Upshaw said he single-handedly revitalized more than an estimated $40,000 worth of refrigerant-leaking equipment over the last year as a maintenance technician for Gila Enterprises of Alpine, Texas, a small real estate investment/management company with about 10 properties. Upshaw, who started with Gila in 1988 after running his own HVACR service company in Arizona, said he could have saved the company an additional $100,000 in equipment if refrigerant sealants were available throughout the 1990s.
One example is a soft-serve ice cream machine at a 26-year-old Dairy Queen in Marfa, Texas, that Gila operates as a franchisee. Upshaw's electronic leak detector indicated a leak that was virtually inaccessible and most likely located in the water-cooled condenser. Since the 15-year-old, 1-ton unit was leaking and also needed an eventual refrigerant retrofit from R-12 to an HFC refrigerant, the manufacturer recommended replacing the $30,000 unit.
Instead, Upshaw recovered the remaining R-12 refrigerant, changed the Schraeder valves and caps, and added a 3-ounce can of Super Seal HVACRâ„¢ from Cliplight Mfg., Toronto, while retrofitting the system with HFC-414B. (The refrigerant was purchased from ICOR International, Indianapolis, which markets it as Hot Shot.) According to the manufacturer, the sealant is specially formulated for HVACR systems under 5 tons.
The service call and the $60 can of sealant amounted to $300, which is about 1 percent of the replacement cost the operation faced. "Gila Enterprises was very pleased because they knew what a new soft-serve machine would cost," said Upshaw.
The equipment manufacturer warned Upshaw that a sealant could clog small capillary lines in the unit. But at last report, Upshaw said the unit had been running more than one year and performing up to original specifications without incident.
"If the system is properly prepared prior to injection, the sealant is engineered to seal micron leaks with zero negative effects to compressors, expansion valves, or any other system components," said Paul Appler, director of research, Cliplight Mfg.
"Moisture is public enemy number one to refrigeration units. Regardless of size, every unit should have a fully functional liquid line drier installed. Good workmanship mandates changing the drier out. When refrigerant is removed, always follow up with a triple evacuation using nitrogen breaks to completely eliminate moisture from a system."
Upshaw said the sealant was recommended by other service techs and counter salespersons at a local distributor, Johnson Supply of Carrollton, Texas.
OTHER USES FOR THE SEALANTA few months before the ice cream machine project, Upshaw also used the sealant on a split-system air conditioning system at a residential rental property Gila owned. The owner, who already had a recommendation from a contractor to replace the unit at a cost of approximately $5,000, asked Upshaw for a second opinion. The leak was undeterminably in either the line set or condenser.
Upshaw changed the Schraeder valves, made sure the system was clean, and put in a 3-ounce can of Super Seal. The owner paid approximately $250 for the service call, which included the $60 can of sealant.
More recently, the Dairy Queen's walk-in freezer and walk-in cooler were both faced with component replacement costs that could have surpassed an estimated $10,000, but Upshaw again used a sealant to lower repair costs.
With the 120-square-foot freezer, an electronic leak detection test turned up no visible leak and Upshaw suspected it was either hidden in a fan coil, the in-wall piping, or the condenser. Instead of troubleshooting by replacing the fan coils, Upshaw put in the sealant while retrofitting the R-12 unit to R-414B.
The freezer is working fine today at its -12°F temperature original equipment specification.
For more information, visit www.cliplight.com/hvacr/.
Publication date: 01/09/2006