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Refrigerant leak detectors are an HVAC technician’s best friend. Your ability to diagnose and rectify a problem within a refrigeration system is a vital skill.
You will need the very best tools to accomplish one the challenging aspects of the job, detecting refrigerant leaks.
This article introduces you to some of the best leak detectors on the market, what to look for when evaluating refrigerant leak detectors and the benefits of having the best leak detector you can afford.
Quick Take: Top 5 Leak Detectors
Here are the 5 best leak detectors for 2017:
- Fieldpiece Heated Diode SRL8
- LotFancy HFC CFC Halogen R134a R410a R22a
- Mengshen HFC CFC Leak Detector
- Inficon TEK-Mate 705-202- G1
- Robinair TIFXL - 1A
Keep reading below for a more in depth look at these leak detectors and why I we chose them as our top 5.
Leak Detection Methods
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.
The most common refrigeration leak detection methods:
- 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.
The rest of this article introduces some of the best refrigeration leak detectors and reviews then to help you select the best tool to add to your arsenal.
Why use a Leak Detector?
Refrigeration system depends on the refrigerant to work. When a system develops a leak, there is a loss of refrigerant and with it goes the ability to provide adequate cooling. For a domestic system, the result is a warm house in the middle of summer even when the air conditioning is running.
For industrial applications, this may lead to spoiling of product and an impact on the business. Loss and discomfort prevention are therefore at the top list of any technician called in to resolve a suspected leaking system.
Refrigerants also have an impact on the environment and so plugging leaks as quickly as possible also helps reduce the impact of greenhouse gasses on the environment.Refrigerant leak detectors will assist you in identifying the source of the leak.
Once you determine where the system is leaking, you can go ahead and effect a repair, restoring the system to optimum efficiency.
The Benefits of a Good Leak Detector
There are various leak detectors on the market today. Refrigerant leak detectors range in price from around $30 to over $300.
What are benefits of choosing a cheaper one over the higher priced ones? Is it a question of performance, reliability, and ability to detect a range of refrigerants?
The benefits and advantages of a good leak detector:
- Quicker Detection Times - Losing refrigerant from large systems may result in a fine from the Environment Authorities. If you choose the best detector, and you use it well, you will detect and resolve leaks faster, saving customers time and money.
- Ability to Detect all CFCs, HFCs and HFC Blends - Using a leak detector with a wide detection range ensures you can work on a variety of systems using different refrigerants.
- Ensure Safe and Efficient Operation - The best leak detectors are designed for safe and ergonomic operation.
- Long Term Investment - Choose the best leak detector and you will be using it in your business for years to come.
Now that you know why you need to choose the best refrigerant leak detector, the next section reviews 5 top leak detectors which you may consider if you are in the market for a new leak detector.
Best Refrigerant Leak Detectors Comparison Chart
Fieldpiece Heated Diode SLR8
LotFancy HFC CFC
INFICON TEK-Mate 705-202-G1
Robinair 22791 InfraRed
Bacharach Informant 2
Refrigerant Leak Detector Reviews
Below we have identified the top five refrigerant leak detectors and provided some insights into why each deserves to be in your toolbox. Although the detectors more or less do the same thing, you find that some have superior performance and can detect a wider range of refrigerants than others.
Our goal is to make the search for the best leak detector a little bit easier for you. Your final choice will depend on your specific requirements and technical needs.
Coming in at a slightly higher price point, the Fieldpiece heated diode leak detector is well worth the money. The heated diode sensor is the best in leak detector technology and allows it to detect all CFCs, HFCs, HCFCs including blends.
The sensitivity differs from one gas to another, and it comes with a visual concentration display and an audio alarm.
What We Like About the Fieldpiece Heated Diode Leak Detector:
- Filter at the detection tip to protect the sensor from moisture and other debris
- Quick response time, you’ll be ready to go in just 30 seconds from powering up
- Manual and automatic zeroing during detection cycle every 2s (automatic)
- Long lasting battery (2 days continuous use) means you can work in remote areas without the need to always recharge the batteries
- Rugged construction and a magnetic hanger for harsh environments
- Three sensitivity levels ranging from 0.1oz/yr to 6.6oz/yr
- Comes with replacement filters, O-rings, a flexible extension probe, and a rigid extension probe.
Other HVAC technicians who have purchased this leak detector have remarked at the accuracy, ease of use and that it offers value for money.
The LotFancy leak detector is one of the best low-cost refrigerant leak detectors on the market. Its simplicity and ease of use makes it ideal for use by everyone. There is no complicated manual to read and understand before use.
The leak detector features a flexible stainless steel hose. It’s best feature is the sensitivity adjustment dial which allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the tool during use. A buzzer will sound if it detects refrigerant gas in the air.
Once turned on, the instrument draws in a continuous sample of air which passes over the sensor and signal processing electronics inside. A LED indicator is used to indicate detection of a leak, as well as battery health.
