Top 5 Best HVAC Leak Detectors (2019 Review)

Want to keep an eye on your HVAC system?

Are you worried about refrigerant leaking out of the A/C or heat pump?

To ensure your system remains in good shape, we have put together a complete guide on HVAC leak detectors.

best hvac leak detector

In this review, you will learn about…

  • The benefits of using an HVAC leak detector
  • How a freon leak detector works
  • What to consider before purchasing a brand-new HVAC leak detector
  • Our choice for the best HVAC leak detector

Let’s begin by understanding how an HVAC leak detector functions. 

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

  • Very sensitive
  • Customizable controls
  • Made to last
  • High quality

This very high quality refrigerant leak detector was made for a wide range of refrigerants --- and only refrigerant --- while it is easy to control and extremely sensitive. 

What Are Electronic HVAC Leak Detectors?

HVAC leak detectors are responsible for identifying and finding refrigerant leaks in an A/C or heat pump. While it’s possible to use manual methods (i.e. visual checks), a well-designed electronic refrigerant HVAC leak detector is more reliable, consistent, and manageable. It can help spot leaks within seconds.

It’s important to invest in a well-reviewed detector or the tool won’t offer meaningful results. This is why the best companies spend time testing their units before releasing them onto the market. 

When used properly, the leak detector can spot whether or not your HVAC system is in good shape.

Here are the most common signs to look for when your HVAC system is leaking:

  • Coils are Frozen
  • Hissing Noises
  • Loss of Cooling Power
  • Not Blowing Cool Air

These leaks can be incredibly harmful to the entire system.

The first reason has to do with the system’s settings. Leaks make it harder to maintain pressure in the system, which means it either slows down or doesn’t work at all. To compensate for its bad performance, the system starts using more energy. This is when it becomes costly to operate.

The best course of action is to fix the leak before it becomes an ongoing problem. With a ultrasonic leak detector, you can spot the leak well in advance and take care of it right away. 

Leaks can also become a safety risk for the system, property, and its inhabitants. Certain refrigerants are not only harmful to the property but everyone living inside too. You shouldn’t breathe these refrigerants in as they put you and your pets at risk.

Studies also show these refrigerants to be harmful to the environment (i.e. greenhouse gases). This makes it important to avoid letting the leak continue for a long time. By using a refrigerant leak detector, you can spot the leak and fix it immediately.

Electronic leak detectors makes it easier to determine what type of refrigerant is leaking and where it’s leaking. Remember, in some cases the system may leak flammable gases and it’s best to remain aware of this before using a leak detector.

Refrigerant leak detectors are wonderful to have in your hands because they’re efficient, safe to use, and in line with modern standards. Due to their increased sensitivity, they can spot the smallest of leaks in a matter of moments to confirm where it’s coming from. This allows you to take action and resolve the problem. 

It’s become increasingly important to manage refrigerant leaks due to incoming U.S. regulations around R22 refrigerant. According to official sources, the US Environmental Protection Agency has declared the R22 refrigerant to be illegal in America starting January 1, 2020. This means the refrigerant cannot be manufactured and/or imported on American soil. Older A/C systems were designed to use this particular refrigerant, which means it’s best to preserve it by detecting leaks quickly.

Read Also: Top 5 Best Rated Washable HVAC Filters (*2019 Review*)

What are the Benefits of HVAC Leak Detectors?

There are several advantages to using an AC leak detector.

The benefits include:

  • Immediate Detection
  • Ideal for Identifying Smaller Amounts
  • Can Help Conserve Refrigerant
  • Important for Maintaining the System’s Performance

Investing in a brand-new freon leak detector can help prevent damage, increase the system’s performance, and ensure everything works as planned. Instead of letting the refrigerant run out, it’s best to act fast and use a high-tech solution made for this purpose. Whether it’s a small or big leak, the detector will not only pick up on it but also highlight its location.

This is why using a electronic leak detector is far superior to a manual alternative. It’s easier, simpler, and more efficient.

R-22 Refrigerant Leaks May Become Costly

How to Use a HVAC Leak Detector

Using an HVAC leak detector means understanding how it functions and what the different settings are all about.

In general, the detector uses built-in sensors to draw in leaking refrigerant via a small pump. As the refrigerant enters, it goes through a specialized detector, which spots whether or not the refrigerant is leaking in that particular spot. This is done using an electrical signal.

When the detector is turned on, it will make a distinctive noise, which signals it has detected a leak.

During this process, it’s also important to learn how to use the HVAC leak detector.

The average unit works in three simple steps.

