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Air Conditioner Leak Detection

Most of the air conditioning systems we deal with in Central Florida are “closed loop” systems. A closed system means the refrigerant gasses inside the system never come in contact with our atmosphere. They never deplete. They simply continue moving and changing state as they move.

Closed loop air conditioning refrigerant cycle

A sealed system is susceptible to vibration and corrosion, which are the two leading causes of a refrigerant leak. A leak size may vary from a few ounces of loss a year, to 100% loss within a few hours time. This makes every leak different. Because not all refrigerant leaks are created equal, we employ multiple methods of leak detection and use all of our senses. A fast moving leak will be audible, and can be found by pressurizing the closed system with nitrogen. A slow leak usually will leave a visual evidence as oil from the compressor escapes with most leaks. We utilize liquid soap that make bubbles near leak sources. We have dyes that get injected into the closed system that are revealed through special glasses and black lights. We have sniffer probes that detect trace gasses, and even use special stethoscopes to dial into leak locations. All that said, refrigerant leaks are no simple task.

Austin responded to a service call where the system was found to be very low on refrigerant. He noticed a oil smell in the condenser area, and found trace oil mixed in the dirt on the bottom of the condenser. After performing a bubble search and searching with the sniffer probe, this intermittently audible leak was proving to be elusive. In a stroke of luck, moving his fingers across the bottom of the accumulator, his fingers revealed a squeak in the midst of the hissing. Without any obvious rust or deterioration, a tiny pinhole had opened on the bottom of the accumulator.

Austin "fix it" Willis inspecting an condensing unit for leaks.

Every day, Austin lives up to his nickname our office personnel have given him which is Austin “Fix It”, as he is a excellent HVAC & appliance mechanic and has made some pretty amazing repairs happen. Sometimes we have fun with it and adapt his nickname to the job at hand, which in this case was, Austin “Find it”.

Austin "fix it" Willis repairing a refrigerant leak.

After recovering all of the refrigerant out of the system, Austin removed the leaking part, and installed a new suction line accumulator, vacuumed the “closed loop” down to below 500 microns, and recharged the system based on indoor and outdoor temperature & humidity.

Refrigerant leaks are not simple to locate or repair. If you find yourself in a “low on refrigerant” situation, Beacon Services & Appliances | Beacon Air & Heat, Inc. is here to help!

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