Product Review: REED Instruments C-380 Refrigerant Leak Detector

REED Instruments C-380 Refrigerant Leak Detector












Hello folks and welcome! Today on RefrigerantHQ we will be doing yet another review on a refrigerant leak detector. The goal here is to cover as many detectors on the market and to give you a rounded approach of everything that is available. Today’s targeted product is Reed Instrument’s C-380 Refrigerant Leak Detector.REED Instruments C-380 Refrigerant Leak Detector

Now before I get into the details of a product review I always like to take the time and talk a bit about the company behind the product. If we don’t know anything about the company then how can we trust the product?

REED Instruments has been around since 2004, or just shy of fifteen years. While they are a newer company they have been in the HVAC tool game for a while and are actually owned by one of the largest test and measurement distributors in North America. REED’s goal is to provide an economical alternative to some of the higher priced brand names on the market today such as Robinair, Fieldpiece, and Bacharach. They give you a choice of a middle of the road product instead of either a super expensive detector or one that will break after a few weeks of use.


When I was doing my research on this C-380 detector I noticed that Reed Instruments markets it as an ionization detection sensor. At first this threw me off as to exactly what kind of detector they were talking about here but then after thinking about it for a few moments I realized they were referring to the heated diode technology.

A heated diode detector heats up the environment around it and then breaks the molecules apart. When the molecules are broken and there is refrigerant in the area either a positively charged Chlorine or Fluorine ion will appear. The heated diode detector then senses these ions and reports back to you that there is a leak. So, in short this is a heated diode refrigerant leak detector like many others that are on the market today. One point of caution is to never use this detector in what could be deemed a combustible environment. Remember, this is a heated diode and it is using heat. (It even says this in the instruction manual.)

The C-380 refrigerant detector will be able to find your standard refrigerant classifications such as CFCs, HCFCs, and HFCs. This includes your most popular refrigerants such as R-12, R-22, R-134a, R-404A, and R-410A.

I am not sure why but when looking for the sensitivity levels in the instruction manual on this detector they were measured in grams instead of the normal ounces per year. I did my best to convert these numbers over to ounces but if you see anything that is incorrect please let me know and I will update. Depending on the refrigerant the sensitivity levels will range from 0.20 to 0.30 ounces per year.

Upon starting the unit you will need to wait ten seconds for it to warm up and calibrate to zero. The unit comes with a high and low setting to allow you to narrow down your leak searches. When a leak is found you will have an audio and visual LED alarm that goes off. The sensor is rated to last at or just over one year. After that you will need to replace the sensor.

The probe on this unit is flexible and extends out to fifteen inches. Fifteen inches is right around standard length for a detection probe. Depending on the units you look at it could be between fourteen to fifteen inches.

The unit requires four double A batteries for power. There is not a rechargeable option on this. The upside here is that the battery life is rated to last around forty hours. Lastly, the C-380 detector comes with a durable and easily portable case to protect your tool.


As I mentioned in the introduction of this post the big Pro to the Reed Instrument C-380 is the price. Most premium detectors under the common brand names such as Robinair, Fieldpiece, or Bacharach could be three to four hundred dollars. Heck, some of them are over five-hundred dollars for a refrigerant detector. What Reed Instruments has done here is to provide you with a good detector that won’t break the bank. As I write this today the price is right around two-hundred dollars on

Another Pro that I wanted to bring up was the sensor life on this detector. Depending on the detector sensor life can vary wildly. Some of them can only last a month or two while others can last up to ten years. The C-380 can last up to one year, or a little bit after one year. They do recommend changing the sensor after twelve months even if it is working correctly.


So the big negative here on this unit is the sensitivity levels. Most of the time when you are getting over the one-hundred dollar ranges the sensitivity levels go up quite a bit. Other detectors on the market today have ratings between 0.10 to 0.20 ounces per year. Some of the premium ones go as low as 0.050 ounces per year. I fear that with this low of a sensitivity rating that you may not find the leak that you need to find.

I mentioned this above in the summary section but I want to bring it up again. I HATE having to use disposable batteries. They drive me crazy and I hate having to have extras on hand at all times. I am a huge fan of the rechargeable batteries especially if I am going to be spending a couple hundred bucks on a detector. The upside here is that at least with the C-380 you get a forty-hour lifespan on the batteries. So, you may need to change the batteries once or twice every two weeks.

The last Con that I am going to mention here is the warranty. This Reed detector comes with a twelve month one year warranty. While this is pretty standard across the industry I feel that I am wanting more especially if I am going to be paying for a more expensive unit. Could we get to two years or even to the level of a three year warranty that I have seen from some other vendors on the marketplace?


Depending on who you are and what your position is in life this may or may not be a good detector for you. If you have a cheapo detector you are using now and it just isn’t getting the job done then I would say go ahead and get yourself this Reed C-380 detector. However, if you are running into leak after leak that you just cannot find and you are getting frustrated then you may look at some of the more premium models on the market today such as the Prowler or the H-10 Pro detectors. These two units are top of the line, just be prepared to pay a top dollar price. The question that you have to ask yourself is should I give up sensitivity levels to save on price?

If you are interested in purchasing the Reed Instrument C-380 refrigerant leak detector than I suggest you visit our partner.

Important Links

What’s In The Box?

  • Leak Detector, obviously.
  • Batteries
  • Hard Carrying Case
  • Reference Leak Source