Leak Detection

Elitech IR-200 Dual Sensor Leak Detector

Hello folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. Today we will be doing another one of our product reviews. As we all know having the right tools for the job can make all the difference in the world. The same can be said when it comes to leak detection. Sure you can do it the old school way by spraying each section of the lines and coils to look for bubbles forming, but that can take a significant amount of time… especially if you do not know where to start. The same can be said with using a ultra violet dye. It takes time to run that through the system and then to scan for it.  Having a proper leak detector can save you time. As we all know the more time saved the better. That means more jobs you can get to in one day and hopefully arriving home on time.

In this article we will be taking an in-depth look at the Elitech IR-200 Dual Sensor Leak Detector. This model from Elitech is quite unique as it comes with both an infrared and a heated diode sensor. That is a rare find. In most cases you’ll find one or the other. In the interest of full disclosure I want it to be known that Elitech sent me a free copy of this detector so that I could write a review on the product. You’ll notice that the pictures in this review were taken by myself as well. Alright, onto the review.

Elitech

Before I purchase a new tool I always like to take some time and do some actual research on the company that stands behind the tool. A lot of times you’ll find that the highest ranked tool is made by a company that no one has ever heard of. Or, that when something goes wrong with the product that there is no reputable company to stand behind it. That is why it is worth doing a bit of research on the company itself as well as the product.

Elitech is a global company that is headquartered out of San Jose, California. They also have locations in China, United Kingdom, and Brazil as well as additional staff from around the world. They have over twenty years of experience working with and creating leak detection and measuring equipment. Along with that they also work hand in hand with other HVAC OEMs and distributors to brand their product. (In other words, you may find that other branded leak detectors actually came from Elitech but are under a different brand name.)

The company itself is not as established as some of the other names in the industry like Robinair… but they are making quality products and are quickly making a name for themselves within the industry. I would feel perfectly safe purchasing products from them. Their website also states that they offer 24/7 customer support so in case something does go wrong the company is able to be contacted.Elitech IR-200 Detector Case

Product Features

As I had mentioned at the beginning of this article the IR-200 model comes with two actual sensors: A heated diode and an infrared. I really like this approach as it allows you to detect and narrow down leaks in a much quicker fashion. It is recommended to start looking for leaks using the heated diode sensor. Then once you have narrowed it down a bit more you can switch over to the infrared mode so that you can narrow down the leak even further. These two modes can be switched back and forth by hitting the ‘Mode’ button on the detector.

Before we get a bit further into the other product features lets take some time to understand the different types of sensors here. The heated diode works by heating the refrigerant and breaking the molecules apart. When the molecules are broken a positively charged Chlorine or Fluorine ion will appear. The heated diode will detect these ions and sound the alarm. The downsides to both of this type of detector, and the Corona Suppression, is that they can be overwhelmed if the refrigerant leak is too large. If the area is saturated with refrigerant then these alarms won’t be of much help and you may actually end up damaging your sensor and having to replace it. These sensors typically have a two year life before they have to be replaced.

The other sensor on this unit, the infrared, works by drawing the air sample across an optical sensor that then analyses how much infrared radiation there is in that given area. The benefits of this technology is that the sensors last much longer,  they are less prone to false alarms, they cannot be overloaded in an area saturated with refrigerant, and they are great at finding those very small leaks that other detectors just won’t sense. The Infrared detectors are the premium types of detectors on the market. These sensors are expected to last around ten years. This is why I had said earlier to start detecting with the heated diode and then narrow your search further with the more sensitive infrared sensor.Elitech IR-200 Long Display

This IR-200 can detect all manners of refrigerants ranging from CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and HFOs. These refrigerant classifications will cover most refrigerants you run into in today’s world. Some popular examples would be R-12, R-22, R-410A, R-404A-, R-134a, R-32, R-502, R-125, R-1234yf, and on and on. One point to mention here is that this detector will actually detect hydrocarbon refrigerants as well such as R-290 Propane or R-600a Isobutane. A lot of other detectors will NOT detect these. That being said, this product will not sniff out natural refrigerants such as ammonia or carbon dioxide.

This detector has three sensitivity settings: High, Medium, and Low. The highest sensitivity on the infrared sensor will detect four grams per year (0.14 ounces per year), the medium seven grams per year, and the low will detect fourteen grams per year. The highest sensitivity on the heated diode detector is thirteen grams per year. The detector also comes with what’s known as a ‘peak’ function. When used it will record the absolutely highest leak point during your scan. The detector can work in temperatures ranging from fourteen degrees Fahrenheit (Negative ten Celsius) to one-hundred and twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit (Fifty-two degrees Celsius). Also will work in humidity levels up to ninety percent.

When a leak is detected you will be notified through a buzzer, light, and also bar graph on the detector display. As the leak gets larger the buzzing will increase, the bar graph will grow, and the lights will flicker faster. If you are on a noisy job site there is also a headphone jack so you can plug in and listen for the buzzing closely. If you find that you are working in an area that is saturated with refrigerant and it is hard to detect the source this detector has a zeroing function as well. What that means is that you can set the current air as zero so you can then focus on the larger concentrations. Works just like zeroing out a scale.

