Leak detection: Technological advancements in support of new low GWP refrigerants


19 August 2016
MGS-550 EXD with sensor
MGS550 Gamour
MGS550 Gamour
F-Gas II, also known as EU Regulation 517/2014, continues to drive change across the cooling industry. With a large reduction in the amount of refrigerant allowed to be placed on the market in 2018, refrigerant manufacturers have been developing and launching new lower GWP refrigerants that will help meet the market’s demand for refrigerants and achieve its regulatory obligations.

​With this shift in new products being used and the regulatory demands on leak checking, it’s also important to ensure effective leak detection technology is in place.
By Mel Summers, Marketing Co-ordinator at Climalife

F-Gas regulation & leak detection

As a reminder, here are the key F-Gas leak detection requirements placed upon operators of equipment containing F-Gases:
  1. Regular leak checks; fully documented;
  2. Measures should be taken, to minimise emissions and prevent leakage;
  3. Leaks must be fixed without undue delay;
  4. Equipment using higher GWP refrigerants need to be leak checked more frequently;
  5. Equipment containing more than 500 CO2 Eq Tonnes of an F-Gas must have a leak detection system fitted.

New refrigerants

​Refrigerant producers are bringing new low GWP products to market; for example the Opteon™ and Solstice® HFO and HFO blended products. With more people making the switch from higher GWP products, like R-404A, it’s important to ensure that any leak detection equipment in place continues to detect new refrigerant types too.
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Leak detection technologies

​As an industry, we are all aware of the benefits of installing leak detection equipment.  From the safety aspect, the ability to reduce operating costs, to the environmental benefit of less wastage.  It’s very important to ensure the right equipment is selected for the job; equipment that can withstand heavy usage and equipment that can keep up to date with changes in refrigerant technologies.

Manufacturers of leak detection equipment are keeping a close eye on changes in the market and offer products that can detect both existing and commonly used refrigerants as well as the newer refrigerants coming to market.

This month we are focussing on three products from Bacharach, a key player in the leak detection technology market.
  • Gas Detection
  • Multi-zone Monitoring
  • Portability
The MGS-550 Gas Detector, can be used across a variety of challenging applications.  It can continuously monitor toxic and combustible gases, oxygen and refrigerants such as HFCs and newer refrigerants; R449A, R452A, R513A and R448A in ambient air. 

The MGS 550 is user configurable and can be connected to any central BMS control system (via a Modbus connection) and also has three on-board user-assignable relays.

It can function as a stand-alone unit. 

The instrument can be upgraded at any time from a one-sensor unit to a two-sensor system by installing a second sensor. 

Enclosure options include a rugged; explosion-proof aluminium housing or a dust/waterproof IP66 ABS for durable performance in any location.
​The Bacharach HGM-MZ or Multi-Zone Gas Monitor offers performance, flexibility and functionality for low level continuous monitoring of refrigerants using an Infra-red sensor.

The minimum detection limit is as low as 1ppm, allowing for early identification of leaks and a true refrigerant management approach.

A built in library of over 50 gases and the scalability of up to 16 zones facilitate customisation of the system.

The large graphic LCD display and status LEDs provide a system wide overview at a glance. Multiple communications interfaces enable the monitor to be integrated into any BMS/BAS system.

The portable PGM-IR offers performance and functionality for low ppm level leak detection of refrigerants.

It has a library of 50 refrigerants enabling it to accurately detect the smallest leaks with sensitivity as low as 1ppm.

The unit is immune to sudden changes in temperature or humidity and to over-exposure. It has a data logging capacity of up to 200 readings.

With its high flow rate, real-time ppm concentrations are displayed instantly with corresponding audible tick-rate indicator to precisely pinpoint leaks.

The rechargeable Li-ion battery provides a minimum of 8 hours usage.

Saving time and money

Of the Bacharach PGM-IR, Steve Chapple, service engineer at Cooltherm Installation Services in Garforth, said:
“The Bacharach infrared leak detector is a fantastic piece of kit. I’m now able to distinguish which refrigerant is leaking from which system.  It’s saved me countless hours of leak testing with a standard handheld semiconductor type leak detector because it’s only sensing refrigerant and is not affected by cleaning chemicals, steam and even temperature changes. I would recommend this machine to any service engineer.”
​Leak detection equipment may seem like an unwanted expense especially when budgets are tight, however any refrigerant leaks that are stopped sooner will have financial benefits that should more than offset the initial equipment outlay.  It’s also worth bearing in mind that with the price of higher GWP refrigerants likely to increase over the coming months, the cost of any leaks will probably increase too.

Time to review with help on hand

​It’s a good idea to review some of the new equipment available, aligned with new refrigerants and with the ability to automate the process.

Companies, such as Climalife in the UK, working in partnership with Bacharach can advise on these leak detection solutions, together with a wider range of options that are compatible with different building needs, and can provide tailored guidance on the location of equipment, type and number of sensors to use.