6 Best Refrigerant Leak Detectors For HVAC Pros

Josh Mitchell

Written By

Josh Mitchell

Expert Reviewed By

Holly Curell

Last Updated On

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I know many HVAC professionals who have struggled with buying high-quality leak detectors, so I wanted to make it easier to find the right tools.

In this guide, I’ll introduce the most proven and capable leak detectors for HVAC systems and help you find the right one to meet your needs.

Quick Glance - My Recommendations

Fieldpiece Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak...

Fieldpiece SRL8

Editor’s Choice

Inficon Inficon 712-202-G1 Refrigerant Leak...

Inficon D-TEK Select

High-Sensitivity Leak Detector

Elitech WJL-6000 Freon Leak Detector Halogen...

Elitech WJL-6000

Affordable Option for Freon Leaks

6 Top Quality Leak Detectors For HVAC Technicians

Choosing the right leak detector makes HVAC maintenance much smoother and quicker, but with so many options, it can be hard to know which is best.

Plus, leak detectors have varying price points, so technicians must make an informed investment to match their needs.

I have researched, tried, and tested the best leak detectors on the market to find the most reliable models and eventually narrowed it down to the top 6.

1. Fieldpiece SRL8

4.8

Overall Score


Accuracy

5.0

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Reliability

5.0

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Value for Money

4.5

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Who is the Fieldpiece SRL8 best for?

The Fieldpiece SRL8 is best for multi-disciplinary technicians working on commercial or residential HVAC systems.

Pros
  • Highly sensitive
  • Quick response time
  • Compatible with a wide variety of refrigerants
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Excellent value for money
CONS
  • More expensive model
  • Detects some refrigerants better than others

Fieldpiece has never let me down, and the SRL8 is an outstanding refrigerant leak detector.

The design and features make it perfect for almost any HVAC system, and it's my top choice because of its sensitivity, user-friendly design, and durability.

This unit uses a heated diode sensor that’s accurate to 0.5oz a year (under 50 ppm).

It may not be quite as sensitive as the Inficon D-TEK Select, but it is more than enough for most HVAC equipment.

It’s compatible with practically every refrigerant (though slightly more sensitive to some than others) and versatile enough for residential or industrial use.

Despite the impressive performance, this leak detector is one of the simplest.

It took under a minute to set up and automatically zeroed to start detection immediately - handy for anyone who wants a low-maintenance tool.

The clear LCD icons and screen make it simple to program and monitor (I did it with one hand while wearing gloves), and it has visual and audible alarms to alert you to leaks.

It even has multiple tips for the heated diode sensors to help reach tight spaces.

The SRL8 is more than just accurate and user-friendly; it's built to last.

The solid rubberized casing and filter system protect the internal components, increasing the sensor life. It should last over 5 years if you maintain it well.

This detector is simple, effective, and reliable. It may not be the most budget-friendly model, but it’s one of the best refrigerant leak detector systems on the market.

If you need to detect leaks on several HVAC systems across residential or industrial settings, this is the model I recommend.

Feature

Details

Detection method

Heated Diode

Types of refrigerants it detects

CFCs, HFCs, HFOs, and Blends/Mixes

Sensitivity

50-200ppm (3 sensitivity levels)

Response Time

Fast

Battery life

15 hours, rechargeable

Approvals/Certifications

Meets all SAE standards

Warranty

1-year


2. Inficon D-TEK Select

4.7

Overall Score


Accuracy

5.0

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Reliability

4.75

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Value for Money

4.5

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Who is the Inficon D-TEK Select best for?

The Inficon D-TEK Select is best for HVAC technicians working on sensitive equipment that needs to run continuously.

Pros
  • Ultra-high sensitivity
  • Accurate and clear display screen
  • Tough and durable
  • Audible and visible alarm system
  • Quick recharge batteries
CONS
  • More expensive model
  • Overkill for basic residential HVAC systems

If you want to minimize downtime and maximize efficiency in your HVAC systems, you need the Inficon D-TEK Select.