The sniffer, or probe, is twelve inches long and is very flexible. I took it out of the box and bent it every which way. Very easy to move back and forth. You will also get a secondary probe in case the first one is broken or lost. One thing to mention here is that the probe is shorter then some of the other competing models out there. For example, a competing Fieldpiece detector has a fourteen inch probe. I honestly don’t know how much difference a few inches will make… but that is a choice left up to you. It is worth mentioning that there is a secondary sniffer that comes with this unit that can be attached to the first. This allows for a total length of twenty-four inches. Coming with the sniffer is also a mountable ultra violet and LED light. It comes with a attachment that can just pop right onto the sniffer. I really liked this as it allowed me to see what I was doing and the fact that there was a UV light would make things even easier if I wanted to really narrow down my leak by doing a UV test.

This detector comes with two 18650 lithium ion batteries. These batteries will last for eight hours on a continuous charge. You also do not have to worry about accidentally leaving the detector on. It will automatically shut itself off if there has been no activity within ten minutes. When the unit does run out of charge it will take about four hours to fully charge it. The batteries that come with the product are replaceable as well. Most other detectors do not have this option.

The unit itself comes in a hard durable plastic case. I took a picture of this case and it can be found earlier in the article. I was really impressed with this case, moreso then other detectors I’ve handled. When you open it up the tool and other accessories are protected by foam insulation. It is a very light case as well. I picked it up by the handle just by using my thumb and it was manageable. I know having something else heavy to lug around site to site is NOT what we want. Lastly the shipping on this product was very professional. Took only a few days and it came in perfect condition. No complaints here.

Pros

Now a lot of the ‘Pros’ that I wanted to cover in this section were already covered in our Product Features section. There are still some that I can put in here… I just do not want you to be concerned that there aren’t a ton of Pros. The first and biggest Pro in my opinion is the overall price point of this product. In most cases an infrared detector can be over two-hundred dollars. A heated diode detector can be in the mid one-hundreds. You are getting both types of detectors here for right around that two-hundred dollar price range. (Prices subject to change at any time.) That is a heck of a bargain when you look at the competing models out there.

The other real big pro here is that this product works with hydrocarbon refrigerants. I mentioned this earlier in the features section but let me emphasize it again. Hydrocarbons are the new tomorrow when it comes to refrigerants. You’ll find propane/isobutane vending machines, ice machines, and even some refrigerators and freezers nowadays. There are more applications expected to begin using hydrocarbons as well. So having this on your leak detector is an added benefit.

The last point here is the 24/7 technical support via e-mail or phone from Elitech. Their customer service phone number is 1-408-844-4070. They can also be reached via e-mail at: support@elitechus.com . Lastly, if neither of those options work you can also reach out directly on their website by filling out a contact us form which can be found by clicking here. If you go through all of this support and you are still not satisfied with the detector they also offer a thirty day no questions asked return. They are confident enough to stand behind their product and back it up with this money back guarantee. They offer a full one year warranty. You’ll also notice that when you buy the product you’ll get a flyer with instructions on how to get an extra year warranty on the product. This was right in the case when I received mine.

Cons

There weren’t any major cons on this product that I could find. The first one that I’ll list though is what we discussed earlier in the Pros section. There are desktop leak detectors out there that are MORE sensitive then this one… but they are quite a bit more expensive so take that with a grain of salt. For example, the desktop Bacharach H-10 Pro is a premium leak detector that can detect as low as 0.006 ounces per year. That is a huge difference in sensitivity setting… but the H-10 Pro is also hundreds of dollars more expensive then the Elitech. So, ultimately you have to make the choice if you want to spend the money on the best of the best H-10 Pro or get a good Elitech model.

The other smaller cons are that this has a probe length of only twelve inches. Again, we covered this earlier. The good news is that there is an auxiliary probe that comes with this detector that will give you an additional twelve more inches if you need it. Also, on the heated diode side some users reported that the sensor was triggering falsely if it was moved suddenly or abruptly. Remember detecting should be done in a slow deliberate manner that canvases the entire area. The last con I would mention is that the heated diode sensor will need to be replaced after a couple of years. I’ve always been a fan of the infrared as it is a set it and forget it type sensor.

Elitech IR-200 Leak Detector Display

What’s In The Box?

This is always an important question when purchasing a new tool. What exactly comes in the box that you are ordering? Is it just the bare bones product or do you get the extra necessities that you will need down the road? Let’s take a look at what comes with the Elitech IR-200:

  • The leak detector itself
  • UV LED light attachment
  • User’s Manual
  • Plastic case
  • Adapater
  • Charging cable
  • Five replacement filters
  • One replacement probe

Conclusion

Alright folks well that about covers everything there is to know about this product from Elitech. We’ve gone over the features, pros, and cons. I would say that after reviewing this product and after handling it in person that this product ranks on the ‘Better’ scale. For those of you unaware, I like to rank products on the ‘Good’ ‘Better’ ‘Best’ approach. The good products are just that… they’re good and will get the job done. They may not have the best features or benefits, but they get you through. The better products are in the middle between the good and the premium best models. They have some extra features but are still able to get the price point down. That is where this leak detector comes in. It doesn’t have every bell and whistle like some of the more expensive detectors out there, but it is an overall great product that will not impact your wallet near as much as a Robinair or a Bacharach.

If you are interested in purchasing this unit then please visit this link to be taken to the official Elitech product page website. Here you can review more information on the product as well as purchase the product straight from Elitech. The typical lead time once placing an order is between three to five business days for the product to arrive at your door. When I was sent IR-200 I had it at my door in only a couple of days. If you are in an hurry you can also call their customer service and request for first or second day air shipping.

