Bacharach Refrigerant Leak Detector
Effective refrigerant leak detection is important for ensuring safety, maximizing energy efficiency and minimizing operation costs, as well as achieving compliance. Bacharach offers several excellent electronic leak detectors. Now on Sale!
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The Bacharach H-10 PRO Refrigerant Leak Detector
Bacharach is an (if not the) industry leader in refrigerant leak detection and is the maker of the most highly-rated and recommended refrigerant leak detector on the market – the H-10 Pro. We're going to take a deep dive into this remarkable device and then also take a look at a few of the other excellent refrigerant leak detectors offered by Bacharach, both inexpensive budget-friendly models and top-of-the-line elite professional equipment.
The Bacharach H-10 Pro Universal Refrigerant Leak Detector is, without a doubt, the most popular and effective refrigerant leak detector available today. Once we get through our explanation here, you'll see why. The unit is an absolute powerhouse. The main claim to fame of the H-10 Leak Detector is its ability to detect leaks with exceptional sensitivity - down to leaks as small as 0.006 oz/yr! There's really nothing else like it.
So how does it work? What makes it so much better than other refrigerant leak detectors commonly available to HVAC service technicians? The answer lies in its heated diode measurement technology. Now, other detectors do use heated diode technology, but because the Bacharach H-10 Pro is so customizable in terms of calibration on the fly, its accuracy is unsurpassed. Other heated diode detectors manage certain parameters automatically, which, while making them simpler to use, also makes them far less accurate and versatile. All it takes is a little bit of knowledge and training with the H-10 Pro, and you'll be able to run circles around your competition in terms of quickly finding tiny refrigerant leaks that others will be unable to locate.
Heated Diode sensor technology is also called positive ion emission technology. Let's take a brief look at the science behind this method of leak detection, and you'll gain a deeper understanding of why the H-10 Pro Universal Refrigerant Leak Detector is so powerful. The leak detector uses an internal pump to draw leaking refrigerant into the probe tip and then to the sensor (the heated diode). The sensor then heats the refrigerant to a sufficient temperature to break apart the individual molecules in the sample. Almost all refrigerant molecules that you encounter in the HVAC/R field will contain either Flourine, Chlorine, or both. When these elements are separated from the rest of the gas by the heating process, they appear as positive ions (hence the positive ion emission technology we referenced above). These positive ions will be recognized by the H-10 Pro's sensor and result in an audible alarm and a visual LED flash in the sensor tip. We'll talk in a moment about how to program the unit for different sensitivities and leak sizes, but the big takeaway from understanding this heated diode technology is that we are talking about detecting these microscopic ions separated from the gas itself. These particles are so small that a detector that can recognize them will be able to find refrigerant gas leaks that would be impossible to find by any other method. That's why the H-10 Pro is capable of finding leaks as small as 0.006 oz/yr. It's really amazing stuff.
Setup and Calibration of the H-10 PRO
Okay then, let's move on to briefly describing the setup and operation processes. The H-10 Pro Refrigerant Leak Detector comes packed with a calibration reference bottle. This bottle contains a small amount of refrigerant that you will use to calibrate the unit on the job, every time you use it, for maximum accuracy. We'll begin by switching the unit on and allowing the pump to warm up for about 2 minutes to ensure proper airflow to the sensor. Next, you'll set the leak size switch to "SMALL" and set the Manual/Auto selector to "AUTO." Then you'll briefly pass the sensor tip over the calibration reference bottle (which is stored on the bottom left on the unit face).
If the unit is calibrated correctly, you'll see the LED lights change from "LOW" to "OK" (green) with an audible ticking. Even though there are only three LEDs (LOW, OK, and HIGH), it's best to think of it as a little bar graph. The "LOW" light (orange, far left) will be on continuously when the unit is warmed up, and there won't be any ticking. As the sensor picks up gas and heats it (as described above), it will fill up our bar graph a bit, i.e., switch from left to right to the green "OK" LED (center). Now, if the lights switch all the way to the right and illuminate the red "HIGH" LED, that means that there is too much current going into the heating element in the unit. You'll need to use a small flat-head screwdriver to turn the dial marked "HEATER ADJUSTMENT" counterclockwise to reduce the current. Retest by the same method so that only the green "OK" LED is lit up, but it returns to "LOW" without lighting up the "HIGH" LED. If there is not enough current going to the heater in the unit, the "OK" LED won't light up at all, and it will just stay lit up on "LOW." That's how you know you need to turn the adjustment dial clockwise to increase the amount of heating.
So to summarize, set the mode switch to "AUTO," leak size switch to "SMALL," run the tip over the calibration bottle – no green LED means you need more heat, red LED means you need less. The process is relatively simple if you think of it that way, and you'll quickly get the hang of it. You can learn to do it in just a few minutes, and then you can be confident that your H-10 Pro is always calibrated every time you use it.
One little note of caution: when you begin actually testing for leaks, you should disregard the calibration LEDs. In the context of checking for leaks, they don't mean anything. Their only purpose is for calibration. Also, the easiest way to tell when it's time for a sensor replacement is when you have turned up the heating adjustment as far as it will go clockwise and still cannot get the green "OK" LED to light up.
