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Old 22-05-2013, 08:25   #1
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R134a leak detectors

I have a need for a leak detector for R134a. In the past, I found quality leak detectors priced far above what I wanted to spend. Lately, numerous portable halogen detectors are for sale over on EBay, many for under $100.

Here in the forums, many have home brewed refrigeration. Does anyone have experience with any of the inexpensive detectors? The advertised sensitivity hovers around 3 gr/year although a particular gas is not mentioned for that sensitivity. Prices are attractive but most times one gets what he pays for.
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Old 22-05-2013, 19:50   #2
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Re: R134a leak detectors

Does not anybody do their own refrigeration repairs?
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:45   #3
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Re: R134a leak detectors

Soapy water? But that won't detect 3g/year.
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Old 22-05-2013, 20:55   #4
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Evacuate the system with a recovery unit. Pressurize with inert gas . Spray soap and water if you can't find the leak by listening. Fix the leak draw vacuum and charge system. Why do you think your system is leaking?
If it is leaking you will need all this gear to repair anyway. Maybe that helps
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Old 22-05-2013, 21:19   #5
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Re: R134a leak detectors

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Originally Posted by foggysail View Post
Does not anybody do their own refrigeration repairs?
Yes. While for work we only buy Bacharach, for your application I'd try one of the cheap ones. One problem you may have is the leak could be in the tube and tube heat exchanger so you won't find it unless you check the discharge thru-hull. I know this from hours and hours of searching for one on Palarran.

Soap bubbles work. So does very careful observation. A small amount of oil will escape with the refrigerant and if you really look at all the joints, it is usually apparent. We have also just started to use infrared cameras to find leaks. I personally haven't but my service manager says it works very well. Those cameras have tons of other uses so it may be worth investigating.

On Palarran I have a jug of R-22 and R-404, gauges, small vac pump, mapp gas torch, braising rod, leak detector, and various other refrigeration tools and parts. I went way overboard (and regret) when I bought a spare Seafrost condensing unit but figured it would be nearly impossible to get one in the Med. IMO, it's one of the hardest things to get repaired while cruising.
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Old 22-05-2013, 21:33   #6
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Re: R134a leak detectors

Never used one of those units. I bought a SnapOn unit on eBay for a reasonable price. To see if you have any leaks you might consider getting a refrigeration service outfit to come down and add some leak detector that shows up under UV light. They would come back and check after the unit has run for a week or so. This would be particularly feasible if you need to service the system or want it checked out.
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Old 22-05-2013, 22:24   #7
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Re: R134a leak detectors

The dye and UV lights aren't used very much anymore. There are better options that result in finding the leak on the first visit.
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Old 22-05-2013, 22:30   #8
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Re: R134a leak detectors

Well I had my system serviced last fall and the fellow that did the work seemed very good and he recommended it. i am going to have him check out the system again before I take off and the dye should enable him to spot any leaks. I suppose there are better ways but perhaps those are expensive?
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Old 22-05-2013, 22:39   #9
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Still you need all the other gear. If you find the leak then what. You need to recover vac etc....
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Old 22-05-2013, 23:08   #10
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I've always had the refer fixed by some local shop. No need to carry any tools. Any medium size port has everything you might need. Even better in the remote place as they both repair and drink cold beers. Can take a few weeks though .... The work has been excellent. Purging, brazing, engine driven compressors, whatever gas, everything.
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Old 23-05-2013, 19:29   #11
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Re: R134a leak detectors

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Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
Yes. While for work we only buy Bacharach, for your application I'd try one of the cheap ones. One problem you may have is the leak could be in the tube and tube heat exchanger so you won't find it unless you check the discharge thru-hull. I know this from hours and hours of searching for one on Palarran.

Soap bubbles work. So does very careful observation. A small amount of oil will escape with the refrigerant and if you really look at all the joints, it is usually apparent. We have also just started to use infrared cameras to find leaks. I personally haven't but my service manager says it works very well. Those cameras have tons of other uses so it may be worth investigating.

On Palarran I have a jug of R-22 and R-404, gauges, small vac pump, mapp gas torch, braising rod, leak detector, and various other refrigeration tools and parts. I went way overboard (and regret) when I bought a spare Seafrost condensing unit but figured it would be nearly impossible to get one in the Med. IMO, it's one of the hardest things to get repaired while cruising.

Interesting! Here is my reasoning for posting the question. First, we have numerous fridges for our apartments that sometimes have early life failures. Only recently have I been keeping purchase records for our appliances for warranties. I currently own a good vacuum pump, gages for R134a, acetylene plumber's torch (no oxygin) along with plenty of r134a. I believe I could salvage some of these fridges that fail instead of trashing them.

And yes, we have done the "call the technician" route. Its just not cost effective when you look at the bills we had for their services when none of the calls resulted in bringing back life to any fridge. I was also thinking about gutting one of the failed fridges that we have in storage to try building a refrigerated deck box for our boat. As to salvaging refrigerant.... that is never going to happen in our boxes that have gone to air.

So back to the test instrument. From what I read R12 leaks (which we don't have, ours are all R134a to the best of my knowledge) are easier to detect than R134a because it contains more chlorine. Have not made a selection yet but I am tossing around something above the least expensive but below the higher end multigas testers. Maybe something in the $125-150 range IF they offer anything over the plain cheapies. Not sure about the benefits a heated diode detector offers. Might be something related to false alerts caused by moisture. Just not sure.

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