Important Links:

Hello folks and welcome to RefrigerantHQ. Today we will be doing another one of our product review articles. As many of you know having the proper tools with you at a job can make a huge difference. In my younger years I used to buy products that were at the cheaper end of the spectrum. This meant that I got to save some money right off the bat… but when I started to actually use the product in everyday situations I realized that what I had actually purchased was NOT getting the job done. Or, if it was… things would be much easier if I had purchased a higher quality product. The same logic can be used when selecting tools for HVAC work.

One of the key tools for any HVAC technician is the refrigerant leak detector. So many service calls revolve around a system that has a leak somewhere on the lines. This leak is most likely the cause of all of the problems and if found, identified, and corrected quickly then you not only save yourself time but also end the visit with a happy customer. Over the years I have written many reviews on various lead detectors. In today’s article we will be taking an in-depth look at Elitech’s ILD-200 Infrared Refrigerant Leak Detector.

Before we continue there are two points that I want to make sure that you are aware of. The first is that when I do a review on a tool like this I go as in-depth as I possibly can. What that means is that you will see a lot of words here on the product. If you are not a fan of reading long articles then you may want to skip around the heading sections until you find what you’re looking for. I believe in being thorough, but to some it may be a bit too much. The second point is that I want it to be known that Elitech sent me a free ILD-200 for me to review. The review itself is still an honest interpretation of what I have found, but I just want you to keep that in mind that I was sent a free product.

Elitech

Before I purchase a new tool I always like to take some time and do some actual research on the company that stands behind the tool. A lot of times you’ll find that the highest ranked tool is made by a company that no one has ever heard of. Or, that when something goes wrong with the product that there is no reputable company to stand behind it. That is why it is worth doing a bit of research on the company itself as well as the product.

Elitech is a global company that is headquartered out of San Jose, California. They also have locations in China, United Kingdom, and Brazil as well as additional staff from around the world. They have over twenty years of experience working with and creating leak detection and measuring equipment. Along with that they also work hand in hand with other HVAC OEMs and distributors to brand their product. (In other words, you may find that other branded leak detectors actually came from Elitech but are under a different brand name.)

The company itself is not as established as some of the other names in the industry like Robinair… but they are making quality products and are quickly making a name for themselves within the industry. I would feel perfectly safe purchasing products from them. Their website also states that they offer 24/7 customer support so in case something does go wrong the company is able to be contacted.

Product Features

The first point I want to make on this product is that it uses Infrared leak detection. Infrared detectors work by drawing the air sample across an optical sensor that then analyses how much infrared radiation there is in that given area. This air is drawn by an internal pump within the machine. The benefits of this technology is that the sensors last much longer,  they are less prone to false alarms, they cannot be overloaded in an area saturated with refrigerant, and they are great at finding those very small leaks that other detectors just won’t sense. The Infrared detectors are the premium types of detectors on the market. The  ILD-200 model from Elitech will have its sensor last for over ten years. That is a big deal and hard to find when comparing to other leak detectors on the marketplace.

One of the most common questions when it comes to refrigerant leak detectors is what kinds of refrigerant will the product detect? In the case of the ILD-200 it will sniff out most major refrigerants that fall into the following classifications: CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and even HFOs. Basically, any halogenated refrigerant will be detected. If the refrigerant contains chlorine, fluorine, or bromine then it will be found. Some of the most common refrigerants that this includes are R-22, R-410A, R-404A, R-134a, R-1234yf, etc.

The sniffer itself meets EN14624,SAE-162,SAE-2791 and SAE-2913 standards. It has a maximum sensitivity of 0.14 ounces per year. It comes with three different settings: low, medium, and high. The highest sensitivity will detect four grams per year, the medium seven grams per year, and the low will detect fourteen grams per year. The detector also comes with what’s known as a ‘peak’ function. When used it will record the absolutely highest leak point during your scan.

The probe itself is fourteen inches long and is easily flexible to allow you to get into hard to reach areas. There is also an LED light that comes with the detector that can be clipped onto the probe that will allow you to see in those hard to reach areas to ensure that you can find the true point of leak.

The ILD-200 will work in temperatures ranging from 14 degrees to 125.6 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees to 52 degrees Celsius). It will also work in areas with humidity ranging from fifty percent to eighty-five percent. Upon turning the machine on you will need around thirty seconds for it to warm up before you can begin use. When a leak is found you will be alerted either by a sound or light alarm (Your choice). There is even a headphone connection in case you are at a noisy job site and cannot hear ht beeping.

This detector also comes with an all digital display that will showcase everything you need to know in one place. You’ll see the leakage levels, the sensitivity setting, change sensor indicators, and even the remaining battery charge. Speaking of batteries, this unit comes with a lithium ion battery with a full six hour battery life cycle (3.7 volts 3000mAH). If your battery does run out it will take approximately four hours to fully charge. The good news here is that if you do accidentally leave the machine on while working it will automatically shut off after ten minutes of no activity. This will help you preserve the battery so that it can last you all day without having to be recharged.

The ILD-200 comes with a heavy duty exterior case that will last for many years. The case will prevent damage from falls/drops or from being tossed around in the back of a work van. The entire product, case in all, only weights a few pounds. I picked the case up while writing this review with just my thumb and there was virtually no strain. You will not be lugging around some huge heavy detector with you. This thing is light. I checked the official description and it only weighs 2.8 pounds. Lastly, the detector/case can be stored in temperatures as low as negative four degrees to as high as one-hundred and forty degrees Fahrenheit. I know in some cases work vans get over one-hundred degrees in summer months.