  1. Turn on the Unit
  2. Cover the Target Area(s)
  3. Run the Probe on Top of the Target Area(s) and Wait for Detector’s Reading

The process is simple once you get the hang of it. Take your time analyzing each target area before moving on. There are times when the detector may give what’s called a “false positive” or a “false negative.” This means it gives out an incorrect reading because of how the detector was used. You should always take multiple readings before making a decision.

How to Pick the Best Electronic Leak Detector For HVAC?

1. Build Quality

Start by assessing the detector’s build quality.

This includes what material(s) it is made of, how the unit works, and whether or not it’s easy to hold in your hands.

Since the ac leak detector has to be used in tight areas, it needs to be versatile and efficient. A high-quality tool is always made of state-of-the-art materials, which can handle interacting with refrigerant leaks.

If there are noticeable holes and/or gaps in the detector, this can get in the way of its performance. Only consider purchasing a unit that’s well designed, balanced, and accounts for all situations.

2. User-Friendly Design

The design should be user-friendly and organized. 

Complicated settings only take away from the detection process. It’s best to choose a leak detector that’s stable, easy to use, and doesn’t take hours to understand.

The right freon leak detector will require no more than a few minutes to set up. This simplifies the detection process and allows you to move forward with finding potential leaks.

Having a user-friendly design also means including an organized manual. The instructions should never confuse you.

3. Low-Maintenance

Since most of your time is spent on detecting leaks, refilling the refrigerant, and paying for repairs, it’s best to avoid dealing with a high-maintenance leak detector.

A modern tool should be easy to manage regardless of how often it’s used.

This includes being easy to power up, remaining consistent with its results, and working like clockwork when put to use.

Anything other than this will only come in the way and become a major hurdle in your detection process.

4. Type of Detector

While managing an A/C unit, it’s important to have the right leak detector in hand. According to LSU, there are several variations available and each one offers a unique set of qualities depending on how it’s used.

These refrigerant leak detectors include the following:

  • Corona Discharge
  • Ultrasonic
  • Heated Diode
  • Infrared

Choose the one that’s in line with your requirements and is going to help detect the specific refrigerant in your HVAC system.

5. Pricing

While it’s important to keep your eye on the build quality, settings, and user manual, it’s also smart to think about the price.

The average HVAC leak detector is priced between $150-$500 depending on its versatility, usability, and overall quality.

Set a budget well in advance and make sure to filter out options that aren’t as effective in detecting leaks.

Read Also: Top 5 Best Rated UV Lights For HVAC (**2019 Review**)

How are HVAC Leak Detectors Different From Other Detectors?

In the past, industry professionals didn’t have HVAC leak detectors at their disposal. This meant they had to rely on other methods to pinpoint leaks before fixing the system. Modern HVAC leak detectors have automated the process and simplified it for the average property owner.

Alternative methods included using ultraviolet dyes or a soap + water combination. These were noted as effective manual methods used by specialists to find refrigerant leaks.

Nowadays, most of the work is done with nothing more than a well-designed HVAC leak detector.

To better understand what the electronic leak detector offers it’s important to look at the three main types.

  • Corona Suspension

This particular type was commonplace among traditional leak detectors. This means it’s also the oldest type available on the open market. In general, the idea behind a “corona suspension” leak detector is to use a high-voltage sensor that can pinpoint leaks before alerting the user.

  • Heated Diode

The heated diode is a well-established type as it focuses on collecting air near the target area(s) and analyzing it using heat. The sensor can detect whether or not there’s refrigerant in the air if the molecules react differently. When the sensor picks up something using heat, it immediately alerts the user.

  • Ultrasonic

This is noted as the latest type of HVAC leak detection technology available right now. With an ultrasonic sensor, the goal is to find where the leak is coming from rather than the refrigerant.

When it spots a leak in the target area, it immediately alerts the user. This freon leak detector uses sound waves as it picks up on changes in noise that aren’t obvious to the human ear. 

Due to these recent developments in leak detection technology, the market is filled with different variations. Each one has its pros and cons, which means it’s important to understand what you require before making a purchase.

Read Also: Top 3 Best Rated Whole House Furnace Humidifiers (2019 Review)

Where to Buy the Best HVAC Leak Detector?

To find the best HVAC leak detector, head over to Amazon.

This online retailer offers a well-rounded list of products to choose from. Read through the reviews, analyze different features, and make a choice that’s best suited to your HVAC system.

Amazon is the right place to shop for industry-leading HVAC leak detectors.

What are the Best HVAC Leak Detectors?

Best Quality Pick: INFICON D-TEK Leak Detector

The INFICON D-TEK Leak Detector is a sensitive, dependable, cordless refrigerant leak detector while offering state-of-the-art technology.

