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How AC Technicians Detect Refrigerant Leaks

Monday, August 11th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

One of the most serious repair problems that an air conditioner can encounter is a leak that allows the chemical refrigerant to escape from the system. During normal operation, an AC doesn’t consume refrigerant, and it will retain its refrigerant “charge” (level) indefinitely. The only way to lose the charge is from leaking occurring along the refrigerant lines or in the compressor. A loss of refrigerant charge will both lower the air conditioner’s cooling power and lead to crippling damage to components, such as a compressor that burns out from overheating.

If you feel a plunge in cooling from your AC, notice ice developing along the indoor coil, or detect a hissing noise coming from one the cabinets, you may have a refrigerant leak.

Call the Melbourne, FL air conditioning experts at Next Generation Air & Heat Inc. right away. We’ll use the detection methods to locate the leak so we can keep your AC working its best.

The methods of refrigerant leak detection

Refrigerant leaks are usually small and difficult to see without proper training or equipment. It only requires a pinhole-size puncture to allow the high-pressure refrigerant to escape. Here are some of the ways that professionals locate these leaks:

  • Bubble solutions: This is the oldest leak detection technique, but is still effective for larger leaks. The repair technicians use squeeze bottles filled with soap solution to spray along the areas where a leak is suspected. The escaping refrigerant should cause the solution to bubble.
  • Electronic “sniffers”: This is one of the most common leak-technician methods. The “sniffers” are devices that create a high voltage spark which the technicians run across the refrigerant lines. The chemicals in refrigerant have an insulating effect on the spark that will cause it to drop, pointing out the leak location.
  • Halide torches: This is useful only for older refrigerants (R-22, once the most common refrigerant blend, but now in the process of being phased-out nationwide). Halide torches turn green in the presence of the chlorine within R-22.
  • Fluorescent detection: The technicians first insert a fluorescent-colored dye into the air conditioner’s system, and then scan UV lights over the lines. The escaping refrigerant containing the fluorescent dye will show up as green under these lights.
  • Ultrasonic detectors: The noticeable hissing noise that can lead a homeowner to suspect refrigerant leaks is also useful in pinpointing their location. Listening devices like ultrasonic detectors allow technicians to zero in on the exact location of the leak.

Experienced technicians will probably use a combination of the above methods to detect a leak in your air conditioner. Once they have found the spot, they will seal the leak. Afterwards, they will recharge the refrigerant in the system to its proper level and take care of any repair issues the loss of charge may have caused.

When you need precision repairs for your air conditioning in Melbourne, FL, call Next Generation Air & Heat Inc. We have 24-hour emergency service to make sure the vital cooling for your home is restored quickly.

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