Pros

Ok folks so now that we have gotten the product features out of the way let us take a look at some of the benefits this product has to offer. The first is the maximum sensitivity setting. As I mentioned earlier, it has a maximum of 0.14 ounces per year detection rate. That is VERY low. To illustrate this let’s compare this unit to the Fieldpiece SRL8. The SRL8 has a maximum setting of 0.10. So, it is pretty much right on par with the Elitech although the Elitech is cheaper by almost one-hundred dollars. I know I’d rather save the money and get the detector that has a nominal difference in sensitivity setting.

The other big pro on this product is the overall price point. If you compare the features on this to other detectors with the same features you will find that the Elitech model is significantly cheaper then its competitors. I’m always for saving money especially if you’re going to get the same features. Its a no brainier.

The last point here is the 24/7 technical support via e-mail or phone from Elitech. Their customer service phone number is 1-408-844-4070. They can also be reached via e-mail at: support@elitechus.com . Lastly, if neither of those options work you can also reach out directly on their website by filling out a contact us form which can be found by clicking here. If you go through all of this support and you are still not satisfied with the detector they also offer a thirty day no questions asked return. They are confident enough to stand behind their product and back it up with this money back guarantee.

Cons

There weren’t any major cons on this product that I could find. The first one that I’ll list though is what we discussed earlier in the Pros section. There are leak detectors out there that are MORE sensitive then this one… but they are quite a bit more expensive so take that with a grain of salt. For example, the Bacharach H-10 Pro is a premium leak detector that can detect as low as 0.006 ounces per year. That is a huge difference in sensitivity setting… but the H-10 Pro is also hundreds of dollars more expensive then the Elitech. So, ultimately you have to make the choice if you want to spend the money on the best of the best H-10 Pro or get a good Elitech model.

The only major con I would mention here is that this tool will not detect hydrocarbon refrigerants such as R-600a Isobutane or R-290 Propane. It will also not detect other natural refrigerants such as Ammonia or Carbon Dioxide. It is worth mentioning that these natural refrigerants are becoming more popular in recent years due to the slow phase down of HFC refrigerants. So, you may come across these more often especially if you work with vending machines or individual cooling units found at gas stations or supermarkets.

The other two points worth mentioning are that there were some false leak detection reports due to moisture in the air. I didn’t experience this myself but when I was doing my research on the product I found a few users commenting on this. Just be mindful of this and ensure you are working in a dry area before you start detecting.

The last point is that there were reports of the LCD digital screen getting scratched rather easily. Again, I haven’t used the product long enough for this to occur but I can definitely see it happening. I would recommend keeping the screen protector on it or if you have already removed it then clear tape will work as well. Just put something on there to help protect the screen from damage.

What’s In The Box?

This is always an important question when purchasing a new tool. What exactly comes in the box that you are ordering? Is it just the bare bones product or do you get the extra necessities that you will need down the road? Let’s take a look at what comes with the Elitech ILD-200:

  • The leak detector itself
  • User manual
  • Packet of filters
  • USB cable
  • Adapter
  • LED Light

Conclusion

Well folks that about sums it up on the Elitech ILD-200 leak detector. I tried to be as comprehensive as I could with this review but if you see something that I missed please reach out to me and I will get it added. If you ask me then I would say that this product is a definite buy if you are looking for a good/better leak detector to be used during your day to day routines. Yes, there are other cheaper models out there and there are also more expensive models with additional features… but this Elitech ILD-200 gives you a good mix of both worlds by saving your wallet and giving you some of those much needed features as well.

If you are interested in purchasing this unit then please visit this link to be taken to the official Elitech product page website. Here you can review more information on the product as well as purchase the product straight from Elitech. The typical lead time once placing an order is between three to five business days for the product to arrive at your door. When I was sent ILD-200 I had it at my door in only a couple of days. If you are in an hurry you can also call their customer service and request for first or second day air shipping.

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Elitech ILD-200 Infrared Leak Detector

Top 5

Greetings ladies and gentlemen. Hope everyone is ready for the weekend. I certainty am after the week I had. I had every intention on working on another article over the course of the week but before I knew it Friday had arrived and the week was over. On top of that my Saturday and Sunday are completely booked with either yard work or family time. So, here I am on a Friday night just after ten o’clock working on an article.

Today’s post is a bit different then my others. Typically, when I do an article I like to write it myself and provide all of the details and sources myself as well. Over the course of this week I had a few contacts at Bacharach reach out to me. They had just completed a study on leak detection and they wanted to spread the word on what their study and what their findings were. If you are an avid reader of other HVAC or refrigerant news you may have already seen other websites such as CoolingPost.com do an article on this study.

A refrigerant leak is obviously never a good thing. If you’re a home owner it can mean an expensive repair bill to fix the leak and recharge your system. If you’re a business owner that expensive repair just increased ten fold. Now, imagine if you’re dealing with an industrial refrigeration system that has thousands of pounds of refrigerant in it. That bill just keeps going up and up. This is why it is so important to identify and catch refrigerant leaks before they get out of control. Typically, the quicker the problem is found the less money you will have to pay in repairs.

On top of refrigerant leaks being expensive they are also hugely detrimental to the environment. Obviously, it matters what kind of refrigerant you’re using in but more often then not the refrigerant leaking is either hurting the Ozone or is affecting Global Warming. refrigerant either. There was a story last month that involved a seafood company not correcting their leaking R-22 units. They were then fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for not following the Clean Air Act. Leaks are serious.