It can sense even tiny leaks, allowing you to take corrective action earlier and prevent downtime.

The increased sensitivity comes from the infrared technology, a step up from the heated diode used in the Fieldpiece SRL8.

It can detect smaller leaks with pinpoint accuracy, making it the best precision leak detector for working on critical application HVAC.

It's also compatible with almost all refrigerants and suitable for industrial or residential applications.

Despite being an advanced sensor, it’s surprisingly easy to use.

The 15-inch sensor length makes it easy to reach compact spaces, and the simple button controls are straightforward.

Adjusting the sensitivity is slightly challenging, but the automatic zeroing makes it a low-maintenance model.

The Inficon D-TEK Select is also made to last. It has a compact and rugged design, with advanced filters to protect the internal components.

Inficon D-TEK Select 1000 hours
It can take frequent and heavy use, and the sensors will not degrade like other models.

My only criticism of the Inficon is the battery life (10 hours compared to the Fieldpiece SRL8's 15 hours).

However, it shouldn't impact the performance because it recharges quicker than most.

The Inficon D-TEK Select is a premium model for those with bigger budgets.

It's too much for standard Freon leak detection, but I recommend it to anyone working on critical HVAC systems.

Feature

Details

Detection method

Infrared

Types of refrigerants it detects

CFCs, HFCs, A2Ls

Sensitivity

Under 20ppm (2 sensitivity levels)

Response Time

Moderate-Fast

Battery life

10 hours, rechargeable

Approvals/Certifications

Meets all SAE standards

Warranty

2-years


3. Elitech WJL-6000

4.6

Overall Score


Accuracy

4.5

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Reliability

4.5

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Value for Money

5.0

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Who is the Elitech WJL-6000 best for?

The Elitech WJL-6000 is best for technicians on a budget working with residential or small commercial HVAC systems.

Pros
  • Budget-friendly
  • Fast response time
  • Long battery life
  • 7 adjustable sensitivity settings
  • Compact and easy to use
CONS
  • No regulatory certifications
  • No advanced features
  • Batteries aren't rechargeable

The Elitech WJL-6000 proves you don't need a big budget for an effective HVAC diagnostic tool.

It's simple but reliable and perfect for technicians who want an inexpensive refrigerant detector that does the job.

It’s a more basic model than the Fieldpiece DR58 or SL8 - but it still functions effectively.

The heated diode sensor can detect small leaks consistently and is compatible with all common refrigerant types.

It also has an impressive response time.

During testing, it took less than 3 seconds to detect a minor leak and trigger the audio and visual alarm, which is ideal for fast diagnostic work.

Just be warned that the audio alarm is surprisingly loud!

The battery life is far longer than other models (over 50 hours), making it a useful portable model.
Inficon D-TEK Select 50 hours

However, it's worth noting that they aren't rechargeable, and you will need to replace them periodically.

What I like most about this leak detector is its simplicity. It uses single-button controls, a dial to select from 7 sensitivity settings, and a versatile sensor.

It's far simpler to program than the Inficon D-TEK Select, so even entry-level technicians can get to work immediately.

The Elitech WJL-600 is ideal for technicians performing infrequent diagnostic work.

It may not have the advanced features of the Fieldpiece DR58, but at this price point, it offers good value, and I recommend it to anyone working on small or medium-sized HVAC systems.

Feature

Details

Detection method

Heated Diode Sensor

Types of refrigerants it detects

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs, Blends, A2Ls

Sensitivity

100-400ppm (7 sensitivity level options)

Response Time

Fast

Battery life

50 hours, not rechargeable

Approvals/Certifications

N/A

Warranty

1-year


4. Fieldpiece DR58

4.6

Overall Score


Accuracy

4.5

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Reliability

5.0

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Value for Money

4.25

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Who is the Fieldpiece DR58 best for?