It’s celebrated for being a next-gen leak detector with infrared absorption sensing tech to point out the smallest of leaks in seconds.

Each sensing cell lasts for 800+ hours delivering reliable, world-class performance while remaining easy to use.

Pros

  • Easy to Operate
  • Refined Build Quality
  • Pinpoint Accuracy

Cons

  • Average Battery Life
  • Run-of-the-mill Manual

Best-Priced Pick: INFICON TEK-Mate Leak Detector

The INFICON TEK-Mate Refrigerant Leak Detector uses a refined electrochemical sensor to pinpoint whether or not there’s refrigerant outside the system.

A ceramic substrate is combined with a high-temperature heating element to create a great tool anyone can use to find leaks.

Pros

  • User-Friendly Design
  • Stable
  • Great Build Quality

Cons

  • Difficult to Use in Windy Conditions
  • Requires Time with Smaller Leaks

Best Designed Pick:  Fieldpiece Leak Detector

The Fieldpiece Leak Detector is a top of the line heated diode detector with an all-encompassing list of features designed to make your life easier.

It’s ideal for HVAC systems and comes in kit form.

This includes a durable blow-mold case for all relevant accessories as you move from one area to another.

Pros

  • Sleek Design
  • Professional Durability
  • Responsive

Cons

  • Requires Stable Conditions
  • May Offer False Positive Readings

Best All-Around Pick:  Elitech LD-200 Leak Detector

The Elitech LD-200 Leak Detector is a powerful solution for identifying leaks in the HVAC system.

This includes a rugged design that’s easy in the hands and ensures leak detection takes no more than a few minutes to complete.

With refrigerant leaks being a common issue in A/C units according to Brandford Hall, the right freon leak detector has to be sensitive.

This unit encompasses the best features and produces sensitive readings in seconds.

Pros

  • Excellent Sensitivity
  • Easy to Handle
  • Consistent Readings

Cons

  • Below-Par User Manual
  • Takes Time Getting Used To The Settings

Best Tested Pick:  Elitech LD-300 Leak Detector

The Elitech LD-300 Leak Detector is a powerhouse with its exceptional list of detectable refrigerants including R-410A, R-404A, R-134A, 1234yf, and more.

Using its patented electrolyte sensor technology, the detector quickly reduces heat and picks up on potential leaks.

Pros

  • Consistent Readings
  • Easy to Use
  • Comprehensive Build Quality

Cons

  • Average Instructions
  • Pricey

Our Top Pick: INFICON D-TEK Leak Detector

1. Low-Maintenance

The INFICON D-TEK Leak Detector is one of the best in the industry because it’s easy to maintain and continues to work around the clock when put to use. The design is user-friendly and doesn’t take long to understand. Due to its low-maintenance setup, the leak detector is a breeze to use whether the leak is small or big.

To empower users, the device also includes a 1,000-hour infrared cell life that prolongs its efficiency. 

2. Universal Sensitivity

One of the most important requirements when using a brand-new leak detector is testing the tool’s sensitivity as reported by Purdue. This includes understanding whether or not it can pick up on your HVAC system’s refrigerant.

With the INFICON D-TEK, the tool offers a 0.10 oz./year sensitivity rating and can pick up on refrigerants such as R-22, R-507, R-404A, R-134A, all HCFCs, HFCs, and CFCs.

This makes it an ideal tool to have while working with old and/or new systems.

3. Manual Controls

The controls associated with this particular HVAC leak detector are some of the finest in the world. These controls are programmable making them easier to personalize based on the system that’s being assessed.

The INFICON D-TEK Leak Detector enables users to manually target areas if necessary.

This goes hand-in-hand with the built-in automated features. You can use the tool as you deem fit to see good results.

4. Consistent Response Time

The response time is essential when it comes to using a brand-new leak detector for your HVAC system. In this case, the tool is designed to maintain a consistent response time regardless of how large the actual leak is.

To ensure this is the case, the INFICON D-TEK Leak Detector uses infrared cell technology. This particular technology doesn’t weaken easily and will continue to remain consistent as it’s put to use.

For additional accuracy, the probe is measured to be 15 inches in length. This makes sure the response is instant and precise.

Other Home Guides

Looking to learn more about home maintenance? Check out our other informative home product reviews and guides!

Leave a Comment

Arie Van Tuijl

Arie Van Tuijl

Arie is a licensed home inspector who owns a residential and commercial inspection company in the state of Virginia. He also does specialty testing such as radon gas, termites, air quality, and mold.

About Home Inspector Secrets

Our site is about the essentials of home maintenance from the perspective of a licensed home inspector.

Recently Published Guides