The problem though when dealing with refrigerant leaks is finding and identifying the leak. You need the right equipment and the right knowledge on how to find a leak but even in the best cases a leak can be difficult to find. In fact, there are instances where leaks can come and go making it that much more difficult to find. So, how can we improve this process? How can we help our customers before the leak gets out of control?

Bacharach

What Bacharach has done is they have recorded leak detection data from all over the world. Over three billion samples, yes three billion. That is a huge number and an amazing amount of data at their fingertips. The aim here is to aggregate all of this data and determine what exactly are the top five refrigerant leak types. I am a big fan of this type of thing as I am a data guy and love digging into the numbers and analyzing the results.

To show these results Bacharach has created a free webinar for anyone to watch. All you need to do is fill out a simple form of name, e-mail, phone and then the webinar pops right up. The video is twenty-five minutes but it contains a lot of great information. It is narrated by Jason Ayres, a veteran at the Bacharach company with over twenty years of experience.

It’s easy to see after just a few minutes of watching the video that these guys know what they’re talking about. If you’d like to watch the video then please click here to be taken to Bacharach’s website. Again, you’ll have to fill out a short form but it only took me a few seconds.

Conclusion

Just so you all know, I was not compensated for this post. I did enjoy a nice dinner with the Bacharach guys here in Kansas City, but that was more of a meet and greet then anything else. We enjoyed some of that famous Kansas City barbecue! I watched this leak detection video myself and thought that it was a great resources for those of you within the industry. Check it out if you’ve got some time over the weekend or if you’ve got a slow day at the office!

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

Infrared refrigerant leak detectors are some of the most popular refrigerant leak detectors that are used by day to day professionals in the HVAC industry. Most green guys in the industry will buy one of the cheaper detectors on the market just to have one in their tool bag. Usually, it’s a heated diode detector that will have the sensor go out on them after working on a larger leak or after dipping the probe in water. (Yes, this happens.) Don’t even get me started on what kind a homeowner or do-it-yourselfer will purchase.

I am a huge fan of Infrared leak detectors for one reason and one reason only. Quality. These types of detectors scream quality and with quality comes long lasting and dependable tools. As I get older I’ve slowly come to realize that buying an expensive tool today is much better than replacing a shoddy tool again and again. Here’s the question though, how exactly does an Infrared detector work? What are the Pros and Cons of these types of products? Should you get an Infrared or should you look at maybe a Heated Diode or an Ultrasonic detector?

The How

Infrared detectors are quite a bit different than their heated diode competitors. With a heated diode they detect anything that contains Chlorine or Fluorine. When they detect a leak you can move the probe closer and closer until you have an exact pin-pointed location. This is what most techs and mechanics are used to in their day to day work.

Infrared refrigerant leak detectors find refrigerant by sampling an area in a slow an deliberate sweeping pattern. So, instead of moving your probe to the exact location you would sweep your probe back and forth or up and down until your alarm sounds.

While you can’t hold your probe still with an Infrared unit you will find, that after some re-training yourself, that you’ll be able to pin-point leaks even better due to the sweeping back and forth motion. The biggest advantage of Infrared detectors is that it will trigger the same regardless of what refrigerant it is coming across. This is quite a bit different when comparing to a heated diode that reacts differently depending on the type of refrigerant.

Pros & Cons

Jut like with everything else there are Pros and Cons to purchasing an Infrared refrigerant leak detector. Let’s dive in and take a look at what they have to offer:

Pros

  • The sensitivity levels on Infrared sniffers are top notch. Most of these models can detect leaks as low as 0.10 ounces per year. This is as good as it gets as far as sensitivity. I have yet to see any detector on the market today that goes under that magical 0.10 ounces per year number. Now, truth be told there are corona or diode models out there that do the same but there are much more benefits to an Infrared unit then just sensitivity.
  • You will notice that when shopping for an Infrared detector that the lifespan of a sensor is much much longer than your typical leak detector. While standard detectors on the market may have their sensors last for twenty, thirty, or fifty hours of work a Infrared detection unit will see it’s sensor last up to one-thousand hours. There are some units out there that claim their sensor will last for ten years. Imagine that, not having to change the sensor on your detector for ten years. You save yourself the hassle as well as the money. (Sensor replacement for other units can be as high as forty-dollars.)
  • Some users have stated that they had to relearn how to use an infrared detector when comparing to other more traditional detection methods like Corona Suppression or Heated Diodes. With the Infrared detection units you have to keep moving the sensor instead of letting it sit in one place. The reason this is necessary is the unit will zero itself out ever few seconds. The point of this to prevent saturation to your detector. So, if you’re in a tight or small room and there are multiple leaks it may be very hard to get a solid reading from your diode or corona reader not to mention you have the risk of overwhelming and damaging your detection sensor. With the Infrared though, since it zeros out ever few seconds, it will not be overwhelmed as it adjusts to the room and air around it and will look for higher concentrations of refrigerant allowing you to easily find the source of the leak.
  • As I said above, having an infrared detection unit may even negate the use of other methods as you’ll be able to track down exactly where the leak is using just your sensor. No more finding the general area and then spraying soap and water on it looking for bubbles. No more ultraviolet dye. With the infrared you should be good to go. Now, do keep in mind that there are always are surprises when diagnosing a unit and you very well may end up needing an alternative leak detection method in some cases. The point that I am trying to make here though is that the use of these other detection methods will drastically decline with the purchase of an infrared refrigerant leak detector.