The Fieldpiece DR58 is best for HVAC technicians in the field who need quick and accurate diagnostics.

Pros
  • Sensitive to small leaks
  • Compact, lightweight, and easy to set up
  • Robust and durable
  • Clear visual display
  • Integrates with other diagnostic tools
CONS
  • More expensive model (but good-value)
  • Less sensitive to older refrigerants

If you work across multiple locations, you need a leak detector that provides instant readings so you can diagnose the problem and move on.

The Fieldpiece DR58 does just that and is an essential tool for technicians working on a tight schedule.

The compact and lightweight design makes it perfect for moving between sites, and the extended battery life (even longer than the Fieldpiece SL8) means it won’t die on the job.

It’s also simple to set up, and I particularly like the red LED on the sensor that makes placement easier.

The portable monitor screen shows clear readings (diagnostic data and a bar graph mode), so you can quickly see the essential information.

Fieldpiece DR58 screen

It also works fast, finding leaks and gathering data in seconds, so you won't have to wait.

The user-friendly features are good, but the performance is better.

The heated diode sensor technology is sensitive enough for large-scale industrial HVAC equipment and will find small leaks.

It doesn't give the exact location like the Inficon D-TEK Select, but it does identify the general vicinity of the leak.

On top of the performance and ease of use, the Fieldpiece DR58 is uniquely durable. It’s robustly made and resistant to water, shocks, and contaminants.

I tested it extensively, and it's suitable for harsh conditions.

The only slight issue I found with this leak detector is that it’s less sensitive to older refrigerants.

It can still detect them but takes longer and is better suited to newer equipment.

The Fieldpiece DR58 is more expensive than the Elitech WJL-6000 or Mastercool 53351-B, but it's long-lasting, accurate, and easy to use.

It's the best way to find AC leaks quickly, and I recommend it for any technicians working on multiple sites.

Feature

Details

Detection method

Heated Diode Sensor

Types of refrigerants it detects

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs, Blends, A2Ls

Sensitivity

60-300ppm (3 sensitivity level options)

Response Time

Fast

Battery life

18 hours, rechargeable

Approvals/Certifications

Meets all SAE standards

Warranty

1-year


5. Mastercool 53351-B

4.4

Overall Score


Accuracy

4.5

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Reliability

4.5

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Value for Money

4.25

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Who is the Mastercool 53351-B best for?

The Mastercool 52251-B UV leak detector kit is best for automotive repair work.

Pros
  • Bright-focused LED to find leaks easily
  • Comes with all kit included
  • Longer sensor life than other brands (over 250 uses)
  • Affordable
  • Simple and reliable tool
CONS
  • Slow leak detection
  • Only suitable for automotive work

The Mastercool 52251-B makes dye refrigerant detection simple. It comes with everything you need to find HVAC leaks in vehicles and offers excellent value for money.

The UV leak detector kit is far more comprehensive than others I've tried.

It includes dye, glasses, and a high-powered UV light, and even has dye remover to flush your system afterward.

It’s simple to use (and comes with detailed instructions), and the dye is available in several colors, so you can choose one that’s different from your refrigerant.

Mastercool 53351-B UV
UV dye detection is generally less effective than electronic leak detection, but the high-quality Mastercool equipment helps to bridge that gap.

The UV beam is 100x brighter than your standard model, and the UV-enhancing safety glasses make it much easier to identify leak points.

What I like most about the Mastercool UV leak detector kit is its versatility.

The dye is compatible with almost every automotive refrigerant and comes with 10 different injector options.

It can't match the versatility of the Fieldpiece SL28 or DR58, but it's compatible with almost every vehicle.

Plus, it's cheap, offering a budget way to find leaks in your system.

The downside of the Mastercool 52251-B is the speed and sensitivity. It takes far longer than an electronic system, and you will need a day or so to find the leak.

The Mastercool 52551-B works differently from digital leak detectors but offers an easy and cost-effective way to find slow leaks.

