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Old Leaking Condenser Coils (also referred to as freon leaks) can cause serious issues with HVAC heat pump equipment. HVAC refrigeration circuits are designed and built to hold the refrigerant. It is a sealed hermetic system. The HVAC refrigeration circuit should never need refrigerant. An HVAC refrigeration system does not burn refrigerant. The refrigerant is used over and over again to move heat from one place to another. Aside from a leak, once the refrigeration system is properly charged, the system should never need refrigerant for the life of the equipment.
Old Leaking Condenser Coils
Old Leaking Condenser Coils - It does happen though even to the best HVAC equipment. Overtime or even on new equipment. A freon leak can occur because of HVAC equipment design flaws, poor installation, defective coils, or a loose connection including a loose shraeder core. A shraeder core is a valve where the freon is charged into the system. It looks like the stem core of your vehicle tire. If the HVAC equipment is installed properly, has no defects in the equipment or coils the HVAC unit will eventually begin leaking freon whether it starts leaking freon in a month or starts to leak freon in twenty years.
Eventually the copper or aluminum in the system becomes brittle from all the heating and cooling. The vibrations from the system cause tiny fatigue cracks in the copper or aluminum. This eventually happens to all systems. In the system above the leak came from sheet metal in the tube sheet rubbing against the copper tube which runs through the tube sheet. With the cost of refrigerants getting higher it is a good idea to make sure these leaks are repaired in a timely manner. Either that or replace the system with newer equipment.
Old Leaking Condenser Coils | AC Refrigerant Leaks
The leak in this coil was in a rooftop air conditioner unit that serves a commercial building. The leak had already been repaired a few times but because it was an old system the building owner decided to replace it rather than repairing the coil again. Two factors facilitated this decision: 1) the customer renting the space and their interruption in comfort was a big concern and 2) the system held approximately 65 lbs of refrigerant. EPA regulations state that the owner must fix a refrigerant leak if the system leaks more than 50 lbs in a year.
The owner either had to spend money on a new coil or replace the entire system. The decision to replace the coil was far cheaper than replacing the entire system. For this job, a crane had to be hired to lift the new coil to the rooftop and lower the old coil to the ground. The job took 3 technicians approximately 5 hours to complete from start to finish. The system continues to operate trouble-free 6 years later so the owner made the best decision. The unit is due to be replaced in 2019 with a planned renovation of the building.
AC Refrigerant Leaks - Freon Leaks - Old Leaking Condenser Coils
Technical Resource: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technology