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Latest Options in Refrigerant Leak Detection [Video]

In an E360 Conference presentation, I discussed the challenges retailers face in detecting refrigerant leaks and some of the leak detection technologies available. You can watch the video and read the highlights below. 

Note: these materials reflect insights on the proposed EPA rulings. For the latest news and final rulings, please visit the EPA’s website.

Refrigerant leaks have a broad impact in many areas. Assuming a 100-site supermarket chain with a conservative estimate of a 20 percent leak rate (about 700 lbs. per year per store), refrigerant leaks would have these results:

  • Economic: The refrigerant R-404A costs $7/lb. resulting in nearly half a million dollars in leaked refrigerant costs. This does not include customer disruptions and service technician costs.
  • Equipment: Equipment that is low on refrigerant due to leaks has to work harder, thereby reducing longevity.
  • Energy: The equipment also tends to run longer to maintain the proper temperature, resulting in increased power usage.
  • Climate: There is a direct CO2 equivalence impact of these leaks on the atmosphere, which is equal to the emissions of 24,000 cars on the road or powering 10,600 homes.

The EPA has established a set of rules and guidelines in Section 608 of the Clean Air Act regarding refrigerant leaks. Food retailers need to stay up-to-date on the latest options in leak detection to satisfy environmental regulations, and to reduce operational costs.

Key elements of the current rulings include:

  • Commercial refrigeration and industrial process refrigeration equipment leaking over 35% must be fixed
  • Technicians working on equipment need to be certified
  • Refrigerant must be properly disposed
  • Technicians need to maintain diligent records and file information

Recently, the EPA finalized updates to Section 608 of the Clean Air Act. Key elements of this update, which are effective as of January 1, 2019, include:

  • More stringent requirements for repairing leaks in larger appliances (>50 lbs);
    • Revised leak rate thresholds:
      • –30% for Industrial Process Refrigeration (IPR) (lowered from 35%)
      • –20% for commercial refrigeration (lowered from 35%)
      • –10% for comfort cooling (lowered from 15%)
    • New recordkeeping for the disposal of appliances containing five to 50 pounds of refrigerant;
    • New reporting requirement that kicks in when larger appliances leak 125% or more of their charge in a calendar year;
    • Restricting the sale of HFC refrigerant to technicians certified under Sections 608 or 609 of the Clean Air Act; and
    • Mandates for inspections and/or monitoring, based on certain instances

There are multiple technologies available for leak detection, including:

  • Active: A unit in the supermarket with tubes that detect refrigerant leaks in various zones throughout the store and allows for continuous monitoring.
  • Passive: Devices placed in various zones of the supermarket that use infrared technology to detect leaks and provide for continuous monitoring.
  • Indirect: Looks at the performance of a system through existing sensors and hardware to analyze the data to detect leaks.

For more information on refrigerant leak detection best practices, you can also read this previous blog post.

For more than 20 years, Emerson Retail Solutions has been helping businesses like yours safeguard food, reduce energy consumption, protect the environment and optimize business results. To learn more about our technology solutions and services for retailers, visit our website.



 Mike Saunders
Senior Lead Innovation Technologist
Retail Solutions
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

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