So how do we find a leak in your Air Conditioning System?
First, let’s talk about why leaks are bad. First and most obvious, the system no longer cools properly. Not only is it warm inside, the unit never shuts offs, consumes a large amount of electricity, can ice up, and eventually will cause the compressor to fail.
Most air conditioning systems may never develop a leak and therefore never need to be recharged, but if they do, we as contractors, must make an attempt to locate the leak and repair. The old days of just adding gas every year is no longer acceptable. As part of our EPA license, we can only do it once and the cost of the old R-22 is getting prohibitively expensive.
Back in the old days we had 2 methods of finding a leak in a refrigeration system. The most common method was using something as simple as soap bubbles. Smear it all over the piping and sometime you could actually find a leak, but not very often. The other method was using an electronic “sniffer” which could detect refrigerant in an area then use soap bubbles for the exact location. Both these methods had there drawback since it was time consuming and only worked on visible joints. This method was the standard for 30 years.
Several years ago, when a leak was not obvious, we began to use a Fluorescent Leak Detector which is a dye that we insert into the system on the initial service call. Since it may take days, weeks, month or even years for the system to require additional refrigerant, we would mark the unit that dye had been added and note it in database. If or when another service call came in, the technician would determine if it was low on gas, if it was, we would use UV light and glasses to find the leak.
Once the tech sees the evidence or trace amounts of dye, it proves that there is a leak and the approximate location. Now comes the hard part. Pinpointing the leak and determining the best course of action. Depending on the type of refrigerant, age of equipment, accessibility of replacement parts, and physical access to the leak, we settle on the best remedy to get the system up and running.
Most service emergencies can be averted with a yearly maintenance plan. By monitoring the systems every year, changing the filters, and cleaning the coils we can create a baseline so any change in performance or comfort will be identified and repaired to avoid a “no air conditioning” call.