Does Your Refrigeration or AC System Leak?

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Every System Can Leak Refrigerants

Any refrigeration or air conditioning system can leak; it’s often just a matter of time and by how much. This is the experience of long time refrigerant leak detection and monitoring experts at Bacharach Inc., a company dedicated to making and servicing leak and gas detection products for the combustion and refrigeration industries.

Bacharach has over 100 years of experience in engineering and manufacturing gas leak detectors and monitors in the United States, helping save their customers in the food and beverage industry from thousands of pounds of refrigerant losses each year.

With each pound of refrigerant loss there is not only an economic impact to customers through energy loss and overworked equipment, but there is also an impact on our environment. Losing only few hundred pounds of refrigerant has an equivalent environmental impact of driving 24,000 cars, along with the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How to Install an Effective Refrigerant Management Program

HVAC Contractor Arriving at Job SiteAll R-AC users want to install effective leak detection systems, but often struggle when they go about the process of finding the right equipment and the best locations to monitor for leaks. This leads to incorrect measurements and the inability to identify locations of refrigeration leaks. When this happens it can cause big losses of inventory as well as refrigerant material and hardware, resulting in increased costs associated with equipment maintenance and operating efficiency.

The most common question asked by customers is how to put in effective leak detection to ensure environmental compliance, keep personnel and equipment safe and provide effective refrigerant management. At Bacharach, a series of questions are asked to determine the type of gas, the square footage range, and the primary purpose of the system – safety, compliance, cost savings or a balance of the three. A survey and site inspection will help determine the influences and the chances of catching the leak. This process identifies likely areas for leaks to occur, such as, required detection limits, alarm set points, the number of detection points and the location of the points. Long experience in designing refrigerant leak detection products and working closely with a wide variety of customers in the industry has created an expert understanding of leak detection at Bacharach that allows simple, efficient leak surveys of R-AC systems that will guide proper installation of effective refrigerant management systems.

In addition to the consultative approach to refrigeration management, Bacharach offers a number of products and technologies to sense all types of refrigerants including halogenated hydrocarbons, ammonia, carbon dioxide, propane and many others. The technologies include infrared detectors, semiconductor and electrochemical sensors and ultrasonic listening devices for high pressure leaks. These resulting instruments include portable units for leak surveys of a facility and for specific pin point location of low level leaks, as well as fixed gas detectors for continuous monitoring and early, rapid detection of costly and dangerous leaks. Each technology offers detection or cost advantages to help optimize your refrigerant leak detection program.

Key Refrigerant Measurement Technologies

Semiconductor Sensors

Semiconductor (SC) sensors tend to be very responsive to many refrigerants. SC sensors are the least expensive type of fixed sensor, and are generally not easily damaged or consumed by chronic exposure to target gases. The minimum detection limit (MDL) for most refrigerants with SC sensors is sufficient for gross leak detection. These sensors need to be calibrated and adjusted for use in the desired range; i.e., adjustment for use in low concentrations is at the expense of reduced accuracy and resolution at higher concentrations.

The chief limitations of SC sensors are the difficulty in interpreting readings, the potential for false alarms and the affects of changes in humidity on the sensor. This can be compensated for in the instrument’s electronics. SC sensors tend to have a broad band response. This is not critical in refrigerant applications where the assumption is there are few cross sensitive contaminants in the area being monitored. SC sensors are ideal as a “go / no go” alarm device when adjusted for maximum accuracy near the concentration of interest, especially as a low cost alternative for measuring refrigerant gases (such as Freon) that are difficult or more expensive to detect b

Electrochemical Sensors

Electrochemical (EC) sensors are commonly used for detection of ammonia refrigerant. They provide more specificity, accuracy and lower MDL than many other alternatives. One limitation of effectively measuring ammonia is its propensity to stick to particulates and associate with moisture, which makes it more difficult to pass through the protective membrane standard on most EC sensors. EC ammonia sensors also use a consumptive reaction when exposed to ammonia, which can shorten their operating life, so they are not recommended for areas with a constant ammonia background above 10 – 20 ppm. Fortunately, in most refrigerant applications, these conditions are not generally a problem.

Infrared Sensors

The chief benefits of infrared sensors are the high specificity of the sensor, low ppm sensitivity and long term stability, reducing the need for calibration and maintenance. Infrared detectors have a wide dynamic range, and are not degraded or consumed by exposure to high concentrations of their target gas.

The chief limitations may be the physical size of the detector to achieve the lowest MDL and the higher cost compared to other detector types. However, they generally provide the best cost of ownership for monitoring halogenated refrigerants and are also used in monitoring ammonia.

Bacharach offers all of these key refrigerant measurement technologies, allowing for an optimized program to fit the specified budget and detection requirements. The Bacharach MGS series of fixed gas detectors offers semiconductor, electrochemical and low cost infrared sensors to provide gross leak detection for cost effective safety and compliance monitoring of most common refrigerants. Bacharach also offers portable leak detectors like the H-10 PRO and Informant 2.

Portable Leak Detection Equipment: The PGM-IR

Whether it’s used to pinpoint the location of a leak or as a stand-alone leak detection and survey monitor, the Bacharach PGM-IR provides the most effective low level leak detection system available. With an MDL of 1 ppm for a wide range of refrigerant gases, the PGM-IR will quickly identify leaks in an area or a specific refrigeration unit during a simple walk-through survey through a store or warehouse. It can then be used to isolate their location for quick maintenance. It has a library of approximately 50 gases to cover a variety of refrigerants.

Fixed Gas Detection for Low Level Refrigerant Leaks: The Multi-Zone

The Multi-Zone refrigerant gas detection system is a continuous leak detection system applicable to supermarkets. With this product, Bacharach enables large supermarket chains to save millions of dollars each year while increasing safety and protecting the environment.

Designed to offer the optimum in leak detection for low level continuous monitoring of refrigerants, carbon dioxide and ammonia, The MZ system is customized to facilitate measurements from multiple zones using a 10 inch (250 mm) infrared sensor and a library of over 60 gases. Up to 16 points can be monitored with one central unit to detect leaks down to 1 ppm. The sooner a loss of refrigerant is detected, the earlier countermeasures are initiated, resulting in smaller recharge quantities of refrigerants.

The Multi-Zone can be integrated into any Building Management System (BMS) or Building Automation System (BAS).

Learn more about Bacharach refrigerant detectors

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