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Chicago Refrigeration Specialist
How to choose a refrigeration service specialist in Chicago
May 31, 2018
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Refrigerant Freon Leak Repair-Chicago

Chicago Refrigerant Freon Leak Repair

Chicago Refrigerant Freon Leak Repair

There are an estimated 2,397,383 refrigeration and air conditioning units in Chicago according to US Census Bureau 2013 report. It is estimated that 40% - 55% of these units have Chicago refrigerant freon leak repair issues within the first 5 years of installation. It is also estimated that over 70% of these systems have leak issues within a 10 year period of installation. These number are why the government has implemented strict guidelines on the handling of refrigerants in the United States.

As a result of the Montreal Protocol Act the phase out of chlorine based refrigerants has been rapidly increasing in order to curb the use of substances creating ozone depletion. We have seen the price of refrigerants go up over 100% in the last 3 years alone (2011-2014). It is imperative that if you have leak issues....You need to locate the source of the leak and repair it.

Generalized statements often made, such as “no detectable leaks” or “leak rate zero”, no more represent an adequate basis for acceptance tests. Sealing must be quantified with an upper limit of an admissible leak rate. Experienced engineers know that properly formulated acceptance specifications will indicate a certain leak rate under defined conditions. Which leak rate is acceptable can be determined by the application itself.

Other important matter in sealing tests is how to choose the proper leak detection technique taking in account the volumes or containers one will to test. For example, which method is more adequate for leak detection in small volumes, or in large volumes? Is it possible to use the same method for different kinds of test pieces? What is the most suitable method? THAT DEPENDS..... 

Refrigerant does not break down inside your system, nor does it dissipate. If you need refrigerant or freon it is one of 2. First is that is was intentionally or unintentionally charged to that level. Meaning someone undercharged the unit or recaptured refrigerant and inadvertently "undercharged" the system. The second...and most common is...a refrigerant freon leak.

HOW DO I KNOW I HAVE A REFRIGERANT/FREON LEAK?

                              

Aside from the obvious where the temperature is not able to keep normal temps... there are some signs to watch for that may indicate you have a leak. Here are some of them...

1) Inside coil or evaporator is frosting or freezing up which may or may not result in water on the floor in and/or around the cooler.

2) Compressor turns on and off rapidly. This is referred to as "short cycling". This can damage the compressor and it is advised that you should turn the compressor off and call for service. Many of the higher end systems incorporate a safety device to insure this does not happen in the event of refrigerant/freon leak.

3) Hissing sound from inside or outside the unit. This may or may not be heard while the compressor is on or off. Many instances a leak can actually be heard. Rare. But it does happen.

4) Signs of residual oil on the refrigeration lines. It will appear wet but can be a sheen of oil. Oil mixes with refrigerant very well. This is a good thing because the compressor relies on oil to lubricate the moving parts. When refrigerant/freon leaks out...oil (mist) leaks with it. This is a tell tale sign of a leak.

5) The condenser is not as hot as it usually seems to be. The discharge temps from the condensor will drop when there is a refrigerant/freon leak. This is one of the first things a good refrigeration technician will check when he first arrives. Tip...the back of your hand is more sensitive to heat than the front. Use the back of your hand to feel air temps.

State of the Art Leak Detection Methods

We incorporate an array of locating leaks for Refrigerants. We may employ one method over another due to the size of the system. A small restaurant prep table vs a large chiller that cools 200 plus units will need different approaches to find freon leaks. Many times we will see repeat problem areas on certain types of equipment. Small units the keep produce such as onions and tomatoes are certain to have evaporator leak issues at around the 7-8 year mark. Certain condensing units that were manufactured in the early 2000's ( I will not mention who) were plagued with tube bend leaks where the tube bends were rubbing on the shroud guards and causing vibration leaks.

This leads me to discuss the types of leaks and their sources. There are the obvious areas such as pig tails of pressure controls and safeties that experience leaks due to vibration when touching other objects. Over time they ware a hole in the copper. Here is a short list of some types of leaks....