Detecting Leaks with the H-10 PRO
Now, let's take a quick look at how to go about detecting refrigerant leaks with your Bacharach H-10 Pro. Start your detection process by selecting the "LARGE" leak size setting. The reason for starting here is twofold. One, this allows you to narrow down where the leak is by sweeping from large to small, essentially using a pinpointing method. Two, beginning on the large setting protects against overexposure. Basically, if you turn on the "SMALL" setting, the unit is going to allow more air into the sensor, and if it is saturated by a large leak the life of the sensor will be significantly shortened by the overload of exposure. Think of it this way: the sensor can only be exposed to a finite amount of gas in its lifetime, and if you use it all up at once by accidentally exposing it to a ton of gas, then it'll be shot pretty quickly.
Now one of two things can happen when detecting on the "LARGE" setting. You'll find a leak, or you won't. If you DO NOT find a leak, simply move to the "MEDIUM" setting and keep looking in a logical sweeping pattern. The same applies if you move to "MEDIUM" and DO NOT find a leak. Just move down to "SMALL" as appropriate. If you DO find a leak on large, repair the leaks that you find and then proceed to "MEDIUM" to verify that the system is now leak-free. Here's where we get a tiny bit more complicated. For HFC refrigerants like R-143a, you'll want to use the "SMALL" setting to ensure that your system is free of leaks. For CFCs and HCFCs like R-12 and R-22, the "MEDIUM" setting should be sufficient to detect all leaks. Just remember, HFCs use the "SMALL" setting, and by deduction, you know that the other types of refrigerants are good to go when using "MEDIUM." However, once you've made all your repairs and are sure that the area is cleaned up and properly sealed, you can make a pass on any system using the small setting, just to double-check that everything is leak-free.
That's all you need to know about the Bacharach H-10 PRO Refrigerant Leak Detector! Just a final word on accessory parts: replace the filter tip about every month, once it becomes dirty. Also, the sensor will last about one year with regular use. Still, as discussed above, you can tell when it's time for a new one based on not being able to complete the calibration procedure even when the heater adjustment is turned up fully.
For most HVAC/R professionals, you will get the most bang for your buck out of the H-10 PRO. However, Bacharach makes a lot more high-quality refrigerant leak detectors. We're going to take a run through them now, starting from the budget models up through the top-of-the-line laboratory-quality instruments.
The Bacharach TruPointe Refrigerant Leak Detector
For their entry-level model, Bacharach makes the TruPointe Refrigerant Leak Detector. This model detects all the HFC, CFC, and HCFC refrigerants as well, using the same heated diode technology that we discussed in detail above. Now, since there is no calibration option and only a low or high sensitivity mode on this unit, the smallest size of leak you'll be able to detect with this unit is much larger than with the H-10 PRO. The TruPointe will detect a respectable 0.5oz/year. Still, as you can see from the difference in detection capability compared to the H-10, you'll ideally be using the TruPointe for spot-checking or for leaks that you know are rather large. It's designed with a flexible gooseneck probe so you can maneuver in some tight spots. Like the H-10, since it is a heated diode sensor, you'll need to replace it about once a year with standard use. It's a little tougher to tell when the sensor is done-for since there's no calibration procedure, so you're safest sticking with the one-year time frame. Overall, the Bacharach Tru Pointe Leak Detector is an easy-to-use, budget-friendly unit that uses proven, accurate technology, which makes a great addition to your tool bag.
The Bacharach TruPointe-IR Refrigerant Leak Detector
A little higher up the quality scale and price scale, Bacharach offers the TruPointe-IR Refrigerant Leak Detector. A word or two here on the infrared technology that this detector employs is called for. We covered above in detail the heated diode detection process, but infrared testing is quite a bit different and offers its own unique set of advantages and some small disadvantages as well.
Infrared leak detection works by drawing a gas sample across an optical sensor to determine how much infrared radiation the sample has absorbed. This technology makes infrared leak detection highly accurate and less prone to false-positive readings. It also increases sensitivity compared to less expensive heated diode models (like the standard TruPointe). The Bacharach TruPointe-IR specifically, has a sensitivity range down to 0.1oz/year. Plus, this sensitivity is packaged in a unit that is operated in a simple "gas-sniffer" way with the same type of gooseneck probe as other handheld units. So what are the drawbacks? Well, there are a couple. They aren't "cons" per se, but just a few things to consider when making your refrigerant leak detector purchasing decision.
First, because the infrared type of leak detector works by continuously comparing (optically) one small sample of gas to the next, you need to move the detector in a sweeping motion that is relatively constant. Now, we don't mean fast or jerky, but you'll need to have it moving around in a way that might feel unusual at first if you're used to heated diode refrigerant leak detectors. It can be tricky at first to pinpoint a leak because of this. Second, it's somewhat challenging to determine the size of a leak because the unit is more or less continually zeroing itself to compare the samples coming in. This action of continual zeroing paradoxically makes it both more sensitive (a great thing) and a somewhat less intuitive to use (a slight drawback).