The Cons

  • I mentioned at the beginning of my post that Infrared refrigerant detectors are top quality. Well folks with top quality comes top price. These types of units are the best detectors on the market today and you need to be prepared to pay that extra cash to own one. Most Infrared units are between three-hundred to four-hundred dollars a unit. Yes, I know it is quite expensive but the thing to keep in mind is the life span of this unit. If you’re a business owner with a whole bunch of techs under you then I could see why you don’t want to absorb the cost of these units, however if you are a tech who has to buy their own tools or an independent guy then I would highly recommend getting yourself an Infrared unit today. Forget the cost and just bite the bullet.
  • Every detector comes with a warranty, as they should. The reason I am putting warranties under the Cons category here is due to the length of the warranty and what most of them will uphold if there is a warranty claim filed. If you buy a unit you will notice that the warranty term is either one or two years. That is a pretty standard warranty claim for any detectors, even the cheaper ones. My concern is that if you spend all of this money on a top quality detector and for whatever reason you get a defective one but you are outside your one year warranty then you are most likely out of luck. Sure, you can try to call the company up and negotiate but they have all the chips in their corner at this point. If I’m going to be paying this much for a detector then I would expect at least a three to four, maybe even a five year, warranty.
  • The last con I can find on these units is a small one. It is a complaint about how you have to keep sweeping your sensor back and forth with an Infrared unit. I explained why this is necessary above but some users have complained that it is very difficult to do a sweeping motion in very tight or confined spaces. I could see this being an issue and maybe this is where more traditional detection methods could come into play such as dyes or a soap and water solution.

Our Preferred Infrared Detectors

Alright folks so we’ve gone over how these detectors work, the Pros & Cons, but now we need to review what we here at RefrigerantHQ recommend.

Whenever I recommend a product I always like to use the Good, Better, Best model. What is that? Well you see there are three different kinds of consumers or customers. There are the guys who want the cheapest thing there but still will work, the good; then there are the guys who want decent quality but they are a bit timid on the cost, the better; and then you have the guys who want the premium product, the best.

The problem here is that with Infrared detectors there really isn’t a low entry point or even a medium entry point. All of the comparable units are right around the same price and right around the same quality. At the time that I am writing this the three units that I would recommend are all right between three-hundred to four-hundred dollars. (Prices are subject to change at any time.) Instead of my usual approach of Good, Better, Best I am going to suggest to you the top three Infrared detectors on the market today. It will be up to you to make your decision from there. If you need some more input feel free to check out each product’s official RefrigerantHQ’s review by clicking on their links below.


Robinair 22791 Refrigerant Leak Detector

Robinair 22791 InfraRed Refrigerant Leak Detector

Product Review

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Fieldpiece SRL2 (K7) Refrigerant Leak DetectorFieldpiece SRL2(K7) Advanced Refrigerant Leak Detector

Product Review

BUY NOW


Inficon D-Tek Refrigerant Leak Detector

Inficon D-TEK 712-202-G1 Select Refrigerant Leak Detector

Product Review

BUY NOW


Conclusion

In conclusion that is a brief synopsis of how the Infrared refrigerant detectors work, the benefits and drawbacks, and RefrigerantHQ’s recommended products. Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer your question.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

The heated diode refrigerant leak detector is quickly becoming the most common type of detector seen in the field today. Sure, there are other models such as Corona Suppression and Infrared but the good majority of tools out there are heated diode.

Here’s the question though, how exactly does a heated diode detector work? What are the Pros and Cons of these types of products? Should you get a heated diode or should you look at maybe an Infrared or an Ultrasonic detector?

The How

This type of detector works by heating the refrigerant and breaking the molecules apart. When the molecules are broken a positively charged Chlorine or Fluorine ion will appear. The heated diode will detect these ions and sound the alarm either audibly, visually, or both.

What this means is that a heated diode detector will be able to sniff out pretty much all refrigerants used today. Why? Well most refrigerants either contain Chlorine or Fluorine. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular refrigerant classes and types on the market today:

  • CFCs – Chlorofluorocarbons have been pretty much phased out from the world today due to the Chlorine that they contained. Chlorine was found to damage the Ozone every time it was released or vented. Popular refrigerants in this category include R-12 and R-502.
  • HCFCs – Hydrochloroflurocarbons are pretty much the same story. They were also phased out, more recently, due to the Chlorine that they contained. The most popular refrigerant in this category which I’m sure you have all heard of is R-22. (R-22 was the standard refrigerant for residential cooling for many years.)
  • HFCs – Hydrofluorocarbons are where things get a bit different. In an effort to save the Ozone Chlorine was removed from these new classes of refrigerants. The one constant chemical that remained though was Fluorine. (Remember, that’s the other chemical that heated diodes detect.) HFC’s are the most popular refrigerants in the world today and include the most common names such as R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A.  Chances are you if you are working on a unit it’ll have an HFC refrigerant.
  • HFOs – Hydrofluoroolefins are a newer classification of refrigerants designed in effort to replace the HFC refrigerants. Like their HFC sister HFO’s also contain Fluorine. While these refrigerants are still being developed in labs today by Honeywell and Chemours there are some you may see in real world applications already such as working on a newer automobile and finding that it uses HFO-1234YF instead of R-134a.

You may have noticed that each one of those classes of refrigerants contained one of the key chemicals: Chlorine or Fluorine. While most refrigerants have these two chemicals not all of them do.

It is worth noting that there is one class of refrigerant that your heated diode detector will not find and that is Hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are your natural refrigerants such as Ammonia, Propane, or Isobutane. If you’re a residential tech then you’ll probably never run into these but if you’re a chiller or a freezer tech then you probably have already run into these at a supermarket or cold storage warehouse. For these you will need a Hydrocarbon detector.