Vibration Leaks

Heat Sensitive Leaks

Pressure Sensitive Leaks

Extremely Small Leaks AKA Pin Hole Leaks

Gasket Seal Leaks

Frost Expansion Leaks

How We Find Refrigerant Freon Leaks

As I mentioned there are many ways to locate leaks and I won't give away all our trade secrets but here are the primary methods.

First and foremost...We use experience. We have been in business since 1966. Our technicians have a total combined experience of over 185 years. Many tips and tricks were handed down from our fathers and their fathers. Our experience shows us by the type, make and location of the equipment and overall installation of where to start looking. We perform visual inspections on suspicious areas. Sight, sound, smell...yes even smell... can get in the right direction without even needing the arsenal of weapons we employ.

As I mentioned there are many ways to locate leaks and I won't give away all our trade secrets but here are the primary methods.

First and foremost...We use experience. We have been in business since 1966. Our technicians have a total combined experience of over 185 years. Many tips and tricks were handed down from our fathers and their fathers. Our experience shows us by the type, make and location of the equipment and overall installation of where to start looking. We perform visual inspections on suspicious areas. Sight, sound, smell...yes even smell... can get in the right direction without even needing the arsenal of weapons we employ.

Refrigerant/Freon Leak Detectors

Science has brought leak detection into the 21st century. Our go to tool is the Infinicon 6000 leak detector. The Infinicon uses a  infrared sensor with sensitivity adjustments for enclosed areas or adjustments for outside areas that may be windy. It incorporates background concentrations of freon levels to insure pin point accuracy. This tool has our technicians batting over 700 in the field and it performs!  The proprietary sensor gets the job done quick and accurately...SAVING YOU MONEY!

 

SPECTRONIC UV DYE CARTRIDGES

 These dye cartridges come in different charge sizes and various oil compatibility charges. When injected into a system the dye will ultimately leak out with the refrigerant...leaving behind a UV Dye that can be seen with a special UV light and UV Enhance goggles. With experience...a technician can determine by the amount of time before the cartridge was installed and the amount of residual dye and determine how severe the refrigerant/freon leak is. This system of freon leak detection is used when we have a very large system or a very difficult leak (oz per year) to locate. Generally we will inject the dye and follow up in days or in some cases weeks to allow the dye to escape. This allows us to pin point the leak with great accuracy.

Refrigerant/Freon Leak Sealer Additives

Many installations have lines which are absolutely inaccessible. One case in point is Chicago's downtown multi story buildings. The refrigerant lines were run during construction via "chases" which are inaccessible when the building is finished.

We use a product with great success called Nu-Calgon Easy Seal. This product reacts with the refrigerant changing the composition structure. When this altered compound comes in contact with oxygen molecules it forms a perfect air tight seal at the leak point of exit. We have used this product with a 90% success rate since 1998. There are disadvantages to the product. One is that it can slightly reduce efficiency of the system by as much as 3% from field tests that we have conducted. These are based on our test and not in a controlled laboratory. Another is the size of the leak cannot be too large. It will seal leaks or rates of 2 pounds or less per year. This is strictly opinions from our field experience with the product. We love the product and continue to use it..but it has applications where it is not the best solution.

 

High Pressure Nitrogen with Tracer Gas

In this procedure... a volume of high pressure nitrogen is added to the system along with a tracer refrigerant (usually the gas that is currently in the system). Nitrogen is a inert gas and contains no moisture or contaminants. It is an excellent way to add high pressure to a system and determine where and how fast the leak is. This is a system that is used by professionals for locating refrigerant/freon leaks and has been used for decades with great success. One may leave the inert nitrogen in the system and follow up hours or days later to confirm that indeed there is a leak and not some other cause simulating a leak

As you can see...there are many ways to locate and we have not even discussed the apropriate methods to actually fix the leak. There are different welding rods that are used. Vacuum techniques, heat sink situations to insure no damage to components. Once a leak is found it still needs to be repaired and that is a whole different chapter

 

 

 

 

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