Typically, an HVAC system has intricate parts (including the refrigerant), and a leak can happen at any time. Detecting a leak can be an easy or daunting task depending on your skillset and the tools you use. As a technician, there is one tool that can never go missing in your toolbox – a trusted refrigerant leak detector! After all, you can’t rely on your nose to detect a leak, can you?
Usually, leaks produce electrical currents, set off different vibrations, and might produce some noise. A good leak detector will use these aspects to detect any undetectable, invisible, audible/inaudible leaks. You can’t survive without this tool…it should be your best friend!
Do You Really Need a Refrigerant Leak Detector?
Why would you buy a refrigerant leak detector when you can use soap and water (or a bottle of Big Blu)? Here are some of the advantages of a refrigerant leak detector.
Leaks can, at times, be like a proverbial needle in a haystack. A leak detector will be your needle search magnet and will detect a leak quicker.
· Detecting HFCs, HCFCs, CFCs, and Blends
A wide detection range leak detector will empower you to work on a wide range of systems.
· It Saves You the Frustration
Looking for a leak can be frustrating (especially when you can’t find it). Having a detector in your arsenal will always ensure that you detect all problems faster and fix them. While soap may be a decent indicator, it is not always possible to detect micro leaks or leaks in hard-to-reach areas.
· Efficient and Safe Operation
Most leak detectors are designed for ergonomic and safe operation.
· It’s a Long-Term Investment
The best refrigerant leak detector is durable, and if handled well, you can use it for many years.
· Leak Detection
Leaks can be small, invisible, and inaudible. The best refrigerant leak detector will detect anything that the human senses can’t detect.
Choosing The Best Refrigerant Leak Detector: Which Factors Should You Consider?
Before plopping down your credit card to buy a leak detector, what factors should you consider? Here are some of the things to look out for in a leak detector.
- Efficiency/Speed of detection
- Battery life and the sensor life
- Price and warranty
- Versatility (Supported refrigerants)
- Type of detection
- Ease of use and maintenance
- Availability of accessories and new sensor probes
Best Refrigerant Leak Detectors: Our Top Picks
Fixing leaking refrigerant is not the easiest work, and therefore, the diagnosis should be the least of your worries. But, with so many detectors in the market, which one should you choose?
Here are some of the best refrigerant leak detectors:
1. The Fieldpiece Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector – SRL8
You can’t talk about detectors without mentioning the Fieldpiece SRL8 – technicians claim they can’t live without it! This detector is famous for its speed and accuracy when it comes to detecting HFC, HCFC, CFC, and any other mixes/blends. The tool offers a sensitivity of 0.10 Oz per year and has an audible beep indicator making it ideal for industrial usage.
The detector is versatile, and you can use it in a variety of refrigerants. It comes with an 8-bar LED to indicate the strength of the leak. That’s not enough; you can set its sensitivity level (either high, medium, or low).
Its battery can hold a charge for at least 15 hours, which means that you can use it for about two days without having to recharge. The detector takes a couple of hours to charge, and the batteries are replaceable if you find battery life isn't what it used to be.
- It has an auto-zero feature for easier tracking
- Quick and extremely sensitive (0.10 oz/year)
- 15-hour battery life
- Ready to use in less than a minute (30 seconds)
- It comes with a battery life LED display
- It has a tough and rugged protective case
- It doesn’t have a sensory life rating
Price (at time of writing): $303.45 (Amazon.com).
2. Inficon TEK-Mate Refrigerant Leak Detector(705-202-G1)
The Inficon TEK-Mate (PDF) is a unique electrochemical sensor that ideal for various refrigerants and can detect R507, R32, R22, HFCs, CFCs, and blends. The gadget operates on heated diode tech and uses infrared sensor technology to produce accurate readings.
When it comes to the design, the TEK-Mate is very portable and fairly durable. Like most detectors, it has a flexible probe that will allow you to access tight spaces.
The model features an audible beep that will go off any time it detects refrigerants. The fact that you can adjust the sensitivity between high and low makes the detector even more interesting. It also comes with an LED display that flashes any time it detects a leak. The sensitivity durability of the TEK-Mate is over 1,000 hours of use.
- Sensitive even to small leaks
- Its sensors can last for over 1,000 hours in use
- Fitted with an alarm ideal for noisy environments
- It has a low battery indicator that warns you to change the battery
- The unit is not rechargeable (although it can be if used with rechargeable D-cells)
- Its highly sensitive sensor can lead to a false alarm
Price (at time of writing): $179.99 (trutechtools).
3. Elitech ILD-200
One of the reasons the Elitech ILD-200 is a hit is the fact that it is made to last. The detector is solid, fits your hand and its sensor can last for over ten years before you can replace it (It comes with a 3-year warranty; how cool is that?). The model boasts a sensitivity level of up to 4g/year and can detect leaks in seconds.
This leak detector comes with a rechargeable battery which can last for about six hours of continuous use. The ILD-200 will automatically shut off after 10 minutes when not being used.
Most detectors come with a six or 7-inch probe. The ILD-200 beats that by having a 14.37-inches probe.
- Sensor life of 10 years
- Long probe
- Adjustable sensitivity for better precision
- It’s a bit expensive
Price (at time of writing): $259.99 (Amazon.com)
So, what is the best refrigerant leak detector? Well, that will remain to be a judgment call on your side.
Pro Tip: The best refrigerant leak detector is the one that is durable, reliable, easy to operate & maintain, and the one that detects the refrigerants you’re working with.