Electronic Leak Detection

Electronic leak detection is a critical part of any HVAC technician's common practice. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most common sources of misdiagnosis. Here are my tips to make your leak detection more successful:

Use Your Detector Second 

Before starting to use your detector, STOP! Look for signs of leaks and corrosion throughout the entire system. I see so many techs who use an electronic leak detector with a very large leak when they would have been better served pressurizing and pinpointing the leak with soap bubbles.

Get a Good One

Use a high-quality leak detector. Hint: if it costs less than $300, it probably isn't great. I'm a fan of the H10G and the H10Pro, although we are testing the Tifzx-1 as a possible option on the recommendation of a few good techs I trust.

Test Your Tools

Check your detector and make sure it actually works EVERY TIME. The H10G has a reference bottle for testing… USE IT.

Let it Warm Up

Many leak detectors require a warm-up time for the sensor. With the H10G, I allow it to run for at least 5 minutes before I start to use it.

Start at The Top

Most refrigerants are heavier than air, so starting at the top and working your way down will help keep you from picking up a leak below the actual point of origin.

Don't Rush

Move really slow. When you do get a hit, remove the wand, let it clear, and go back to the same point a few times before calling it a leak. Once you think you've found a leak, attempt to use bubbles to fully confirm.

Use Common Sense

No matter what leak detector manufacturers tell you, there ARE other substances that can trigger your detector. Refrigerant can also move from one place to another due to drafts. I have seen several cases where chemicals in a garage are triggering the detector. I've also seem cases where a technician has misdiagnosed an evaporator coil because of a chase leak where the refrigerant was being pulled from beneath the unit into the return. Look around and make sure there is nothing causing interference.

Be Sure

Before you condemn that coil, BE SURE. Use all of your resources to positively confirm the exact location of the leak. A little patience goes a long way.

 

—Bryan

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One response to “Electronic Leak Detection”

  1. Make sure you test your leak detector on soap bubbles. Several that I have tested will go off when it picks up the scent of soap bubbles, the H10 will not.
    I also recommend using r-22 as a trace Gas, even in 410a systems. The detectors pick it up better, and it’s perfectly legal to vent it when your done.

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