Air Conditioning Freon Leaks

The picture on left, if you look closely you will see water forming into icicles, that ice is working its way through the coil due to a low freon charge in the system, this action is what can damage a coil.

The picture on the right are the results of ice, a soap bubble and nitrogen pressure test shows the ice damage. If you think just adding freon is the answer, wait till you have to pay to replace that coil. An ac system should not ever have to have ever one oz added to it. A half a pound low freon charge can take out a compressor on a hot day.

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First type of air conditioning leaks are , installer soldered joint leaks. This is only at the solder connection joints on the copper lines connecting the inside and outside units , a small amount of oil located around the leak is a tell tail sign.The second type of leak I am going to call the manufactures leak, this will be a leak somewhere in equipment or the attaching tubing connecting the components in the outdoor condenser or in the indoor evaporator coil.

The third kind of leak I’m going to call the customers leak, this leak is caused by the customer failing to do the proper maintenance. By proper maintenance I mean changing the filters on at least a 30 day routine, and washing off the grass or the Texas Cottonwood debris that will accumulate on the outside condensing unit.

With the new 410 A. Refrigerant air-conditioned leaks are starting to be a real big problem. The new refrigerant operates at about 30% more pressure than the old refrigerant. We are seeing a numbers of warranty clients or leaks that we haven’t seen with the older refrigerant. If your air-conditioning man is telling you he is having no problems with this he is blowing smoke at you. The manufactures are slowly getting a better handle on this leak situation through better quality control at the manufacturing plants. In my 45+ years I have never seen this many leaks in systems as I have seen in the last two years.

Dealing with leaks

The number one method for dealing with leaks is called an ultra violet died pack test, this is the EPA number one method of finding a leak. I like this leak method for two reasons, member one the die is diluted in a certain amount of oil. When you have a refrigerant leak on a system you not only lose refrigerant you lose oil that is circulated inside the system. That oil is there to maintain and lubricate the moving parts of the compressor and metering devices. The second reason I like the dye pack system is because it will show multiple leaks at the same time. The largest misconception the customer has is that they only have one leak. Generally when the system gets to the point where it’s leaking somewhere in the 10 to 15 year range, it is not just one leak it is a multitude of leaks .

Let’s talk a little bit about what causes these leaks, these leaks are caused by the air-conditioning system operating at improper temperatures or pressures. This can be caused by system being low on refrigerant, or a system having to much freon in it is even more destructive,or by being extremely dirty. This lack of cleanliness can be on the customer’s part by failing to change the air-conditioning filters, or failing to keep the unit washed off periodically with just plain water. Also this can be caused by a fan motor both inside or outside failing to function.

The number two method in my opinion is a electronic Freon sniffer tool, this tool depending on how much money you spend for that tool , good sniffers are 500.00 + some can sniff out as little as 1/4 ounce of Freon annually and cost twice as much . The only problem with electronic sniffer is it does not tell you how many leaks you have. It is very easy with this tool to make a mistake on how many leaks there are. Also wind makes this tool almost useless .

The number three methods and probably the oldest is the soap bubble test, this is a test that even the homeowner can do themselves. All that is necessary is to mix up a little dish washing detergent with some water and a small brush or sponge and soap up the areas that you may consider to have a leak at. If the A/C unit still has pressure in it the small soapsuds will turn into a visual bubbling spot just like the top right hand picture on this page.

When checking for leaks the wind has a lot to do with finding a leak. Freon is heavier than air so when looking for a leak if you find a leak at the bottom of the unit or the bottom of the coil it may be coming from the top of the unit or coil. This sometimes takes a lot of experience to be able to find the leak properly.

Another misconception is that adding a little bit of Freon to get you by one more year is good for your system, any time the system loses any Freon even up to 1 ounce of Freon it is bad for the system. It makes a compressor run hot and will eventually destroy your system. As little as a half a pound of Freon can make a compressor fail.

About Tom Durbin AC and Mechanical

Our business is located in Sunnyvale, Texas, and we service homes and businesses anywhere in the Dallas Metroplex. We are family owned and operated, have planned service agreements for both residential and commercial, service all makes and models of Air Conditioners, we not only service or repair, but can also conduct NEW installation and replacement for all major brands of air conditioning units.

Even more important, we offer fair and friendly service with free consults – so ask us to help you figure out the best solution for your heating and air conditioning needs. We have certified, authorized repair staff and are a puron refrigerant specialists with 24 hour / 7 day emergency service.

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