Pros & Cons

Jut like with everything else there are Pros and Cons to purchasing a heated diode refrigerant leak detector.

Pros

  • Heated diode sensors can be very sensitive even to the smallest of leaks. Some of the top models can detect leaks as small as 0.006 ounces per year. Try getting that detection level with a Corona Suppression model!
  • With this type of detector you can move the probe right to the very spot of the leak and hover over that point to detect very small leaks. Infrared detectors require you to be constantly ‘sweeping’ back and forth rather than resting in one single location.
  • The most highly rated leak detector by technicians is a heated diode. Yes, that’s right the H-10 Pro is a heated diode model.

Cons

  • The biggest con on these types of detectors are the life of the sensor. Most diode sensors will need to be replaced after only about one-hundred hours of operation. A comparable Infrared detector will see sensor life last for years.
  • If you are working in an enclosed area that is saturated with refrigerant you man end up overwhelming your sensor and shortening it’s life.
  • The heated sensor needs time to warm up before it can be used. Depending on the model this can take thirty seconds or over two minutes.

Our Preferred Heated Diode Detectors

Alright folks so we’ve gone over how these detectors work, the Pros & Cons, but now we need to review what we here at RefrigerantHQ recommend.

Whenever I recommend a product I always like to use the Good, Better, Best model. What is that? Well you see there are three different kinds of consumers or customers. There are the guys who want the cheapest thing there but still will work, the good; then there are the guys who want decent quality but they are a bit timid on the cost, the better; and then you have the guys who want the premium product, the best. The question you have to ask yourself before reviewing our choices below is what kind of consumer are you?

The Good

Signstek Refrigerant Leak DetectorSignstek Portable AC Refrigerant Halogen Gas Leakage Detector Tester with High Sensitivity for Home Use

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The Signstek refrigerant leak detector is your bare bones heated diode detector. This tool is for the homeowner, the do-it-yourselfer, or maybe even a junior apprentice trying to learn their trade. This is a cheap but still a quality detector.

The Better

Inficon Tek-Mate Refrigerant Leak Detector

Inficon TEK-Mate 705-202-G1 Refrigerant Leak Detector, R22, R410A, R134A Detects

BUY NOW

The INFICON Tek-Mate is a very common and high quality heated diode detector that I am sure that you will find in any HVAC shop. Most everyone knows the TEK-Mate name already and will swear by it’s accuracy. The best thing is that as I write this it is under two-hundred dollars. (Price is subject to change at any time.)

The Best

Bacharach H-10 Pro Refrigerant Leak Detector

Bacharach - H-10 PRO Refrigerant Leak Detector

BUY NOW

I am sure most of you already knew what was coming before you even scrolled over the Bacharach name. Yes, it’s the H-10 Pro refrigerant leak detector. This thing is hailed as the best of the best out of any and all leak detectors by technicians, mechanics, business owners, and everyone else alike. This is a premium product just be ready to pay a premium price.

Conclusion

In conclusion that is a brief synopsis of how the heated diode refrigerant detectors work, the benefits and drawbacks, and RefrigerantHQ’s recommended products. Thanks for reading and I hope that I was able to answer your question.

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

 

You may have noticed by now but over the past month I’ve been on a leak detection kick. It seems like nearly every other article is about detection or detecting products. What can I say. That’s just how my mind works. When I get focused on something I go and go until I burn myself out. All that being said I’m sitting here writing another article on refrigerant leak detection. I predict another four or five article before I move onto a different topic…

There are many types of refrigerant leak detection methods available for technicians and mechanics to use today. Most of them you have probably have heard of and others may be completely new to you. But the questions you may be asking is what are all of the different methods out there today? What are the Pros and Cons? What kind of detection do we recommend? What is the best way to find a leak? Let’s find out!

Before You Start

First and foremost before you even think about starting with an electronic leak detector, ultra-violet, or whatever else you have in your arsenal I am going to suggest something that will save you a ton of time and effort. When you realize that your unit, or the customer’s unit, is low on charge and you suspect a leak the first thing that I would recommend is to do a visual inspection. Yes, it’s that simple. Just look at it. What’s that saying? Keep It Simple Stupid.Refrigerant Leak With Oil Example

Look at the unit up and down. Look at the liquid line. Look at the suction line. Look at the coils. Look at everything. Anything that may look corroded, worn out, or just an area that you suspect there to be a leak is your first stop. A red flag is when you see traces of oil. Oil is circulated throughout the refrigeration cycle along with the refrigerant so when you see oil on the outside of the coils, lines, or wherever then you know there is a problem.

When you identify the potential problem, or you at least have an idea where a leak is, then here is where I would suggest getting out your soap and bubble solution. I prefer the Nu-Calgon Spray Bottle. Sure, some guys will use their own homemade soap and water solution but with the store bought stuff you get the extra viscosity which allows the sprayed solution to actually stay on the desired surface. I’m sure some of you have your own recipes but I’ll stick with my pre-bottled stuff.

Spray the solution on the desired area then sit back and wait. Depending on the leak and conditions at the time you may begin to see bubbles quickly or you may end up waiting for a few minutes. Once you see the bubbles you can truly begin your diagnosis and repair. If you don’t see any bubbles after an extended period of them then it’s time to move on or to potentially pull out your electronic leak detector.