If you’re doing diagnostic work on an automotive, this is the best way to find AC leak.

Feature

Details

Detection method

UV Dye

Types of refrigerants it detects

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs

Sensitivity

1000ppm

Response Time

Slow

Battery life

N/A

Approvals/Certifications

N/A

Warranty

1-year


6. Robinair LD7

4.2

Overall Score


Accuracy

4.25

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Reliable

4.5

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Value for Money

4.0

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Who is the Robinair LD7 best for?

The Robinair LD7 is best for HVAC technicians working on a wide variety of different HVAC systems.

Pros
  • Versatile, compatible, reliable, and flexible
  • Good sensitivity
  • Clear color display screen
  • Reasonable price point
  • Audio and visual alerts
CONS
  • Less durable
  • No case or accessories
  • Requires periodic calibration

If you regularly work on different HVAC systems, you need a versatile leak detector like the Robinair LD7.

This mid-range detector balances performance and affordability and is suitable for residential or commercial sites.

This leak detector is more sensitive than most other options at this price point, making it better suited to critical HVAC systems.

The 3 different sensitivity levels allow you to customize the tool to the specific task and adapt the technology to suit your needs.

It's also more convenient than your standard mid-range detector, with intelligent features and a user-friendly design.

It has a sweep mode that lets it detect over a large area and find leaks in complex systems, and a full-color LCD screen to present the results.

Robinair LD7 colored screen
Plus, the 17-inch sensor probe tool has a universal fitting that works with any system (I could not find an HVAC it wouldn't work with).

The other reason the Robinair LD7 is so versatile is that it’s compatible with almost all refrigerants and, unlike the Fieldpiece DR58, it works with old or new HVAC systems.

You can even use it for automotive work.

The downside of the Robinair leak detector? The quality. It doesn't measure up to the robust build quality of the Fieldpiece or Inficon models, and it felt flimsier in my hand.

The manufacturer says it will last 10 years, but 1-2 years is more likely.

However, considering the price, flexibility, features, and accuracy, the Robinair LD7 offers good value for money.

I recommend it for anyone switching between HVAC systems.

Feature

Details

Detection method

Heated diode sensor

Types of refrigerants it detects

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs, Blends, A2Ls

Sensitivity

100ppm (3 sensitivity levels)

Response Time

Medium-fast

Battery life

4-8 hours

Approvals/Certifications

Meets ASHRAE standards and UL compliant

Warranty

2-years


Comparing Refrigerant Leak Detector Compared

Preview

Name

Rating

Detection method

Types it detects

Price

Fieldpiece Heated Diode Refrigerant Leak...

Fieldpiece

SRL8

4.8

Heated Diode

CFCs, HFCs, HFOs, and Blends/Mixes

Inficon Inficon 712-202-G1 Refrigerant Leak...

Inficon D-TEK Select

4.7

Infrared

CFCs, HFCs, A2Ls

Elitech WJL-6000 Freon Leak Detector Halogen...

Elitech

WJL-6000

4.6

Heated Diode Sensor

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs, Blends, A2Ls

Fieldpiece DR58 - Heated Diode Refrigerant...

Fieldpiece

DR58

4.6

Heated Diode Sensor

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs, Blends, A2Ls

Mastercool 53351-B Professional UV Leak...

Mastercool 53351-B

4.4

UV Dye

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs

Robinair LD7 Premium Refrigerant Leak...

Robinair

LD7

4.2

Heated diode sensor

CFCs, HFCs, and HFOs, Blends, A2Ls


How to Choose the Right Refrigerant Leak Detector For Your HVAC Needs

Which Type of Leak Detector You Prefer To Use

Different types of refrigerant leak detectors are available, each with pros and cons, and it’s one of the most important factors to consider before you buy.

Digital or electronic refrigerant leakage detectors are the most popular. They are effective in the HVAC industry because they are sensitive, accurate, and versatile.

