When and Where a gas leak occurs in refrigeration installations

Identifying when and where a leak occurs in refrigeration installations is key to reducing direct costs in refrigerant gas leaks and to optimizing maintenance costs.

Gas leaks happen for a whole range of reasons and in a great variety of situations and scenarios. In reality, it is impossible to find a refrigeration system with a 0% leak rate; however, it is possible to significantly reduce leaks and, therefore, also reduce impact on profit and loss, whilst improving working conditions in the installation, its efficiency and preservation of the stored product in question.

When a refrigeration system leaks refrigerant gas in abundance, detection of the leak, and even of its position, is more straightforward. However, it is more difficult to quickly and precisely detect smaller leaks, including those under 1 gr/h. These leaks, which may not appear to be a reason for concern, could equate to a considerable sum of money over time. Let’s suppose that we have a leak of just 50 ppm (parts per million) in the evaporator of a cold room measuring around 30 m3. This leak, which may seem insignificant (regulation @EN-378 establishes that minimum detection levels for guaranteeing human safety begin at 20,000 ppm for HFCs), means that the system is leaking 6 gr/h; over the course of a year, this amounts to 50 kg of refrigerant gas, approximately 5,000 in the case of R448A, to give an example of a gas with a medium GWP which is clearly in the process of substituting R-404A, as a result of the Phase-Down established by the @F-Gas regulation. This figure does not take into account the indirect expenses incurred through increased installation consumption in these circumstances, which may be very high. According to the @IOR (@Institute of Refrigeration), a refrigeration system with a 20% loss of gas charge consumes 15% more energy.

Sometimes, leaks are not constant, instead appearing intermittently over time, which makes them more difficult to detect and locate. This is due to variation in use of installations and to their behavior.However, the financial impact of these micro-leaks may be significant throughout the year if a solution is not found quickly. For this reason, precise information on where and when these leaks occur is essential for facilitating their localization and repair and, therefore, reducing direct maintenance costs.

The AKOGAS system provides precise information starting from just 1 ppm, detecting leaks of even less than 0.5 gr/h and also indicating the times of day when these leaks are most frequent; this equates to saved maintenance time and costs, alongside a very significant reduction in direct expenditure from gas recharging, thanks to the system’s constant log of leaks in the different parts of the installation.

Furthermore, AKOGAS transmitters’ extraordinary selectivity ensures perfect operation in environments which are traditionally problematic for detecting refrigerant gas leaks, such as cold room stores for vegetables, fruit, fish, etc.

This characteristic completely removes the risk of false alarms caused by elements such as ethylene, solvents, cleaning products or alcohol, guaranteeing system efficiency and eliminating unnecessary action based on false alarms, which are inherent to other detection technologies.

Last but not least, the information provided by the AKOGAS system allows preventative maintenance systems to be implemented, acting pro-actively to anticipate user complaints regarding refrigeration system inefficiencies and more efficiently planning maintenance work in advance.