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With detection accuracy down to one part per million and a brand new portable unit joining the range, the team behind the RCS-Bacharach leak detection system claims it is set to revolutionise the refrigeration industry’s response to one of its most significant and persistent problems – HFC leakage.

While the challenges of cost, potential hazard and the overall shortage of skills and equipment continue to act as a drag on the long-heralded switch to alternative CO2 systems, supermarkets remain under ever-growing legislative, economic and social pressure to reduce the leaks in their existing conventional systems.

Until now, leak detection technologies have struggled to provide the answer. Most existing systems have been installed as a requirement of F-Gas regulations, but with sensitivity above 25ppm and limited coverage they have generally only proved effective for larger leaks and those that are located near to the sensors. To have a chance of spotting low level leaks they have to be right on top of them, wherever they occur in the store – which can leaves many leaks undetected, often for years.

The result has been that after some early successes, the industry has struggled to make further inroads into the problem. Leakage rates of traditional refrigerant gases remain stubbornly, and unacceptably, high.

The new RCS-Bacharach Leak Elimination System claims to change all that through a combination of improved detection accuracy, longer sampling ranges and improved sensor location – including , critically, a fully-portable handheld unit that can operate anywhere inside, or outside, the store.

The myth of the ‘undetectable’ leak

RCS Energy Management Commercial Manager Simon Grater explained: “There have always been locations where traditional leak detection technology has been ineffective – assuming you can even get sensors there in the first place.

“So while the plant room may have effective coverage for larger leaks, there has been no effective detection technologies for lower level leaks that are occurring away from the plant room, in outside locations and even inside the display cabinets themselves.

“It’s these limitations that have given rise to the myth of the ‘undetectable’ leak.

“But the truth of the matter is that if you can get a sensor in position with sufficient sensitivity, as well as the ability to work in refrigerated spaces for example, these leaks are not undetectable at all.

“And if you can detect them, you can fix them.”

New technology

The accuracy and coverage of the RCS-Bacharach system derives from a proprietary infrared sampling bench which delivers detection accuracy down to just 1ppm, as well as virtually eliminating false alarms.

Combined with fast sampling rates and sampling distances up to 1,200ft, this technology provides a powerful platform for the complete RCS-Bacharach range.

To ensure comprehensive coverage throughout the store, up to 64 sensors can be accommodated per Multi-Zone Monitor unit. But it is the new PGM-IR portable detector that truly takes effective detection store-wide.

The breakthrough, in addition to genuine portability, lies in the fact that the PGM-IR’s integrated LCD display shows actual concentrations of refrigerant gases in real time. This means it doesn’t zero out background concentrations, that it’s not looking for changes in concentration and, crucially for many refrigeration applications, that it isn’t disrupted by changes in temperature.

What this means in practical terms is that the system can detect for the first time low level leaks in areas which render traditional leak detection technology ineffective – places such as already contaminated areas, the inside of chiller cabinets and even outside the store.

RCS Energy Management Commercial Manager Simon Grater said: “The state-of-the-art RCS-Bacharach fixed gas monitors already lead the industry in terms of performance, integration capabilities, initial cost and cost of ownership.

“But the addition of the PGM-IR portable unit really does take the system’s performance and its potential as part of a leak elimination strategy to a new level.

“This technology already dominates the North American market with an installed base of more than 25,000 units, and we fully expect it do the same in the UK and Europe.”

The RCS-Bacharach leak detection system can be integrated with the vast majority of existing commercial refrigeration systems to deliver advanced low level continuous monitoring of the refrigerant gases used in most commercial systems including chlorofluruocarbons (CFC), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) and ammonia (NH3).