All that said, in terms of sensitivity and accuracy, you're going to come out way ahead of the curve by using an infrared refrigerant leak detector. The only thing better in the residential/light commercial market will be the H-10 PRO that we detailed above. The reason why the H-10 is so much better in terms of sensitivity is the calibration process that we discussed above. Even though the h-10 is a heated diode technology (usually less accurate/sensitive), being able to set the calibration at the start of every use makes it the best leak detector available in this market, as we mentioned above. However, if you need to spend a bit less and still get tremendous sensitivity and ease of use, you can't go wrong with the Bacharach Tru Pointe IR.
The Bacharach Informant 2 Dual Purpose Leak Detector
Now we come to a truly unique product, the Bacharach Informant 2. As you might have already guessed from the name, the Informant 2 works as both a refrigerant leak detector and a combustible gas detector. This design is of obvious benefit to residential HVAC/R contractors, as it allows you to work year-round with respect to leak detection. Leaking air conditioning and gas heaters etc. can both be addressed with this innovative tool.
The design is a gooseneck "sniffer" again, but the sensors are actually in the probe tips themselves. So, if you need to check for either refrigerants or combustibles, you just swap out for the correct probe tip, and you're on your way to testing—piece of cake. We'll just focus for now on the refrigerant detection capabilities.
The Informant 2 is also a heated diode sensor but a patented version that Bacharach developed explicitly for this dual-purpose device. The stated sensitivity for normal operations is 0.5oz/yr. However, because the sensor is there in the probe tip itself, once you find a leak, you can pinpoint down to a sensitivity of 0.1/yr by holding it directly at the leak for about 5 seconds. This process is a bit of an art, so we do still say the standard sensitivity is 0.5/yr, but you can, with practice, get performance on par with the infrared model we just discussed. Not too shabby for a device that does so much in one unit!
Obviously, this will be your go-to choice if you don't want to invest in multiple leak detectors for your different applications. We recommend the Bacharach Informant 2 for techs that work all year in HVAC or for AC guys looking to branch out into heating services as well.
The Bacharach PGM-IR Portable Refrigerant Monitor
Finally, we come around to the big dog: the Bacharach PGM-IR Portable Refrigerant Monitor. Now, this unit could be used for residential work, but that would be the most massive overkill you could think of. The PGM-IR is specifically designed for large commercial work like refrigerated display cases in groceries, chillers, walk-in freezers, and cold rooms, among other applications. It's an incredibly impressive piece of machinery, and we'll go over a bit of the technology and some of the features here.
The Bacharach PGM-IR is far and away the most powerful portable refrigerant leak detector on the market. To put it in stark terms, this model will find the smallest leaks that other detectors cannot find at all, no matter how sensitive. How small? Down to 1ppm! Just think of that. If there is ONE molecule of a leaking refrigerant in a million, this powerhouse unit will find it. It also has a digital display with a real-time particle counter. In other words, it will tell you what parts-per-million concentration of the refrigerant is in the sample.
The unit itself has a probe attached to some tubing to collect the sample air. To find the leak you'll use a similar process as the other detectors above, but you'll now have the added advantage of seeing the actual ppm results onscreen as you go. So you'll find a small concentration and follow it to the leak source by searching for increasing ppm concentration. The only small drawback to this process is that you will need to know what refrigerant you are looking for, as the PGM-IR is an infrared detector (if you hadn't guessed by the title) and will make internal calculations based on specific refrigerants. This point is not too much of a hurdle since commercial units will tell you what gas is being used. The factory default is R-134a, but it is simple to change the gas that the unit is looking for, and there is an internal bank of over 60 refrigerants to choose from. The infrared technology is incredibly accurate when programmed to search for specific refrigerants, as opposed to the general halogen detection we discussed with the TruPointe-IR. The biggest advantage of this advanced infrared technology is that you can work in virtually any temperature environment with the PGM-IR. Because it is not necessary to heat the sample to get a sensitive reading (as with even a high-end heated diode detector like the H-10 PRO), you can work inside a freezer if necessary, or in very humid conditions among other environmental situations.
Additionally, the PGM-IR is capable of logging up to 200 tests, making it excellent for maintenance sweeps on groceries and food storage facilities, etc. Overall, (and there's a lot more that could be said about this powerhouse device), the PGM-IR is one of the strongest performing refrigerant leak detector available. Period. It will literally find one particle of refrigerant in a million. A very impressive machine indeed.
Let's do a quick wrap-up of all we've covered. If you're looking for the highest performance, industry-beloved leak detector for residential work, you'll want the Bacharach H-10 PRO. This article has the info you need to get rolling with using it, and Bacharach also offers some helpful online videos, as well as customer service help if you end up needing some assistance. If the H-10 PRO isn't quite in your budget for now, Bacharach offers two lower-cost detectors that still work great. You have the standard TruPointe, a heated diode device, and the TruPointe-IR, which is a more accurate infrared detector. If you also need to check for combustible gas, you can pick up the dual-purpose Informant 2. And finally, if you do commercial work and need the absolute top-of-the-line, Bacharach has you covered with the PGM-IR.
All in all, with the complete line of Bacharach Refrigerant Leak Detectors, there's not a leak you can't find.