A refrigerant leak detector, also known as a coolant leak detector, is a handheld device that is attached to a refrigerant system to check for leaks. The best refrigerant leak detector will have a rugged construction, have a replacement battery, and will feature automatic zeroing.
Refrigerant leaks are toxic to humans and animals, they pollute the atmosphere, and they deplete the o-zone layer. They are also a clear indicator that your cooling system isn’t working properly.
When you have a refrigerant system that is running with a leak, they typically consume more power than they would, otherwise, so it’s important to be able to accurately check for leaks (Source).
A refrigerant leak detector allows you to peer inside your refrigerant systems internal workings, in order to check it’s health. Being able to detect a leak means you will be saving money, by restoring your system to full operation. There are many different types of refrigerant leak detectors and fittings, depending on what refrigerants you are trying to detect (Source).
With so many factors to consider, such as refrigerant type, tracking sensitivity, and reliability, choosing the right leak detector can sometimes be an overwhelming decision. Before you purchase a refrigerant leak detector, you should also consider its battery life, warranty, and compatibility.
In this roundup, we will take a look at the top-rated refrigerant leak detectors. All of the leak detectors in this review will accurately detect a leak, whether you are an HVAC technician working on a customer’s system or performing a do-it-yourself home repair.
What Is The Best Refrigerant Leak Detector?
The Fieldpiece Heated Diode unit is the best refrigerant leak detector since it triggers all CFCs, HFCs, CFCs, and blends. Additionally, it is up and running in just 30 seconds.
What Are Refrigerant Leak Detectors?
Refrigerant leaks release harmful chemicals into your home or office, and eventually, the atmosphere. If you think you may have a leak, a refrigerant leak detector will help you pinpoint the location and type of leak you have.
Since you wouldn’t be able to do this with the same level of confidence on your own, a refrigerant leak detector can help you save a lot of time and money.
Comparing The Best Refrigerant Leak Detectors
|Fieldpiece Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector – SRL8|
|LotFancy Refrigerant Freon Leak Detector|
|Signstek Portable AC Refrigerant Halogen Gas Leakage Detector Tester|
|Inficon TEK-Mate 705-202-G1 Refrigerant Leak Detector|
|Yellow Jacket 69336 AccuProbe UV Leak Detector|
1. Fieldpiece Heated Diode SRL8 – The Best Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector
This product has one of the best-heated diode sensors in the industry today. As such, it is capable of detecting all HFC, CFC, and HCFC leaks, including their blends.
Moreover, this product also offers a visual concentration display alongside an audo alarm. It features a filter at its detection tip for protection against debris and moisture as well.
- Fast, 30-second response
- Comes with replacement filters
- Uses filters to protect the sensor against damage
- Features a rugged construction
- Equipped with a magnetic hanger
- Uses a rechargeable, easily replaceable battery
- Features automatic and manual zeroing
- Less sensitive to some gases than others
2. LotFancy Refrigerant Freon Leak Detector – The Most Affordable Choice
As a matter of fact, the product boasts a maximum sensitivity of 6 g/yr. Hence, you will be able to detect all halogen leaks, ranging from R11 to R404a.
Additionally, it is also adjustable. For instance, it allows you to customize its real-time sensitivity. As such, the product will automatically adjust its sensitivity up to the maximum detecting capacity.
Moreover, for enhanced efficiency, this detector is equipped with a flexible probe. This makes it easier to detect leaks in the hard to reach spaces and corners. If a leak is detected, the flashing light and siren sound alarm system of the detector will go off.
- Offers real time sensitivity adjustment
- 6 g/yr sensitivity for all halogen leaks
- Equipped with a flexible probe
- Backed by 100% satisfaction guarantee
- Comes with a 1-year manufacturer warranty
- Offers a sound and flashing light warning system
- May not be so specific in identifying leaks
3. Signstek Portable AC Refrigerant Halogen Gas Leakage Tester – Most Affrodable Refrigerant Dectector
In this regard, the detector is meant to respond to the presence of any halogenated refrigerants, including the ones containing fluorine and chlorine.
Prior to using the detector, you are required to reset it. That takes about two seconds. After that, the unit will require about six seconds of warming up.
As such, it takes no time to set up the device and detect a leakage. Additionally, the detector runs on two alkaline batteries and weighs about 0.6Kg. Hence, it is portable and easy to carry around.
