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  Refrigerant Gas

A canister of r600a refrigerant gas that would typically be used for domestic refrigerationThere are a lot of misconceptions and, misinformation when it comes to refrigerant gas that we aim to put to bed here as these misconceptions lead to many an incorrect diagnosis on faults with refrigeration.

The first thing that should be understood that, in relative terms, domestic refrigeration be it a fridge, freezer, fridge freezer or even a big American type fridge freezer use a very small gas charge. This is irrespective of the gas used which would commonly be R12, R134a or R600a on a domestic unit.

  Sealed Systems

These systems are sealed.

If they leak then the unit will stop cooling, fast.

When we say “fast” we mean in hours, maybe a day or two but not any longer.

An internal leak will show up in the first few days of plugging it in. It will not somehow, magically, develop an internal leak months or years down the track as some people might suggest.

Sorry but, that just simply does not happen.

If a domestic refrigeration unit leaks it’s because something or someone ruptured the system creating a hole through which the refrigerant gas can escape. In virtually every instance this will be some form of physical impact damage or someone prodding a hole in something they shouldn’t have.

Or it wasn’t sealed correctly in the first place but, as we said, that sort of failure will show up very quickly, it would not last even a few weeks with a poor joint or whatever.

The reason being that, as the gas charge is so small, any leak will mean that very quickly there’s not enough refrigerant to cool correctly and it would be extremely noticeable that the unit wasn’t working correctly.

Large industrial plant such as AC systems leak, some automotive systems leak. Domestic systems in all practical terms do not.

  Blockages

Likewise, with blockages, these will normally show up in days, if it even takes that long as if the system is blocked, it isn’t going to cool properly and anyone would notice that quickly.

Normally blockages are caused by either of two things:

  • Moisture in the system
  • Oil in the system

The first is because the system was left open for too long and water vapour has gotten in somehow or, there is a leak and the machine isn’t cooling anyway.

The second is normally a result of incorrect transportation or not enough time standing before a new unit is switched on, about 99% of the time. Or, the compressor is kaput.

Neither are easy to fix and neither are even remotely possible by anyone without the required knowledge of refrigeration and specialist equipment.

  When There Is A Leak

The only time that a sealed system will leak is after many, many years if the copper or aluminium pipework corrodes or degrades to the point where it becomes porous and no longer able to contain gas.

At this point, most units will be decades old and well beyond any economical repair.

The other reason that is common enough is a leak after a repair. Often cited by long-standing refrigeration guys as being down to the move away from brazing to using what's called Lokring systems. Lokring is a compression fitting especially for refrigeration work, some love it, some hate it.

But if a Lokring joint isn't 100% right, it will leak after the system has been opened and recharged.

  Failure Rates

The failure rates of actual refrigerant systems in domestic units after you get past the first week or so, extremely low.

All the more so from decent manufacturers with Liebherr being a standout along with the other top end brands in refrigeration but even the mass market stuff from Electrolux, Bosch, Beko and all the rest, largely there will never be any issues whatsoever with a refrigerant system.

They are incredibly reliable.

The stuff around about the gas system and even compressors, that’s a different conversation entirely.

However, if someone tells you that a machine that’s a few months or years old is suddenly, as by magic, short of gas or you think it is then you’ve got maybe a 1:100000 chance of being right. Maybe.

  Gas Used

R12

Now banned and no longer used.

Getting anyone to repair an R12 system now is virtually impossible.

R12 was good and rarely gave any issues but, it contained ozone unfriendly elements so due to protests by suntanned polar bears it was banned.

R134a

The replacement for R12 and now also banned in production although still used for service to a degree in order to maintain older systems.

Prone to blockages as the charge was far lower than an R12 system.

R600a

The almost universal refrigerant gas for domestic refrigeration today that is iso-butane based.

Whilst flammable this gas is used in such low quantities in domestic refrigeration that it is extremely unlikely to be of any risk, even large systems used very small gas charges, normally well under 80g of gas with many, if not most half that or less.

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Paul Smith
Hotpoint Ncd 190 l re-gas
Hi, can you tell me what gas goes in a Hotpoint ncd 190 l please and can you supply details of a (can, Hose and valve diy application kit?
Thanks
Paul

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Jennifer Wheatley
Dry cleaner refrigerant unit
Hi I own a dry cleaners and my dry cleaning machine has a refrigeration unit on it. I need it topping up can anyone help me with this?
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Martni
Hi, I have been a complete fool and punctured my freezer using a screwdriver to clear a build up of ice stopping the door closing. It's a fitted fridge freezer only a couple of years old. What do you recommend (i.e. turned off power to both fridge and freezer and remove food?, repair or replace)? Brown liquid with strong smell released from hole to the refrigerant channels that sit in the roof of the freezer. Many thanks
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Kenneth
Bad news I'm afraid, it's scrap.
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MarkoWilko
Hotpoint
Hi I read your explanation of fridge miths with interest.
I have a 22yr old Hotpoint deluxe 8242 fridge, which is struggling to keep the temp inside the fridge to +4 even with the thermostat on max & the fridge compressor never stops. The location of the fridge has never changed & been under a worktop with cupboards either side. Before I read your article I was under the impression that the fridge probably needed regassing, but now I’m not so sure. I like my fridge & hate throwing anything away that can be repaired, so I’m unsure what to do now. I know we are having unprecedented hot weather at the moment, so this could be a contributing factor, but as I said earlier the compressor never stops when on max. Can you advise please.
P.S. Fridge has been cleaned at the back & defrosted recently.

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Leanne emily Cooper
Gas
Hello. When we moved the fridge freezer the gas bottle popped.
I am.wondering if you can replace this?
Thanks

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Naz
Anerican fridfe freezer
I needvgas fridge freezer

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