Some common signs that may indicate a refrigerant leak in an HVAC system include:
• Strange noises from the AC unit like hissing, squealing or whistling sounds. This can be a sign that refrigerant gas is escaping.
• Reduced cooling efficiency. If your AC seems to not be cooling as well as usual, it could indicate a refrigerant leak that is lowering the pressure and efficiency.
• Frost or ice buildup on piping, valves or other components. Also,as refrigerant leaks, it can cool surrounding parts enough to cause frosting. Then,this is a sign there may be a leak releasing gas.
• Water damage or water leaks. Since refrigerant leaks can sometimes lead to equipment damage or water leaks inside ducts, look for any visible signs of excess water or water staining.
• Musty smells.
Some refrigerants have a slight chlorine-like smell that can become more noticeable if there is a leak. Although not always present, this can be a possible sign.
• Flammable gas detection.
Use an electronic leak detector or gas sensor to check for any refrigerants like propane or butane that may indicate a leak and pose a fire risk. These gases will have a strong petroleum-ether smell.
• Visual inspection findings.
Carefully inspect equipment like compressors, condensers, piping, seals and hoses for any visible signs of damage, corrosion or refrigerant residue which could indicate an active or past leak. Also,look for dripping, wet spots or discolored areas.
• Pressure testing results. If pressure testing the entire refrigerant system or individual components, a loss of pressure over time could signal that there are one or more leaks allowing refrigerant to escape.
• Ground underneath and around unit. Check the ground directly under the AC unit as well as extending several feet out for any signs of a refrigerant spill or puddle on the ground which will have a slippery, oily surface. Also,this could indicate a large, active leak.
Finally,locating any of these signs may mean there is a loss of refrigerant from your HVAC system. It’s best to call an HVAC technician to thoroughly inspect your equipment and determine if any leaks are present and need to be sealed and repaired.