- Compact and lightweight
- Comparatively affordable
- Offers exceptional sensitivity: 3 g/yr (0.1 oz/yr)
- May be used to detect all halogenated refrigerant leaks
- Equipped with a color LED
- Features a 6-level leak alarm
- Offers a tri-color display of the battery power level
- Features reset time sensitivity settings
- Comes with an extra sensing tip
4. Inficon TEK-Mate 705-202-G1 Refrigerant Leak Detector – Superior Quality
When halogen containing gases come into contact with the surface of the sensor, the halogen atoms are separated and ionized. This causes a flow of electrical current towards a central collection electrode. Basically, the product has been proven to be effective at detecting such refrigerants as R22, R410A, and R134A.
- Adjustable sensitivity
- Can detect low quantities of refrigerant
- Audible alerts to announce presence of a leak
- Can detect an entire range of the most common refrigerant gases
- Red flash visual alarm
- Fitted with a flexible probe
- Rugged and portable design
- May not be very effective at pinpointing leaks on coils
5. Yellow Jacket 69336 AccuProbe UV Leak Detector – The Best High-end Refrigerant Leak Detector
Most of the users of this product have expressed their satisfaction with its high sensitivity and exceptional efficiency. In this regard, the accuprobe of the product is very accurate and fast at locating leaks.
- Highly sensitive
- Versatile in application
- Relatively easy to use
- Not likely to give you false alarms
- Comparatively expensive
Most Common Issues People Have with Refrigerant Leak Detectors
- Getting the Wrong Model: Refrigerant leak detectors come with different capabilities. If you don’t know what type of halogenated refrigerants you need to check for, you can easily end up purchasing a model that isn’t effective enough for your needs.
- Minimal Features: This especially applies to people who purchase a cheap refrigerant leak detector without understanding the features that high-end models can include. It is common for people to make a spur-of-the-moment purchase only to wish they spent a little extra for a more versatile leak detector.
- Tracking Sensitivity Issues: The sensitivity of your refrigerant leak detector helps you understand how accurate and precise your readings will be. If you don’t find a model with enough sensitivity, it can affect the quality and accuracy of your readings.
Features of the Best Refrigerant Leak Detectors
If you need a refrigerant leak detector, it’s important to know what you are looking for. Otherwise, you can easily find yourself with the wrong model, or one which you later regret getting. In order to help you find the best refrigerant leak detector for your needs, here are the features which you should check for first.
Detects All Different Refrigerants
There are many different refrigerants, which you might need to detect in order to fix your leak. If you don’t get a model that can detect the right refrigerant, you might even be tricked into thinking your system doesn’t have a leak.
This is why it is recommended to simply get a refrigerant detector that detects all of the different refrigerants. Although a little bit more expensive, these models also provide the best data and most overall capability.
High Sensitivity and Multiple Sensitivity Settings
The higher the sensitivity specifications a model has, the more accurate your readings will be. Additionally, higher sensitivities help you track small leaks that otherwise might not have been found.
Maximum sensitivity levels for the best refrigerant leak detectors are usually anywhere between 1.7 grams a year to 11 grams a year. High-quality models allow you to easily change through different settings.
Portable, Lightweight, & Long Battery Life
A nice refrigerant leak detector won’t take up that much space. Nor is it a burden to carry around and use. Purchasing a portable and lightweight model will help you easily store and use the product.
In addition, battery life is something, which you need to consider. Ideally, you should find a model that includes a rechargeable battery with a long life.
Fast Readings & Data Response
It shouldn’t take you all day to use a refrigerant leak detector. Realistically, your work should be done within a couple of minutes or so. Make sure that the model you choose is able to quickly notice where and what type of refrigerant leak you experience.
The best refrigerant leak detectors are able to notice a leak within 30 seconds of being powered on within range of the leak.
All the Extra Features You Need Within Your Budget
From having an interface, which is easy to use, to a high-resolution screen, there are lots of extra features that you need to be aware of. Certain models are better are detecting the severity of the leak by including PPM readings.
There are also models that can trigger an alarm response when a leak is detected. Depending on your needs, budget, and expectations, these are all features worth considering.
Things You Need to Know Before Choosing a Refrigerant Leak Detector
Currently, there are several types of refrigerants being used in various heating and cooling systems.
