The use of refrigerant leak detectors makes it possible to guard against the dangers of refrigerant gas but also to ensure proper equipment operation, to ensure its productivity and to reduce operating costs of cold generation installations. Leak detection, and more broadly the control of refrigerants, responds to various challenges in all areas of the refrigeration industry.
Refrigerant leakage detection for safety
The danger of leaking refrigerants
There is a multitude of refrigerant gases classified into different types: the old freon CFC and HCFC gases (R12, R123, etc.), the most common HFCs and HFOs (R32, R410a, R1234yf, etc.), and natural refrigerants (CO2, NH3, hydrocarbons). All these gases used for cold production involve dangers. A refrigerant leak leads to potential gas concentration levels that are hazardous to health and to infrastructures.
The main dangers of refrigerant leaks:
- Asphyxia: many refrigerants are heavier than air. When a refrigerant leakage occurs, the gas replaces breathable air in an enclosed, unventilated area. At certain concentration levels, anyone present is exposed to various health effects, which can lead to death by asphyxiation.
- Fire and explosion: some refrigerants such as ammonia and propane are flammable and explosive when in contact with an ignition source. The use of pressurized refrigerants also involves an explosion risk.
In the face of asphyxiating, flammable and explosive gases, refrigerant and freon leak detection helps ensure everyone’s safety. Monitoring leaks and the presence of refrigerant gas makes it possible to avoid dangerous exposure of personnel, stakeholders, customers, visitors and the public working in air-conditioned environments, near refrigerated shelves, in refrigerated warehouses, in cold rooms, etc. The installation of refrigerant leak detection systems also contributes to securing refrigeration installations and infrastructures.
The environmental impact of refrigerant gas
While natural refrigerants, hydrocarbons (HC) and some HFOs are not very polluting, HFC, CFC and HCFC gases are particularly dangerous for the ozone layer. The environmental impact of refrigerant leaks requires monitoring and control of the use of these gases. The leak detection in all refrigeration installations helps reduce emissions into the atmosphere by immediately treating gas leaks as soon as they are detected.
Leaking refrigerant : an efficiency loss
Any refrigerant leak on a cold production installation can lead to a service or production interruption. All refrigeration equipment is designed to function optimally with a precise refrigerant charge. Underloading caused by refrigerant leaks from the appliance or from the cold circuit immediately leads to malfunction and energy overconsumption. The leak can also cause potential personal injury.
The underload of a cold production equipment can therefore generate a productivity drop and a general shutdown of the device, leading to a production or service loss. Whether it is an air conditioning failure or a break in the cold installation in a warehouse or process plant, the use of a detector or a complete refrigerant detection system allows anticipation and makes it possible to intervene upstream.
Detect refrigerant leaks to lower costs
Reduce the cost of refrigerant gas
A refrigerant leak, a non-exceptional event on any circuit, involves replacement and recharge of refrigerant gas. These additional operating expenses are not insignificant. It is estimated that on a supermarket scale, on average 20 to 25% of refrigerants are lost to leaks each year. Considering the price factor (increasingly higher for the most polluting fluids), the installation of a detection system and a refrigerant leak management protocol allow real financial gains by reducing the purchase of refrigerants.
Reduce energy consumption
Particularly common in the commercial refrigeration industry for example, a refrigerant leak on an installation leads to a 10 to 45% power overconsumption by refrigeration equipment. Energy overconsumption is very costly and not insignificant on the scale of supermarkets, air-conditioned spaces, or even for large refrigeration installations.
Controlling cold equipment using refrigerant gas detection devices avoids energy overconsumption by recharging, and by performing maintenance on the equipment as soon as a leak is detected.
National and international regulations govern the use of refrigerants. These regulations aim to control and reduce the environmental impact of these gases. Thus, checking refrigerant leaks is an obligation in many countries. In France, failure to comply with refrigerant regulations can result in penalties of up to a 2 years imprisonment and a fine of 75,000 euros.
In the vast majority of cases, compliance with these instructions is facilitated by the use of refrigerant detection systems for the operation of the equipment as well as for periodic regulatory leakage checks.
How to detect refrigerant leaks
Various measuring and monitoring devices make it possible to check the correct operation of refrigeration equipment. In all areas of the refrigeration industry, refrigerant leak detection is provided by portable gas detectors and fixed installations.
Portable refrigerant leak detectors
There are different models of portable gas detectors. In the context of refrigerant use, the most widely used portable equipment are leak detectors. These detectors are dedicated to the detection of refrigerant gases such as the Tru Pointe IR refrigerant leak detector. They usually incorporate a flexible probe and long battery life to perform checkings.
Leak detection can also be performed using the PGM IR refrigerant leak analyzer (GD link) which offers unmatched performance with a 1ppm detection threshold. This device is ideal for controlling a refrigerant circuit, refrigerated shelves and all size installations with great precision.
A conventional portable single-gas detector can be used for the exploitation of natural refrigerant gases. A portable CO2 detector can in fact be used as PPE (personal protective equipment) in installations containing carbon dioxide. These devices are, for example, used against the CO2 danger in the refrigerated transport of Covid-19 vaccines.
Those working on installations operating on natural refrigerants and hydrocarbons such as propane, butane, isobutane and ammonia can also be equipped with combustible gas detectors to ensure their safety.
Fixed refrigerant detection systems
The installation of a fixed freon detection system provides constant monitoring of any cold production installation. The installation of fixed gas detectors sometimes even meets obligations arising from refrigerant gas regulations.
The fixed detection of refrigerant leaks is carried out by one or more fixed detectors coupled to a gas detection controller. This controller unit acts as the brain of the system and triggers alarms as well as servo controls like ventilation systems and remote alarm signals.
Some fixed equipment such as the MGS 450 refrigerant detector can be used as stand-alone equipment. Without the need for a controller connection, they have an integrated audible and visual alarm signal to alert you in case of danger.
An air-conditioned indoor space, in a house, hotel room, and any space open to the public, can be equipped with an air conditioning gas leak detector. Discrete and easy to use, a device type like the MVR 300 detector provides constant monitoring and triggers an alarm when a refrigerant leak occurs./p>
GazDetect supplies and deploys a wide range of Bacharach refrigerant leak detectors, DEGA and Oldham monitors for all your refrigeration applications. Do not hesitate to contact us.
The refrigerant gas detection practical guide
The GazDetect team created a practical guide on refrigerant gas detection. In this white paper, find all the information and equipment available for controlling refrigerant gases in all your cold applications: