5 Ways to Check for Refrigerant Leaks in Your Home AC System

how to find a leak in your ac system

Your home’s AC system is extremely important during the hotter months of the year, as it helps keep indoor temperatures cool. When it experiences refrigerant leaks, though, it can’t bring enough cool air in; leaving you hot and sweaty, and costing you a ton in energy bills.

If you don't want to be left dealing with scorching temperatures during the hot summer months, it's important to know how to check for freon leaks in a home AC system.

Disclaimer: Contacting an AC Repair company is the best method for solving your AC problems, including refrigerant leaks. If you have no experience in handling AC repairs, don't risk causing more damage. We take no responsibility for the information provided below, and highly recommend calling a professional.

How to Find a Refrigerant Leak in Your Home AC System

  1. Dye Detection
  2. One of the more effective ways to check for a refrigerant leak in your air conditioning system is to conduct a dye test. This process involves sending fluorescent dye into your HVAC system. After it has enough time to circulate, the dye will pour through any leaks that are present.

    Then, with a detection lamp, you can scan the HVAC system and pinpoint where the dye leaked out. This entire process shouldn’t take you longer than several minutes, but it does involve investing in specialized equipment. If you don’t have the time, money, or expertise to execute this dye test, you should contact a professional AC repair company. They can perform this dye test safely and quickly.

    There are many advantages to this dye test compared to the other testing methods. For one, you can identify every leak quickly within your HVAC system. Leaks can also be detected at a distance, as long as enough light from the detection lamp is administered. Additionally, this dye test can be performed when your AC unit is running or not.

  3. Electronic Detection
  4. Another useful and straightforward leak detection method you can try involves using an electronic device. It allows you to scan across refrigeration components outside of your household. When a leak is detected, this electronic device will sound an alarm that’s easily recognizable.

    The only downside to this method is leaks can only be identified in specific areas, where the electronic leak detector touches refrigerant components. These electronic leak detection devices can also be pricey, and you’ll need to undergo some brief training to learn how to use them correctly. Another thing you have to account for is ensuring the electronic detector is compatible with the refrigerant you’re using. Otherwise, the detector will not go off when it comes across leaks.

    Again, if you want to save yourself the trouble of investing in one of these devices, you can always contact an AC services and repair company to perform this test. They can execute it in a cost-effective manner and save you from a costly AC repair.

  5. Nitrogen Detection
  6. There are many leak detection tests that homeowners and HVAC technicians like to use, but the nitrogen leak detector test is one of the more popular. It can cost more than other methods, but it provides accurate results that you can rely on.

    First, the remaining freon in your system will need to be removed. Then, nitrogen is pumped back into your home AC system. Since nitrogen is held at a higher pressure than refrigerant, it will make audible noises where leaks are present.

    Then, all that’s required is listening for these audible sounds and then marking these areas off. You’ll also know if leaks are present if you monitor the nitrogen using pressure gauges. If these gauges show significant changes in pressure, you know a leak is present.

  7. Soap Bubble Detection
  8. If you plan on testing your HVAC system for leaks without professional assistance, one of the best methods to try out is the soap bubble test. This test is rather simple to carry out. All you need to do is mix up some soap with warm water. Then, you’ll need to mix this solution for several minutes.

    After it has been stirred up enough, send it through your AC refrigerant system. If there are leaks in your system, air bubbles will be visible. You can then mark these areas so that an HVAC technician knows precisely where patches are required.

    It’s crucial that you don’t add any corrosive elements to this air bubble mix. If you do, these elements could wear down your refrigerant components and leave you with costly repairs. You also should be careful about not applying enough air bubbles, because once this solution enters the system, it may be hard to tell where exactly the air bubbles are coming from.

    Again, if you're not familiar or experienced with AC repairs, we highly suggest contacting an AC repair company to check for refrigerant leaks.

  9. Oil Detection
  10. When a refrigerant leak is present in your AC system, sometimes oil will also leak out. This substance is pretty simple to detect given its thick, dark consistency. It also has a potent smell that is easily distinguishable, even if you’re far away.

    If you suspect a leak in your system, start feeling around different AC components. You’ll want to wear protective gloves when performing this step, so you don’t get your hands dirty or cut them on a sharp part.

    Feel around different components and keep checking your gloves for visible signs of oil. If an area produces a lot, chances are there is a leak that needs to be repaired right away. If you don’t have protective gloves, you can also use cloth. Make sure it’s light colored, so if oil is present, it will be visible.

Detecting AC Refrigerant Leaks

Dealing with AC refrigerant leaks can be stressful, as they prevent your HVAC system from working at an optimal level. If you’re thinking about how to find a leak in your home AC system, you don’t have to go into a frenzy. You just need to try a leak detection method that works for your budget, or you can try a combination of methods to ensure all leaks are identified.

Only then will you know where leaks are and can take the necessary actions of patching them up. Just make sure you exercise extreme caution and don’t be afraid to seek 24 hour AC repair assistance if you’re not comfortable with a detection method. Some steps may even need to be carried out by a licensed technician legally – so brush up on these local laws to avoid costly fines.

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