Owing to the different characteristics of the various refrigerants, there is no one particular method that may be used to detect the presence of all refrigerants.
This being the case, different methods may be used to detect a leakage of the various refrigerants today.
The mechanical refrigeration ANSI/ASHRAE 15 Safety Code in the USA and Canadian CSA B52 Mechanical Refrigeration Code state the particular requirements the various detectors are required to meet.
For instance, any system that has to be housed within a Class T machine room or exceeds 100 HP is required to have a refrigerant detector.
ow, if you are looking for the best refrigerant leak detector, you must have realized that there are numerous models to choose from. To make the right decision, here are some considerations you need to note:
1. Type of Refrigerant Detector
Depending on the type of refrigerant they are used to detect and their mode of functioning, detectors may be categorized into several groups.
Electric Refrigerant Leak Detectors
These are some of the most common types of A/C leak detectors in use today. Such products range in terms of features and prices.
- Heated Diode Detectors
These detectors use a heated ceramic diode. Whenever the diode comes into contact with halogenated gases, it generates an electrical current that triggers the alarm. Such sensors are sensitive to moisture and oil contamination.
The cheaper heated diode detectors are known to give false alarms and work best with R134a. Under normal circumstances, they should be replaced every 100 hours. Meanwhile, the more expensive ones feature an inbuilt sensitivity check for enhanced accuracy.
- Corona Discharge Detectors
These are designed to pull air through a corona discharge — electrical field — wire. Any presence of a refrigerant in the air will change the current within the wire.
This, in turn, will trigger an alarm. The downside with such detectors is that they are not compound specific. As such, they are likely to give false alarms from time to time.
- Ultrasonic Refrigerant Detectors
These are designed to detect the sound waves generated when a vacuum or gas escapes through a small orifice. They will pick up such sound waves and amplify them to an audible range for human ears. Hence, owing to their mode of functioning, these detectors may be used to detect different refrigerant leaks, including HC refrigerants and nitrogen leaks.
- Infrared Detectors
This type of electric refrigerant detector features an optical bench. When a refrigerant passes through the bench, it absorbs IR radiation. This is then detected by the optical bench and an alarm is triggered. The amount of alarm generated by this system will depend on the amount of IR radiation absorbed.
Other Refrigerant Leak Detector Types
In addition to the electric detectors discussed above, there are other systems and methods that may be used to detect refrigerant leaks today. Some of the commonest non-electric detectors in use today include:
- Fluorescent (UV) Detectors
Such systems use an additive that is normally added to the oil. As the oil circulates in the system, the ultra-violet (UV) radiation of the additive will be detected at the point of leakage. Basically, they comprise of additive injection kits, polarizing goggles, and a UV lamp.
- Halide Detectors
When it comes to detecting HCFC and CFC refrigerant leaks, halide detectors are some of the most effective types of detectors. They are powered by butane and function like Bunsen burners. However, the by-products of the burning process are highly toxic. As such, it is not advisable to use halide detectors with HCs or HFCs.
2. Additional Features
Choosing the right detector for each application is important when it comes to the effectiveness of the detector. Additionally, you also need to choose a detector with the right features for the intended application.
In this regard, these are some of the important features you should consider:
- Readout of parts per million (PPM) – this is a measure of the severity of the leak. To know the severity of the leak, you will need a detector with a digital readout. This will dictate the required response to any refrigerant leak.
- Proper positioning of sensor (S) – depending on the type of refrigerant you are monitoring, the sensors need to be positioned correctly. Ammonia, for instance, is lighter than air. As such, ammonia sensors should be positioned at the ceiling.
- Multi-stage Alarms – the alarm system in the detector should give you an idea of the severity of the leak. As such, different concentrations of the leaked refrigerant should trigger specific alarm responses.
Ready To Buy The Best Refrigerant Leak Detectors?
As an HVAC detector technician, you often rely on your equipment and tools to diagnose and render the right remedy. Based on the intended application, your choice of the right electronic leak detector will vary.
Your preferred AC leak detector models should be highly sensitive, portable, customizable, versatile and of the right type. This freon leak detector guide will help you choose the best refrigerator leak detector in the market.
Also, read this review of the Top 5 Smoke Detector Cameras, so you can choose another helpful tool that can detect possible risks in your home. And, if you’re having leak issues in your car, read this guide.
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