However, it's worth noting that digital refrigerant leak detectors can use different detection methods:

  • Electronic leak detectors sense refrigerant directly in the air - they are reliable and suitable for detecting leaks in most residential or domestic HVAC systems.
  • Ultrasonic leak detectors listen to the sound of high-pressure refrigerant escaping from a leak. I recommend these for finding leaks in complex HVAC/air conditioning systems in hard-to-reach areas.
  • Heated diode detectors use a heating filament that changes when it comes into contact with refrigerant. I recommend these for HVAC systems with several different refrigerants.
  • Infrared leak detectors detect specific wavelengths of infrared detection.[1] I recommend these for large or high-sensitive HVAC systems as they can detect small leaks.
  • Corona suppression detectors detect ionization caused by refrigerant leaks. I recommend these for specialist HVAC systems in labs or research environments.

However, digital leak detectors are not the only type available. The table below shows the breakdown of the 3 main options:

Digital (Electronic) Leak Detectors

Operation

Uses sensors to detect refrigerant leaks through several methods.

Benefits

  • High sensitivity, capable of detecting small leaks
  • Versatile for various refrigerants
  • Reliable, real-time monitoring and instant feedback

Drawbacks

  • More expensive
  • Can be complicated to set up
  • Some sensitivity to interference from other gases

Best For?

A wide range of HVAC systems, especially those with varying refrigerants and sizes.

Recommended Model

UV Detection Kits (Dye Detection)

Operation

Involves adding a fluorescent dye to the refrigerant. UV light is used to identify leaks by detecting the fluorescent glow.

Benefits

  • Provides visible confirmation of leaks
  • Useful for identifying leaks in hard-to-reach areas
  • Suitable for both small and large leaks
    Typically expensive

Drawbacks

  • Require UV light to see a Freon leak
  • Not as accurate as digital leak detectors

Best For?

Inspection of HVAC systems in hard-to-reach areas

Recommended Model

Refrigerant Leak Detection Dyes and Sprays

Operation

Similar to UV detection kits but without the need for UV light. Before dyes, this method was done using soap bubbles.

Benefits

  • Offer a visual indicator of leaks with limited technology
  • Cost-effective and simple tools
  • Suitable for various refrigerants
  • Long sensor life

Drawbacks

  • Less accuracy
  • Only provides a general indication of Freon leak, no confirmed measurement or detail

Best For?

Infrequent inspections and troubleshooting in HVAC systems

Recommended Model

Nu-Calgon 4182-24 Refrigerant Leak Detector Dye

TL;DR: Depending upon the location and accessibility of the leak, the accuracy and sensitivity level required, the type of refrigerant being used, and whether you are a professional or DIY user, you may need a robust and expensive electronic leak detector or a simple UV detection kit.

What Refrigerants Will You Be Covering?

The refrigerant your HVAC system uses will vary depending on the age, function, and system type.[2] 

The most commonly used refrigerants are:

  • R-22 (used in older appliances and being phased out)
  • R-410A (used in residential AC systems)
  • R-134A (used in automotive AC systems)
  • R-404A (used in commercial/industrial systems)

There are also many other system-specific refrigerants (including RLD10 and R32) that are less commonly used.

Refrigerants have unique qualities, and not every leak detector can sense every refrigerant. Your refrigerant leak detector is useless if it can't sense the refrigerant in your HVAC system, so you need a compatible model.

Check your HVAC system specs to see the refrigerants used and search for a compatible refrigerant leak detection system.

ACLAB note:

Many of the best refrigerant leak detector systems are versatile enough to be used with several refrigerants, but I still recommend checking.

If you are unsure which to choose, I recommend the Robinair LD7 or Fieldpiece DR58, as they are compatible with almost any refrigerants.

TL;DR: Make sure the leak detector that you intend to buy is compatible with the refrigerant in the system.

Leak Sensitivity and Speed of Detection Matter

The sensitivity of your leak detector is the concentration of refrigerant it can detect.

