Detecting refrigerant leaks is a challenging task. To make the task easier, you require the best HVAC refrigerant leak detectors. There are so many different leakage detectors in the market. How do you choose the one that fits your needs and the budget?
So to help you choose, we have created a list of six leak detectors after testing 23 different models for 127 hours. We have not only tested the detectors but consulted 12 experts from the HVAC industry.
If you want to know more about our testing process, scroll down to the section where it is discussed in detail. Even with reviews, you will find some insights into our testing process.
Best HVAC Refrigerant Leak Detectors
|Product Name||Type||Battery||Sensor Life||Price|
|Fieldpiece SRL8||Heated Diode||Rechargeable||5 years||Check Price|
|Robinair TIFRX-1A||Ceramic||Alkaline||20 hours||Check Price|
|Signstek Portable||Ceramic||Alkaline||20 hours||Check Price|
|INFICON TEK-Mate||Heated Diode||Alkaline||5 years||Check Price|
|Elitech ILD-200||Infrared||Lithium||10 years||Check Price|
|Inficon D-Tek Select||Infrared||NiMH||800 hours||Check Price|
1.Fieldpiece Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector SRL8- Highly Rated Leak Detector
- Triggers on all CFCs, HFCs, HCFCs and blends. More sensitive to some refrigerants than others.
- 15-hour rechargeable, user replaceable battery. It lasts almost two full workdays on a single charge (if your hunting...
- Filter system helps protect the sensor from moisture and other contaminants. The sensor is connected to the body at the...
The SRL8 is a popular detector among the HVAC technicians. So we were keen to test the product. Before that we asked the experts, “what makes it a popular choice?” All experts agree that it is the heated diode technology that makes the difference.
We had barely opened the package and switched on, it picked up the test leakage. Even with low sensitivity settings, the leak triggered the sensor. Our team used it to identify the leak to the source with ease.
As far as the performance is concerned while detecting all types of gases including, CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs and other blends, it was accurate.
Like most of the leak detectors, it operates on battery. We charged the battery to its fullest and used it throughout the day. We were able to use the device for whole day without having to charge it again. However, like any battery operated device, with time the battery capacity may reduce.
2.Robinair TIFRX-1A Automatic Halogen Leak Detector- Best HVAC Leak Detector Under $150
- Detects halogenated refrigerants and is certified to SAE J1627 CE approval and UL classified
- Features Microprocessor controlled circuit with Advanced Digital Signal Processing
- Six-segment visual leak size indicator
Robinair is known for its service tools. Any tools manufactured by them are trustworthy and certified. The TIFRX-1A is a perfect example of their quality. As the leak detector, it is based on the MPC circuit and advanced microprocessor for signal processing.
During detection process, we kept an eye on how the indicators are working. It has an audible alarm with variable frequency. Even the ergonomics are simple. You can change the sensitivity setting and also perform a manual reset.
The TIFRX-1A uses two C-cell batteries as a power source. Yes, C-cell batteries are definitely old style but did the job duirng tests. However, we think a rechargeable battery would have helped it score some more points in our tests.
3. Signstek Portable AC Refrigerant Halogen Gas Leakage Detector- Budget Friendly Leak Detector
- Excellent sensor with high sensitivity,3g/yr (0.1oz/yr), detect All KINDS OF halogenated refrigerant
- 14 inches (35.5cm) flexible stainless steel probe can reach to almost any tight space
- Single color LED display with 6-level leak alarm, tricolor display of battery voltage
We always keep an eye on those products that do the job as well as do not burn a hole in your pocket. Even for the best HVAC refrigerant leak detectors, we found one—the Signstek Portable halogen gas leakage detector.
You may think to being a budget detector you may lose on some of the best features but it surprised us with what it has to offer. It has very simple ergonomics, detects almost all HVAC gases, and uses C-cell batteries as power source.
It also uses C-cell batteries. A rechargeable battery would have been great but with price range so low, there is nothing to complain. However, to make it more user-friendly, it shows battery voltage with three colors—red, orange, and green. Thus, you can change the batteries before it runs out.
The only thing with the detector that you have to take care of is to reset the detector in fresh air before you use it for a leakage.
4. INFICON TEK-Mate 705-202-G1 Refrigerant Leak Detector- Most Accurate HVAC leak Detectors
- Includes Sensor, 2 D Batteries, Filters, Carrying Case
- Rugged flexible metal probe
- Low battery indicator
The Inficon Tek-Mate is on our list because of its ability to find the finest of the leaks. Most of the leak detectors are capable but usually not sensitive or too sensitive to detect the leak. For our team, the Inficon Tek-Mate’s sensitivity was right in the sweet spot.
