Ultrasonic Leak Detection Overview

No discussion on A/C & Refrigeration leak detection would be complete without a mention of AccuTrak®, currently the most talked about, and intriguing technology available.

With so many leak detectors on the market, where do ultrasonic detectors fit in?

What service technicians are quickly realizing is that no matter what types of claims leak detector manufacturers are making...There is no one product or technology which can find every leak.  Each technique has an enemy which can severely hinder performance.

Ultrasonics is a method which is not affected by the enemies of other techniques.  For example, when using the most sensitive electronic “sniffer” in the world, it will be extremely difficult to find a leak outdoors under windy conditions.  An ultrasonic detector on the other hand, will not have any negative effects from the wind.  It also will NOT be affected by contaminants or stray gasses which cause “sniffer” type detectors to false alarm.  Ultrasonics will locate a leak of ANY gas regardless of chemical composition, and is the only method of pinpointing vacuum leaks.

Fluorescent dyes and bubbles share the same problem which is that the leak must be within the technicians line of sight, otherwise there is no indication of a leak. AccuTrak® on the other hand offers a flexible tube to guide the sound from inaccessible areas back to the detector.

The ultrasonic detector hears leaks, this is why it is does not have the same limitations associated with other techniques, and is quickly being added to many toolboxes across the country.

Remember, ...There is no one product or technology which can find every leak. Ultrasonics is no exception as it has some limitations of its own.  Most background noises surrounding a cooling unit are in the sonic range, and will not be heard when using an ultrasonic detector.  Problems occur when testing in areas with extreme background noise caused by high pressure/velocity flow through internal or external orifices.  This internal flow is highly turbulent, generating an ultrasonic tone similar to that of an actual leak.  This may draw the user to points of higher turbulence, or even gas bubbles in the system.  Experience with a unit such as AccuTrak® will allow the user to distinguish most background noise from actual leak signals.

When choosing a leak detector one needs to know and understand the capabilities as well as the limitations of the method used.  Ultrasonics are a fast and effective means of leak detection, and knowing when to use them will eliminate many frustrating hours of leak hunting.