The other day I wrote an article going into what the best leak detectors are on the market today. Like my other posts I went into my Good, Better, Best approach. In that article INFICON’s Tek-Mate 705-202-G1 Refrigerant Leak Detector came in at the Better category. This unit is a high quality detector that I felt deserved it’s own individual review post.
Before we get too far into the details on this product I always like to take a look at the company behind the product. INFICON is based out of Switzerland but has offices and plants all across the world. Their manufacturing locations include Germany, Liechtenstein, and the United States. Even though this is a foreign owned company I can assure you that the quality is outstanding and to be honest there are two types of foreign owned companies. There are the shoddy Chinese companies that pop up like weeds and then there are the reputable European companies who have decades, sometimes centuries, of experience.
The INFICON Tek-Mate Refrigerant Leak Detector is meant for both automotive and commercial HVAC technician usage. Whatever area you are in this will be a good fit. As you know there are different kinds of leak detectors on the market ranging from Heated Diode, Ultrasonic, and Corona-Suppression. The TekMate is a Heated Diode detector. Now, I am by no means an expert on the science behind this but I will pull an excerpt from INFICON’s write up on this product to explain how it works:
The INFICON TEK-Mate Refrigerant Leak Detector incorporates an electrochemical sensor consisting of a ceramic substrate, doped with a reactive element, and maintained at high temperature by a built-in heating element. When a halogen-bearing gas contacts with the hot surface, the chlorine, fluorine, or bromine atoms are separated from the molecule and ionized. This causes an electrical current to flow within the ceramic to a collection electrode at the center.
This product comes in at just under two pounds and comes with a fifteen inch probe to get into the harder to reach areas. (Most other detectors come with a fourteen inch probe so you get that extra inch with the Tek-Mate.) The unit runs on two D cell batteries. The average battery life on this unit is around sixteen hours. Not a bad charge but some may end up complaining about it. There are some other detectors on the market today that come with a lithium ion rechargeable battery. Now these are a lot more expensive but they also save you the hassle of having to always be buying D batteries.
Lastly, and most importantly, the INFICON Tek-Mate can detect a wide array of refrigerants including all of the popular categories like CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, and even HFOs. This includes refrigerants like R-12, R-22, R134a, R-502, R-22, R-410A, R-404A, 1234YF, and many more. This product will not detect Hydrocarbon refrigerants such as Propane, Ammonia, or Carbon Dioxide. These types of refrigerants are an exception though and shouldn’t be a problem.
If and, unfortunately, when you need to get a new sensor for your product you will find that they are a replaceable part and can be bought on Amazon. The unit also comes with extra filters, but in the off chance that you run out more filters can be purchased on Amazon as well. The goal here is to make things easy to buy replacement parts.
There are two big bragging points on this unit. The first is the sensitivity. This sensor can even detect leaks as small as 0.15 ounces per year. (Click here for a video explaining this.) That sensitivity is a big step up from cheaper refrigerant leak detectors that sometimes struggle detecting those smaller leaks. The other big selling point here is the auto-compensation feature. This feature continuously monitors and then compensates for any changing background ‘noise’ or interference while trying to find a leak making it much easier for the user.
There is one more big selling point. It may not matter to some of you but others live and die by this. Even though INFICON is a Swiss company this product was made right here in the United States. American made and proud!
Remember how I said that this was a very sensitive unit? Well maybe this is a bit too sensitive. Some users state that it gave a lot of false alarms. While there may very well be false alarms it is worth noting that the detector will have a steady beep while it is on. When it actually detects a leak the beeping will increase in pace and volume. A few people were confused by this and thought it was detecting a leak immediately after turning it on.
This product comes with a two year replacement warranty on any defects of materials or workmanship. They do not offer warranty or replacement parts on the normal wear and tear use of your unit. This includes new sensors and filters. (Sorry, nice try!) I am a big warranty guy and when I spend a pretty penny on a product I expect a decent warranty. Two years is good for a detector but I want more.
There have been some complaints from consumers that some products have arrived defective or broken. The warranty will cover this but it is still a pain to go through the return authorization process when you need a tool now, not weeks from now.
Overall, INFICON’s Tek-Mate Refrigerant Leak Detector is a solid buy rather you are an automotive technician or an HVAC tech looking for a new toy. This has a high sensitivity sensor that will sniff out all of the popular refrigerants on the market today. I really tried my best to find downsides on this unit and there wasn’t that much negative to be said. Sure there are always better detectors out there with more options and gizmos but if you are looking for a good quality detector for a fair price then the TekMate is for you. If you are interested in purchasing then buy it on Amazon.com directly.
Now for your moneybags out there while the TekMate is a good buy if you are looking for a premium leak detector then I would recommend FieldPiece’s SRL8 Leak Detector. This is a premium buy so expect a much higher cost but with the cost you get quality. The choice is up to you.