It runs on 2 D-cell batteries which gives long running life compared to other similar leak detectors. Though rechargeable battery could have been better like the other HVAC leakage detectors have. But a low battery indicator makes up for it. So, you can change the battery before it is discharged completely.
Like any other good leakage detectors it also has variable audible signal and a flashing LED to help locate the leakage.
5. Elitech ILD-200 Advanced Refrigerant Infrared Leak Detector- Most Advanced HVAC Leak Detector
- Includes Sensor, 2 D Batteries, Filters, Carrying Case
- Rugged flexible metal probe
- Low battery indicator
When we were testing different leak detectors, Elitech ILD-200 impressed us with its modern look and technology. If we look at the features, it has a TFT screen which not many leak detectors can boast about. Overall, the design also fits nicely into your hand. You can see the developers have put a lot of thought into renovating the leak detector.
As for the technology, it uses infrared spectrum absorption. The infrared sensor can detect all the HVAC gases.
The most impressive thing about the Elitech ILD-200 detector is a TFT screen. You can see the sensitivity settings, detection, battery life etc. on the screen. Though there was no faulty sensor, it will notify if the sensor is compromised.
In addition, if you don’t want to disturb anyone with noise alerts or you are working in a noisy environment, you can easily hook a 3.5 mm headphone.
Even the battery it uses is the modern day battery. It uses Lithium battery which gives you up to 6 hours of working time with full charge. We did measure the time it took to fully charge. It was around 4 hours 10 minutes.
6. INFICON D-TEK Select Refrigerant Leak Detector- Portable HVAC Leak Detector
- 0.10 oz/year (3 g/a) sensitivity
- Sensitive to all refrigerants, including R-22, R-134a, R-404a, R-410a, R-507 (AZ-50) and all CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs
- 1,000-hour infrared cell life for low cost of ownership
It is another advanced HVAC gas detector that you can buy. Though it doesn’t have TFT screen like Elitech ILD-200, it gives you the same performance. It also uses an infrared sensor for leakage detection.
When we used it, we were satisfied with the results. It was able to detect even the smallest of leakage. But the biggest positive about the Inficon D-Tek Select lies in its package. It includes spare filters, car charger, DC charger and carrying case.
Ergonomics are simple and almost the same as the best HVAC refrigerant leak detectors we have mentioned on our list. The only thing that could have been better was battery life. Though being a rechargeable detector, it makes up for it.
Buyer’s Guide- What To Consider While Buying Best HVAC Refrigerant Leak Detectors?
The only way to measure any leakage is by using the right leak detector. With so many options available, finding the best HVAC leak detector is tough. But if you know what factors to consider while buying, you will be able to get the detector that suits your need easily.
Before you look at the factors, just take look at the different types of leak detectors:
These detectors use an effect called corona discharge. In corona discharge, when air flows through an electrical field of a wire, depending on the charge in the air, there is a change in the current flowing through the wire.
So the detectors look for this change in the current. Once detected, it triggers the alarm. However, using this detection technique you cannot tell the type of gas. It can even trigger a false alarm if it detects cleaning chemicals. In addition, they are unsuitable of HCs gases. Hence, not many technicians are huge fan of the corona discharge detectors.
As you can tell by the name, it uses sound waves emitted during a leakage. When gas escapes through crevices, it makes a certain sound. The frequencies of the sound are well beyond a human ears. So the detector amplifies the sound into an audible sound.
Though technology is not new but not many are known to use it compared to other hand handled leak detectors. The big advantage of using such detector is that it can detect any gas. Be it HCs, HCFCs, or HFCs refrigerants.
Though there are manufacturers that offer ultrasonic detector they are expensive then the Best HVAC Refrigerant leak detectors we have mentioned in our list.
When any gas passes through an optical bench, its infrared radiation can be measured. This is the base principle of infrared leak detectors. Depending on the amount of infrared radiation is absorbed, the device detects the leakage.
The technology is introduced in recent times. And by far it is the most accurate technology when it comes to HVAC refrigerant detection. One big advantage of it over other techniques the results are less prone to contamination.
If you are looking for the best-infrared detectors, then Elitech ILD-200 Advanced Refrigerant Infrared Leak Detector and Inficon D-Tek Select Leak Detector are the two best options.
Heated diode detectors use an electrical phenomenon, were heated diode generates a current when halogenated gas passes through. This current can be used to trigger the alarm.
Detectors using heated diode are the most sensitive types. They can easily pinpoint the leakage. But same sensitivity sometimes goes against it. Even with the smallest amount of moisture, or oil can contaminate the sensor.
