Refrigerant Leak From Your AC Unit: How to Identify The Problem?

Learn how to identify and address refrigerant leaks in your AC unit. Trust Sandium for expert assistance with AC unit maintenance and refrigerant leak detection.

Updated on Oct 22, 2023
5 min read
Refrigerant Leak From Your AC Unit: How to Identify The Problem?

Your air conditioning unit is particularly essential during the hotter months of the year when you need it the most to keep indoor temperatures cool in these NorCal summers. But when its refrigerant starts to leak, the AC becomes unable to bring enough cool air in. This will not only leave you hot and sweaty but will also result in a spike in your utility bills.

To prevent that, it's important to know how to check for refrigerant leaks in your AC unit. If you have no experience in handling AC repairs, you should contact a professional to check for the leak.

Here are 4 ways you can determine whether or not there is a leak in your AC’s refrigerant.

Use an Electronic Detection Device

Using an electronic detection device involves scanning across the refrigeration components outside of your house. If the device finds a leak, it will sound an alarm that is easily recognizable.

The downside with these detection devices is they can only identify leaks in certain areas where the detector touches the unit components. Plus, these devices are expensive and you won’t be able to use one correctly without some brief training.

Conduct a Dye Test

This is one of the easiest ways to check for a leak in your AC’s refrigerant system. It involves pouring fluorescent dye into the system and letting it circulate for a while. If there are any leaks, the dye will pour out through them.

Then you can scan the unit with a detection lamp and locate the spots where the dye is leaking from. This whole process only takes a few minutes, but it does require specialized equipment and expert knowledge to conduct the test.

Use Nitrogen Gas

Nitrogen detector test is one of the most popular ways HVAC technicians use to identify refrigerant leaks in an air conditioning system. In this method, the remaining Freon in the AC needs to be removed first.

Then nitrogen is poured into the unit. It will make loud noises where there are leaks because nitrogen is held at a higher pressure than the refrigerant.

Conduct a Soap Bubble Test

All the above detection tests require expert skills and equipment, but if you want to conduct a leak check on your own, you can perform a soap bubble test.

You will need to mix up some liquid soap with warm water, and stir the mixture for several minutes. Then pour the solution through your AC’s refrigeration system. If there are any leaks, you will notice air bubbles. Mark these areas so an AC repair technician knows exactly where they need to patch it up.

Make sure you don’t add any corrosive elements to this soap mixture, otherwise the refrigerant components will get severely damaged. Also, don’t go overboard with the air bubbles; once this solution gets inside the system, it could be hard for you to tell where the bubbles are originating from.

If you don’t have any experience with AC repairs or tune-ups, consider contacting a professional instead of DIY-ing your way through it. It will give you peace of mind and eliminates the risk of you accidentally making the issue worse, which will certainly cost you several hundreds of dollars or more.

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