A more sensitive refrigerant leak detector can detect small leaks, letting you find and deal with them more quickly.

Refrigerant leak detector sensitivity is shown in parts per million (ppm). The lower the ppm, the more sensitive it is, and the faster it will detect a leak.

The best refrigerant leak detector systems can be under 5ppm, but the sensitivity and speed vary depending on the detection method.

Detection Method

Sensitivity (ppm)

Speed of detection

Dye or UV Dyes

1000

Slow

Heated Diode

10-100

Medium

Corona discharge

10-50

Fast

Ultrasonic

Under 10

Fast

Infrared

Under 2

Very Fast

A slower dye method can be a cost-effective solution for small residential systems (or less-used large HVAC systems).

However, for large-scale/critical HVAC systems, I recommend a detector under 20ppm that can sense even the smallest leaks.

TL;DR: The more sensitive a leak detector the smaller the leaks it will be able to detect. However, the more sensitive it is, the more expensive it tends to be.

Consider the Sensor Life and Durability Of The Unit

The average lifespan of refrigerant leak detectors is 2-5 years. However, it can vary depending on the durability, features, design, and use. 

The key features that determine durability are:

  • Build-quality. A durable outer casing will stop any damage to the internal components.
  • Protection against contaminants. A sealed leak protector should prevent dust, dirt, water, or chemicals from entering, helping it last longer.
  • Impact resistance. Leak detectors constructed with shock-absorbing materials will prevent accidental damage and help it last longer.
  • High-temperature resistance. A leak detector that functions in extreme temperatures will be more versatile and last longer.
Durability is essential for HVAC technicians working in tough conditions, industrial settings, or across multiple sites.

I recommend looking for the following labels or certifications:

  • SAE compliance [3]
  • ASHRAE compliance [4]
  • EN 14624 compliance (in Europe) [5]
  • EPA compliance
  • ISO 5149 compliance

Typically, higher-quality leak detectors will cost more but offer better long-term value.

If durability is your main concern, I recommend the Fieldpiece SRL8 because it balances prices and longevity.

ACLAB note:

Whichever refrigerant leak detector you choose, maintain it properly with regular checks and calibration to keep it in working order.

This will ensure accurate readings, prevent false alarms, and protect your investment.

TL;DR: Make sure you buy a reliable model from a reputable brand that complies with the regulatory standards and is built to last.

Know The Battery Life and Whether it is Rechargeable

Critical HVAC systems often have a hardwired leak detector to avoid outages, but portable refrigerant leak detectors run on batteries.

The run-time is usually 10-40 hours for standard batteries and 4-8 hours for rechargeable batteries.

You’ll be able to check the specifications to see if the batteries are rechargeable, and you should be able to see the run time.

Many portable leak detectors include a charger to power up your device easily.

If you work across multiple locations or on systems with minimal downtime, I recommend a detector with at least 10 hours of power - like the Inficon D-TEK Select or the Fieldpiece DR58.

TL;DR: Electronic leak detectors run on batteries. Some last for 10 hours, and others, less robust models, can last for much longer. Many models are rechargeable.

How’s The Affordability vs the Warranty

Refrigerant leak detectors can cost anywhere from $20-$1000 + depending on the functionality and features. 

The key factors that impact price are:

  • Sensor technology - more accurate sensors cost more
  • Detection limits - more sensitive units will cost more
  • Continuous vs portable - hardwired, continuous leak detectors are often 5x the price of portable models
  • Display/Alarms - most leak detectors have display screens, but advanced displays cost more.
  • Connectivity - expensive leak detectors can connect to your network for remote control but will cost more.