Portable, lightweight and sturdy, the LotFancy leak detector is an excellent addition to every HVAC technician’s toolbox. It just proves you don’t always have to fork out for the most expensive tools when you shop right.
Another mid-price yet advanced leak detector is the Mengshen HFC & CFC leak detector. It is equally sensitive to CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs and features a flexible stainless probe.
During operation, it sucks a sample of air into the instrument, for processing and analysis. A visual indication consisting of a LED display indicates the concentration of the gas detected.
Other features of the detector include the following:
Low/High sensitivity selector to assist in the detection of different leak sizes.Ambient concentration resets to ensure you purge the sensor before use, thus eliminating false readings.
An auto-power off facility saves battery power and ensures your detector is operational for longer. The 400mm long flexible stainless probe allows you to work in tight spaces.
The hard case of the Mengshen leak detector means it can take a bit of a bashing. We always recommend you take great care of your tools as the sensitive electronics inside is delicate.
You will be amazed at what you are getting for just over $100 if you decide to invest in this particular leak detector.
The INFICON TEK-Mate is a high-temperature ceramic substrate sensor capable of detecting CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs and blends (think R11, R12, R22, R123, R134a, R404A, R410A plus more).
Whether you are an automotive HVAC technician, industrial or residential, this refrigerant leak detector is capable of helping you locate leaks fast.
Some Things We Like About the INFICON TEK - Mate
- The high sensitive sensor allows detection of the smallest refrigerant leaks
- Capable of detecting the entire range of common refrigerant gasses
- Adjustable sensitivity with low and high sensitivity settings
- Audible beep to alert refrigeration detection
- Ergonomic design with rugged, flexible probe
- Flashing LED for visual gas discovery alert
- Lightweight and portable
The Inficon TEK-Mate leak detector is another great example of a reasonably priced tool which will make a difference when it comes to refrigeration system faultfinding.
The Robinair TIFXL leak detector uses advanced microprocessor technology to detect all halogenated refrigerant gasses.
It features an audible beep which will alert you to the presence of hydrofluorocarbons including R134, R410 plus much more.
What We Like About the Robinair TIFXL - 1A
- Detects all halogenated refrigerant gasses.An extra-long probe makes accessing tight spaces easier.
- Extremely sensitive with redesigned sensing tip
- Portable with long lasting battery
- Rugged, ergonomic and comfortable handle
- High sampling frequency aids faster leak detection.
If you are looking for a reasonably priced and proven refrigerant leak detector, get your hands on the Robinair TIFXL-1A.
This is one of the more expensive leak detector we’re reviewing here, but it can be worth it. It’s amazingly sensitive - it even found a tiny leak we weren’t aware of!
This is a reliable, precise instrument that's designed to make work as simple as possible by precisely locating any leaks, in any conditions.
Top Features of Robinair 22791
- Easily finds the exact location of the leak, even in contaminated areas
- Has both visual and audio indicators when it finds the leak
- The sensor has a life expectancy of about 10 years
- Works with CFC, HFC and HCFC blend refrigerants
- Magnetic hanger so it's easy to keep out of the way while working
- 8-hour lithium battery
It's definitely a high-end tool, with a high-end price tag. But if you want a high-quality tool that'll eliminate a lot of frustration and wasted time, it could be the way to go.
Bacharach offers this high-end leak detector that can serve multiple uses. Not only does it detect refrigerant leaks, it’ll also find combustibles. That might not be part of your job description - but there could be times that it comes in handy for your own safety and that of your clients.
To switch between uses, you just have to change the sensor tip. This takes only a few seconds, fortunately. It detects all CFC, HFC and HCFC refrigerants as well as all hydrocarbons.
Its sensitivity to refrigerants is 0.5 oz/year for R-12 and R-134a.
This device runs on 4 AA batteries, which allows it to run for 4-5 hours. If you’re going to be looking for a few leaks on a job or hopping between various jobs during the course of the day, you’ll want to be sure to have extra batteries just in case.
One of the best features of the Informant 2 is its adjustable probe, which extend from 3 inches to 20 inches, letting you reach points that might be tough to access.
It also has a rapid response time - about 2/10 of a second - so you shouldn’t have many problems overshooting the leak.
The Informant 2 gives both visual and audio feedback, although for some people the audio might be a bit quiet for all but the quietest work locations.
The expected life of the refrigerant sensor is about a year (for combustibles it’s 5 years). It’s a high-quality device, and the replacement parts aren’t too cheap, either. But if you’re looking for a multi-purpose device that’s highly sensitive, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Choosing one of the five refrigerant leak detectors above will help you to locate leaks faster, saving your customers money and doing your bit for the environment.
A worthy addition to every HVAC technician’s toolbox, the leak detector will slash your faultfinding time by half and help you locate small leaks which would otherwise be impossible to detect. Whatever instrument you end up choosing, just make sure you study the list above to find out which tool meets your requirements.