and false positives. When it isn’t contaminated, though, it is highly accurate and quick.
Amazon Best Seller: Elitech WJL-6000 Portable Refrigerant Freon Leak Detector
Amazon Choice: Elitech CLD-100 Portable Refrigerant Freon Leak Detector
New Arrival: Elitech WJL-6000S Handheld Refrigerant Leak Detector Flashlight
Comes with Multiple Sensors:
Elitech HLD-100+ Portable Halogen Leak Detector with 1 Extra Sensor Tip
Elitech HLD-200 Refrigerant Leak Detector with Replaceable Sensor
2. Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector
The heated diode is a well-established type as it focuses on collecting air near the target area(s) and analyzing it using heat. The sensor can detect whether or not there’s refrigerant in the air if the molecules react differently. When the sensor picks up something using heat, it immediately alerts the user.
Elitech LD-100 Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector
Elitech LD-200 Rechargeable Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector
- You can move to the spot of the leak and hover over that point to detect very small leaks. This allows you pinpoint the leak.
- Tremendous sensitivity on many models
- Many techs feel they are more accurate because the motion is more intuitive. Place the probe over the leak and the detector goes off.
3. Infrared Refrigerant Leak Detector
Air is pulled through an optical window in the infrared sensor. Refrigerant gases absorb IR Radiation. The optical sensor senses this and triggers an alarm, depending on how much IR has been absorbed. This technology is very accurate and has been the technology of choice in lab settings for many years.
It has only recently (last 7 years approx.) been introduced to the field in the form of portable hand held leak detectors. The refrigerant isn’t broken down by heat and doesn’t directly contact the sensor, thus the sensor isn’t subject to contamination. Sensor life expectancy is over 10 years.
Elitech IR-200 Advanced Infrared & Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector
Elitech ILD-200 Infrared Refrigerant Leak Detector
- The sensors last longer than heated diode.
- They are less susceptible to false positives from other gasses and maintain full accuracy for a greater range of refrigerants.
The best HVAC refrigerant leak detector for you is going to be the one that is easy to operate, will detect the refrigerants you will be working with and is useful, durable, and reliable.
Any of the options above will help you locate any number of leaks. Picking the right one, however, is a judgment call on your part. Find the model that fits your budget and has simple controls that you can master easily. If you are in doubt, go with our top pick, the Elitech ILD-200. It will serve you well, is easy to maintain, and can be used right out of the box.