For the same reason, after every 100 hours of use, the sensor needs to be changed.
Now you understand all types of HVAC leak detectors. If you ask us, which are the best types, we suggest you go only for the heated diode or infrared leak detectors. Even our list of the best HVAC refrigerant leak detectors includes only these two types of detectors.
Now let’s look at the factors that you need to know while choosing the leak detectors:
When you are looking for an HVAC gas leakage you need to find the source fast. Only the most accurate leak detector will be able to meet that demand. While looking for the accuracy for any detector, the best sign is to look at the technique it uses for the detection.
As we have mentioned earlier heated diode and infrared detectors provide you the most accurate reading. So stick to only those two types. Elitech ILD-200 Advanced Refrigerant Infrared Leak Detector and Fieldpiece Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak Detector are the most accurate detectors that you can buy.
2. Continuous Operation Time
What we mean continuous operation time is that for how long you can use the detector continuously. The reason why you need to consider this factor is that it shows how much time you the detector gives to find the leakage.
Beyond the continuous operation limit, you risk exposing the sensor to contaminants. Once, the sensor is contaminated, there is no way but to change it. So, get the detector that is not prone to contamination. Almost all the infrared leak detectors are not prone to contamination like Elitech ILD-200 Advanced Refrigerant Infrared Leak Detector.
You want to use a detector which is cordless and gives ample mobility in any working environment. That is most preferred leak detectors are battery powered. If you see our list you will find that some detectors use traditional cell batteries and some modern lithium batteries.
Cell type batteries can be recharged. They need to be replaced. And the lithium-ion batteries are chargeable. Both have their advantages. Cell type batteries can run for a long time whereas lithium batteries need to be charged every 5-6 hours.
But there is one issue with cell type batteries. When the battery is low, the detector may not function properly. But it is not the same with lithium batteries. But sometimes you may not have to charge port nearby you, then for such cases on the detectors with replaceable batteries is the only option.
The sensor is the main factor that differentiates one detector to another. So always see the lifetime of the sensor. Some have 1 year, 5 years or 10 years. Though the manufacturer may say, it sensor may last up to 10 years, but if it gets contaminated easily, then there is no point buying the detector.
So, always make sure the detector you buy has a well-protected sensor and has a long life.
As the detectors are always, used in some tough environments where there are moisture, oil or different gases, maintenance becomes a key factor. If the detector is not maintained properly, it loses its accuracy. So, get the detector that requires list amount of maintenance. More importantly, the sensor must be well protected. Thus reducing the effort required for maintenance.
1. Which is the best HVAC refrigerant leak detector?
There is not as such the best HVAC refrigerant leak detector. People have their own needs and own budget. In addition, a leak detector is a device that is operated in various types of environment. You have to get the one that can handle a particular environment.
2. Is zeroing required every time you use?
Yes, any detector you use, it has to reset to zero in clean air. Most of the device has a straightforward reset button that you can use to reset before you use.
How We Conducted the Tests?
We brought 23 different leak detector and tested them for different parameters like accuracy, ease of use, battery life, and maintenance. These parameters were set for different environments. We had to use a different environment because detectors are used in number of different ways. It is used for different HVAC systems like home, warehouse, car, etc.
In addition to testing, we also made sure that our team used each and every detector as an average user. This helped us to understand each product in much better way. Talking to 12 experts also helped us to deepen our experience with these products.
We also went through several reputed review sites and also looked at the user reviews to understand what others think about the product.
After evaluating and interviewing our experts, our team scored them for accuracy, battery, and ease of use. This allowed us to rank the products.
Here is the scorecard for the leak detectors:
|Fieldpiece SRL8||98.6||98.4||98.7||98.57||Check Price|
|Robinair TIFRX-1A||97.8||98.2||96.8||97.60||Check Price|
|Signstek Portable||97.6||97.8||96.4||97.27||Check Price|
|INFICON TEK-Mate||98.6||95.4||95.2||96.40||Check Price|
|Elitech ILD-200||97.4||94.8||95.2||95.80||Check Price|
|Inficon D-Tek Select||97.3||94.3||95.2||95.60||Check Price|
HVAC gas leak detectors are required for detecting a different type of gases and under different circumstances. So make sure you have understood why you need a detector and under what conditions you will be using the detector. In addition, detectors have their own advantages and disadvantages. So go through our buyer’s guide to learn more about leak detectors. Once you are sure of your needs and have proper information on detectors, you can set your budget and try to find the best HVAC refrigerant leak detectors.