There is one more tip that I’d like to mention before moving onto the next topic. As you know most of the time when there is a leak it’s usually the coil. These can be sometimes difficult to visually inspect. Some techs out there will stick their gloved fingers in and gently feel around in suspected areas. They do this looking for one thing. When they pull their hand back they are looking for signs of oil on the tips of their gloves. If there is an oil residue then presto you’ve got your leak. That being said please note that I am not condoning shoving your hand into the blower, the fan, the lit pilot, or anything else. Be smart and be safe.

What About Electronic Leak Detectors?

You may have noticed by now that I have barely mentioned electronic refrigerant leak detectors. Why is that? Well folks I see electronic detectors as a last resort option. Detectors are meant to be a precise device. They are not meant to be swept across the entire unit inside and outside mindlessly. This takes up way too much time and effort. Hours could be wasted at a job going back and forth with your sniffer trying to find the mysterious leak.

The logical thing to do here is to do what I have said above. Use your eyes. Use your hands. Use your investigative procedures first before you get out the detector. Really think about where the leak could be occurring. Then, when you have an idea and you have a proposed spot where you think a leak is this is where you would get out your detector to narrow the search down even further. Like I said, it’s a precise instrument. You point where and if there is something it’ll move you closer to the culprit.

When you do begin using your electronic leak detector I would suggest moving your wand from a top to down motion on whatever section you are scanning. There are some guys who like bottom up  scanning. They do this because refrigerant is heavier than air and you’ll be able to detect refrigerant flowing down if there is a leak. My concern here is that by using this method you are not finding the source of the leak. You only end up finding where all of the down flowing refrigerant is going not where the leak is originating. The top to down method will alert you the moment it senses the beginnings of a leak. This is really a matter of preference but I wanted to point it out here.

Types of Electronic Leak Detectors

Before purchasing a detector we should identify what kind that you want, or better to say what kind you can afford. Now there are a few main types of detectors and they are: Corona-Suppression, Heated Diode, and Infrared. These detectors can range in cost from thirty or forty dollars all the way up to six-hundred dollars for a premium unit such as the H-10 Professional Leak Detector. (As a side note, the H-10 Model is one of the most beloved detectors on the market today.)

Bacharach H-10 Pro Deluxe HVAC Refrigerant Leak Detector

  1. The corona-suppression type of detector works by creating a high voltage corona in the sensing tip. When the corona senses refrigerant the device will sound an alarm. This type of leak detector is the oldest type and some models go all the way back to the sixties. (Yes that far!) Some guys love the tried and true tools like this, me I prefer something newer!
  2. The second type of leak detector is the heated diode. This type of detector works by heating the refrigerant and breaking the molecules apart. When the molecules are broken a positively charged Chlorine or Fluorine ion will appear. The heated diode will detect these ions and sound the alarm. The downsides to both of this type of detector, and the Corona Suppression, is that they can be overwhelmed if the refrigerant leak is too large. If the area is saturated with refrigerant then these alarms won’t be of much help and you may actually end up damaging your sensor and having to replace it.
  3. Infrared detectors work by drawing the air sample across an optical sensor that then analyses how much infrared radiation there is in that given area. The benefits of this technology is that the sensors last much longer,  they are less prone to false alarms, they cannot be overloaded in an area saturated with refrigerant, and they are great at finding those very small leaks that other detectors just won’t sense. The Infrared detectors are the premium types of detectors on the market. Expect to pay a pretty penny for these babies.
  4. Now, there is a fourth type of detector that has been around for a while now called the ultrasonic detectors. These detectors work not by detecting refrigerant but by detecting the noise the refrigerant would make when it is being leaked. When refrigerant is leaking out of a unit, hose, compressor, or whatever it creates an ultrasonic sound that is so high a human ear cannot hear. The best thing about this type of detector is that it reacts by pressure and not by volume of refrigerant. The downside of this type of detector is that at times it can detect other noises that are around you and that are not coming from the unit you are working on. This could be especially troubling when in a large commercial building or plant environment with other machines going on all around you.

If you were to ask me my opinion on what the best kind of detector to get then I am going to have to say Infrared each and every time. Sure, the price is higher but you get such better quality, amazing leak sensitivity, and an extremely long sensor life. (Some of these sensors last up to ten years!) My two favorite Infrared units on the market today are the Fieldpiece SRL2(K7) and the Inficon D-TEK 712-202-G1 model. 

 

What About Ultra-Violet?

Ultraviolet Dyes – This is an interesting way to find leaks especially on a unit that you know has a leak but you can’t quite pin point the exact location. This method works by having the technician adding the dye to the system and mixing it in with the lubricants/refrigerant. When the dye has been instilled in the system the tech then uses a black or blue light scanning the unit looking for signs of the colored dye coming out of the unit. There are a few downsides to this detection method that deters a lot of professionals from using ultraviolet dyes. The first is that it can take a significant amount of time for the dye to fully cycle through the system. That means there is a lot of sitting around and waiting. The second downside is that not all dyes on the market today are recommended by HVAC manufacturers. If you used the wrong dye over multiple times you could end up damaging or destroying the unit’s compressor and we all know that it is not a cheap repair.

Conclusion

Well folks that about wraps it up. As I said at the beginning of this article there are a variety of ways to detect, find, and diagnose refrigerant leaks. Rather you are a visual guy, a bubbles guy, or leak detectors or bust kind of guy make sure that you at least consider the other methods out there and give them a try every once and a while. I know it’s easy to get set in our ways but you may find that trying this new method may actually save you some time or help you find that evasive leak.

Thanks for reading folks,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