Let’s take a look at Freon.

A colorless and tasteless gas that is used in older model fridges, without Freon many older fridges wouldn’t work at all. Refrigeration in many parts of the world would be nearly impossible. 

The problem is, Freon is harmful to the environment and to us.

I know it sounds like a cool energy drink, but taking a sip of Freon could be your last drink of anything!

Which is why modern appliance manufacturers have moved away from using it.

Let’s learn a little more about it, how it works, and how to deal with a potential leak of Freon from your ‘not so new’ refrigerator.  We’ll start with the basics.

How Do I Know If My Fridge Is Leaking Freon?

Here are some common signs of a Freon leak:

SMELL – Freon often leaves a musty smell if there’s a leak.  If you’re in doubt and are worried that your health may be affected, it’s time to call a specialist refrigerator repairer.    

RESIDUE – There will be visible residue on your floor if you have a Freon leak.  This oily substance is a byproduct of the leak.

SICKNESS – If you’re suffering health issues and maybe live in a very cramped space with a possibly Freon leaking fridge, you may experience nausea, migraines and fainting.  It’s worth checking out to protect your health!

POOR COOLING – If your fridge is leaking Freon, it won’t be cooling effectively and your food will get warm and eventually rot.  If you’ve noticed your fridge no longer gets or stays cold, a Freon leak may be a potential cause. 

FRIDGE MOTOR CONSTANTLY RUNS – When you get a Freon leak, the motor of your fridge will be forced to run for longer to make up for the incorrect amount of refrigerant.  Your motor being forced to work harder will eventually lead to strain on the motor and eventually it may burn out altogether.

HIGHER ELECTRICITY BILL – Because your fridge motor is constantly running at an intense level, you’ll notice you’re using more electricity and getting higher electricity bills.  Eek!  If you’re noticing a spike in your energy consumption both during the winter AND summer months, it’s always a good idea to check all your appliances for faults.

Detecting a Freon Leak – DIY Style

This section assumes some technical skill and knowledge on the part of the reader.  You will also need to have the right equipment and tools for D.I.Y leak detection. 

Remember – never put your health or your appliance at risk if you are unsure about your level of technical skill – rather call an H.V.A.C specialist.

Still want to go the D.I.Y route?  Follow the steps below.

  • Do a Visual Inspection – if you find an area of the fridge system with oil traces/leakage where it shouldn’t be, that’s probably your leakage point.
  • Soapy Water Detection – Fill the fridge cooling system with 20 – 40 pounds/cM2 pressure nitrogen, and then smear some parts of the fridge system with soapy water.  The bubbling area is the leaking point.  This is the most common method used by repair people.
  • Fluorescent Leak Detection – a fluorescent leak detector will give off a bright yellow – green light under the U.V/blue – light leak detector.  Add the fluorescent agent to the system following the manufacturer’s instructions on the package, and after the system runs for 20 minutes, wearing the special glasses provided, shine the outside of the system with the leakage light detector.  The leakage points will be yellow fluorescent and easily spotted.
  • Gas Pressure Detection – Using the pressure difference between the interior and exterior of the system, a pressure gauge will detect this difference in gas pressure and express it either digitally, or by a voice or electronic signal.  This is only a qualitative test to check whether the system is leaking, it will not find the leak for you.
  • Electronic Leak Detection – This method is the most modern and reliable so widely used.  Move the probe of an electronic leak detector over the possible leakage areas and it will give you an alert where there is a leakage.  The electronic leak detector is a quick, scientific and accurate way to check for leaks.
Checking Freon using a leak detector
Freon Leak Detection is often done with an electronic probe

Is A Freon Leak Dangerous?

First of all, it’s important to note that Freon leaks are VERY rare. There has to be significant damage to the fridge or its piping to allow the Freon to escape.  Also, children and pets will be most affected because Freon is a gas that sinks low to the ground when it’s released. 

Unless you’ve been extensively exposed to the Freon and have breathed it in deeply, the common symptoms of mild exposure are worrying but not life threatening – things like dizziness, shortness of breath and feeling nauseous. 

Still, there are health dangers and it’s something that you want to get sorted out, either by confident and skilled D.I.Y intervention, or by calling a specialist H.V.A.C repair person.  

How Much Does A Freon Leak Cost To Repair?

A ‘ball park’ figure for a Freon leak repair (getting a professional to fix it), is $200 to $300, so $250 on average. 

Always budget about 50% higher than that just to be on the safe side, or to allow for a complex repair, and don’t be nervous about phoning around for the best professional service at a price that suits your pocket! 

A couple of phone calls can save you money in the long run.

Male checking the bank of refrigerator
Refrigerator repair can vary depending on the contractor. Make sure to ask around.

What is Freon, exactly?

Freon is a synthetic chemical refrigerant.  All that means is that it is a type of chemical that can be used to exchange temperature with the surrounding environment.  Refrigerants are usually in the form of a gas, but the cool thing about them is that they can move between liquid and gas form.  This makes them very handy for managing temperature in things like fridges, cars, ventilation and heating systems. 

Freon containers
Freon Containers

Since refrigerants have been used, they’ve been improved and modernized to avoid potential damage to the environment and to ensure that they’re safe to have around humans.  Many appliance manufacturers have changed their refrigerant agents from Freon to things like R600a and Propane, which are non – toxic hydrocarbons and eco – friendly.

Freon is also called an R22 refrigerant – this simply means that it has 22 fluorine atoms in its compound.  If your fridge is still running on Freon, this article is for you and will give you low down on Freon and problems you may have with using it.

How Does Freon Work In A Refrigerator?

Refrigerants like Freon work on heat transfer, fluid dynamics, and the different states of matter – from a gas to a liquid, say.  Refrigerants do their job well because they don’t damage mechanical materials, they aren’t toxic if they’re fully contained, and in the proper working conditions they’re considered safe to use in places like your kitchen refrigerator.

Refrigerants work by ‘swapping’ temperature with the surrounding environment.  So, the Freon in your fridge is pushed through the coils of your fridge, and these coils allow the Freon to interact with the surrounding environment.  Other components like the condenser, evaporator, compressor and the T.X valve all affect the state (gas or liquid) and the temperature of the Freon as it works to keep your fridge nice and cool.

Where is the Freon in my Fridge? 

You will find the Freon line for your fridge by looking for the compressor tank – that’s the large tank at the very back of the fridge behind the back panel.  The Freon line attaches to the compressor tank and feeds into the fridge.  Check the owner’s manual for your particular make/model of fridge to make sure that you’ve identified the right line, and if attempting any sort of repair, refer both to your manual and to expert advice to ensure that you don’t damage the appliance or injure yourself.

Conclusion

It’s very important to note as we close off this article that Freon as a substance in fridges and elsewhere has been legally phased out for use since 2020

This means that going forward, Freon repairs will be more expensive as they become rarer and rarer. If your fridge is getting on a bit, it might be worth considering getting a new, more environmentally friendly one.

A hand holding earth
Earth in the palm of our hands

For your further information, here’s a link to the Environmental Protection Agency’s information about the phase – out of Freon and other Ozone Depleting Substances: https://www.epa.gov/ods-phaseout

Once again we thank you for joining us on another trip into the world of appliances.  We hope that you continue to visit our blog for more informative content!