Here’s a rough guide on how much refrigerant detectors may cost:

  • Basic non-UV dyes and diode detectors cost $20-$50. These have the lowest sensitivity and few features and are best for small residential units/infrequent checks.
  • Mid-range UV, corona discharge, and heated diode leak detectors cost $50-$200. These have medium sensitivity and features (like alarms) that make it easier to detect leaks. I recommend them for basic heating/cooling systems and light commercial use.
  • More advanced portable detectors cost $200-$800. Models like the Fieldpiece DR58 have higher sensitivity and more features. I recommend them for large HVAC systems and industrial use.
  • Top-of-the-range leak detectors cost $800+. These models offer continuous ultrasonic, infrared, and advanced corona discharge monitoring systems and typically have network connections, full LCDs, and alarms. I recommend advanced models for professionals working on large-scale units.

The warranty of your leak detector will usually correlate with the price.

Basic units typically have a 1-year warranty, whereas advanced models (like the Inficon D-TEK Select) offer 2-5-year warranty protection.

I recommend getting a 1-2 year warranty (minimum) to cover the initial materials and workmanship and protect the sensor life.

TL;DR: Refrigerant leak detectors can get quite expensive. For infrequent use, you can buy the cheaper ones. However, if you are a professional and work with large systems, then the top-of-the-line models are recommended due to their advanced features. Make sure the unit has at least 1-2 year warranty.

Additional Leak Detector Features to Consider

Is the Sensitivity Adjustable?

Leak detectors with adjustable sensors, like the Elitech WJL-6000, allow you to customize the device to match the refrigeration systems you’re working on, making the sensor more versatile.

This feature is handy for technicians working on multiple HVAC systems.

Auto and Manual Zeroing

Zeroing your leak detector establishes a baseline so the device knows when something has changed.

ACLAB note:

Regular zeroing will help maintain consistency and give precise detection. Without calibration, you could get false positives or missed refrigerant leaks.

Advanced leak detectors have an auto zero feature that will continuously monitor the background air and adjust the baseline based on the internal environment.

This is especially helpful in dynamic environments where the air quality will fluctuate.

I recommend a leak detector with auto-zeroing for technicians working across locations.

  • Real-time Monitoring:
    Some leak detectors offer continuous monitoring of refrigerant levels to track changes in concentration over time, helping you to quickly identify issues and maximize efficiency by conducting repair work as early as possible.

    For larger HVAC systems, I recommend a leak detector with real-time monitoring and accurate detection, like the Inficon D-TEK Select.
  • Alarms:
    Some refrigerant leak detector models feature LEDs or audible alarms to alert you to a refrigerant leak, offering clear and immediate feedback so you can respond quickly. This is particularly useful for quickly detecting leaks in critical HVAC systems.
  • Wireless Connectivity and Data Logging:
    More advanced leak detectors can connect wirelessly to other devices or central monitoring systems, allowing you to control it remotely, log data, and integrate it with other diagnostic tools. I recommend this feature for those who want precise monitoring of their HVAC system or AC unit.

TL;DR: Refrigerant leak detectors can offer several additional features which you may find important as a professional. The more additional features it offers, the more expensive the model will tend to be.


Why Is Refrigerant Leak Detection So Important In HVAC?

For Your Safety and Health

First and foremost, refrigerants can be dangerous.[6]

Inhaling them can cause serious health risks, and you might not even realize you’re doing it because refrigerants are invisible and odorless.

The number one reason I recommend investing in an HVAC refrigerant detector is to keep everybody safe by alerting you to a potential problem so you can take action.

Prevent Equipment Breakdowns

Refrigerant is essential to your HVAC system. A leak can cause a lot of issues and eventually cause your air conditioner/HVAC equipment to shut down.

Investing in a good quality refrigerant leak detector will help you with accurate detection of leaks early so you can repair the equipment before it breaks down - saving you headaches, time, and money.

Save Energy

Your HVAC system can still run with lower refrigerant levels, but it will become less and less efficient.

Even the smallest leaks can strain your HVAC system and cause your energy consumption and bills to increase.

Refrigerant leak detectors help you identify leaks early and repair and recharge the system to maximize efficiency and lower energy consumption.

