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Commercial Kitchen, Commercial Refrigeration

Commercial Refrigeration Troubleshooting: Find & Fix Your Leaks!

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Last Updated on June 24, 2015


Do you have an older air conditioning unit with a slow leak? If so, you probably end up calling in your HVAC service provider every summer when the unit stops cooling effectively. They give you two options: find and fix the leak, which will take longer and cost more, or just refill the refrigerant, which is the less expensive quick fix. You may be tempted to go for the cheaper option. The building will be cool again faster, so why pay more?

This is the wrong decision! The quick fix may be cheaper in the short term, but it’s costing you more in the long run. Replacing the refrigerant will get your system working again, but the refrigerant will continue to leak, causing your unit to continue losing cooling capacity. As it loses refrigerant, the unit needs to run longer to cool the building, which increases energy costs and shortens the life of your system. And each time the refrigerant level is reduced to the point where you need to refill again, you’re paying for all those service calls, which can add up to more than the price of fixing the leak. Here’s the right way to go: choose a service provider that uses the latest technology to find and fix refrigerant leaks quickly and more cost effectively.

The true cost of leaking refrigerant

Besides what that refrigerant leak is costing you, think about the cost to the planet. Leaking refrigerant is very bad for the environment. Refrigerant gases released into the atmosphere are one of the worst culprits in depleting the ozone layer.

For decades, the industry-standard refrigerant used in all air conditioners was something called R-22 or HCFC-22, more commonly known as Freon. Several years back, a worldwide environmental treaty called the Montreal Protocol declared Freon to be so dangerous to the ozone layer that it needed to be phased out of production and use by 2020. Since then, newer systems have been developed that use less ozone-depleting chemicals, but there are plenty of older, Freon-based air conditioners still in use.

In addition to the environmental risks from Freon, any refrigerant can cause breathing problems and even death if released in large amounts into the air. Even small amounts of refrigerant can also cause skin and eye injury if someone is exposed. A refrigerant leak is a serious issue that needs to be addressed by finding and fixing the leak.

The right way to fix the problem

In the old days, an HVAC repairman would look for leaks by coating the tubes with a soap solution and looking for bubbles. Believe it or not, you’ll still see providers using this time-consuming and often ineffective method. No wonder they quoted you such a high price to fix this problem!

Today’s industry leaders use more modern tools: electronic leak detection systems. These systems provide much faster and more effective ways to find leaks. There are various technologies available. Some find leaks by testing for the presence of certain molecules in the air. There are also detectors that find leaks by picking up the sound of the escaping gas, and others that use dyes and high-intensity UV lights to quickly pinpoint the exact locations of multiple leaks. Providers using these tools can find and fix leaks in a fraction of the time needed for the old methods. Faster repairs mean lower costs for you, as well as reduced downtime for your system.

Hire only certified HVAC experts to ensure safety

It’s critical (and it’s also the law) that any HVAC technician who works on your system has EPA 608 certification, which is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for technicians who perform maintenance and repair services and disposal of refrigerants.

You also want ask for technicians who also have industry certifications such as MSCA Star or NATE, which require a higher level of education and training, as well as passing a certification exam. All Arista service technicians are MSCA Star certified. Certified technicians have experience handling all the necessary equipment, including safety interlocks and disconnects that prevent leaks into the air. They are trained in the fastest and most effective methods to find refrigerant leaks. And you can be sure they follow protocols and have all the required personal protective gear to prevent accidents.

Save your cash and save the planet

Don’t keep ignoring that refrigerant leak. The longer you wait to fix the problem, the more you will shorten the life of your air conditioning equipment, pay higher energy bills, and contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer. Call a qualified HVAC service company, like Arista, to fix the problem the right way.

You should also know that Arista has been leading the way to environmental innovation for over 20 years, since it created its ozone guard program in response to the passing of the EPA’s Clean Air Act. Today, Arista’s Blue Sky Initiative deploys environmentally safe practices, brings smarter solutions to their clientele, and educates our community about currently available clean and green practices.

If you’re considering a transition to a new service provider who can help you fix your refrigerant leak for good, grab a copy of our helpful guide to Contract Confidence: Transitioning to HVAC Service Providers (It’s chock full of comparative guidelines to help you make the best decision for your business).

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