Save the Environment from Leaking Chemicals

Refrigerants damage the ozone layer, and many are prohibited from use following the Montreal agreement.

Detecting refrigerant leaks allows you to take corrective action and prevent leaking refrigerant from damaging the environment.

The EPA has strict repair requirement codes for repairing refrigerant leaks (and you may have other local regulations), so I recommend investing in a good quality refrigerant leak detector to stay compliant.[7]

Need to Recycle Refrigerants Being Phased Out

Some refrigerants used in older HVAC systems are being phased out, but they are often in limited supply and should be recycled.

Using a refrigerant leak detector lets you identify leaks early on, allowing you to recycle the refrigerant safely.

ACLAB note:

You can search for local recycling locations online if your refrigerant leak detector discovers a problem.[8]

TL;DR: From personal safety to the the safety of the general environment as well as reducing the overall cost of running the HVAC system, there are many reasons for detecting and fixing a refrigerant leak if you suspect one.


How We Review & Rank Our Product List

At Air Conditioner Lab, our team follows a similar process when evaluating all products reviews before formulating our final lists for readers.

We begin by gathering data sources directly from brands, e-commerce platforms, online retailers and press releases.

These are then added to a master file we use to compare features specifications from all HVAC products. You can access this HVAC Sheet Here.

Next, we narrow down all the products on the market by evaluating user reviews, ratings and feedback from a wide variety of online and in-person sources.

Our team then discusses and co-ordinates our first hand experiences using these products, as well as gather independent opinions and feedback through Youtube and customer reviews.

FAQs

How Accurate Are Refrigerant Leak Detectors?

The accuracy of a refrigerant leak detector varies depending on the sensitivity, measured in parts per million (ppm).

The lower the ppm, the more accurate it is in detecting leaks because it can sense small concentrations of refrigerant. Electronic/digital refrigerant leak detectors tend to be the most accurate.

What Does An HVAC Refrigerant Leak Smell Like?

Refrigerants don't usually have a distinct smell. However, some have a chemical smell because they are mixed with lubricants or other contaminants.

If you suspect a leak, use a detector to check and take action quickly.

How Do You Fix An HVAC Refrigerant Leak?

To fix an HVAC refrigerant leak, use a sealant to seal the gap, and then evacuate and recharge the system following the specific unit guidance.

So, Which One Is My Top Pick?

The Fieldpiece SRL8 is my top pick when it comes to refrigerant leak detectors.

The combination of user-friendly features, durability, and accurate sensors make it an asset in any HVAC technician’s toolkit, and I think it offers the best value for money.

However, the refrigerant leak detector you choose should vary depending on the air conditioning/HVAC system you're working on.

I've included a few options on the list. Hopefully, this guide has helped you find a leak detector that will improve the safety and efficiency of the HVAC systems you work on.

My #1 Recommendation
Fieldpiece SRL8

  • Highly sensitive
  • Quick response time
  • Compatible with a wide variety of refrigerants
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Excellent value for money 

References: 

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-dependence-of-the-spectral-absorption-coefficients-of-the-R134a-and-R1234yf_fig3_339731303
  2. https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/documents/high-gwp-refrigerants
  3. https://www.sae.org/standards/content/j2791_201903/
  4. https://www.ashrae.org
  5. https://www.en-standard.eu/csn-en-14624-performance-of-portable-locating-leak-detectors-and-of-fixed-gas-detectors-for-all-refrigerants/
  6. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-refrigerant-poisoning
  7. https://www.epa.gov/section608/stationary-refrigeration-leak-repair-requirements
  8. https://www.epa.gov/section608/epa-certified-refrigerant-reclaimers 
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Josh Mitchell

Founder

Josh Mitchell
My name is Josh and I am obsessed with home appliances. From portable AC units to heaters and air purifiers, I enjoy testing, learning and using these devices to improve the air quality inside my family home.

My Favorite Home Appliance?

Midea U Shaped Window Air Conditioner

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