Heat pump freon leak

mpdnj

New member
Apr 20, 2017
1
Wyckoff, NJ
#1
Last season my 6 year old Aqua Heat heat pump stopped working because the refrigerant leaked out. Every pool company I called told me I needed an HVAC guy and every HVAC guy I called didn't work on them. Finally I got someone to come recharge the system and it worked for a few weeks before it leaked out again so now it doesn't work. So I have 2 questions:
1. Does anyone have any suggestions on who to call to fix the leak?
2. Is it worth it to even fix? I'm thinking I should just replace it since it will cost me a few hundred dollars to have someone come to even look at it (if I can find anyone) and it may be at the end of its lifespan anyway. I'm also considering switching to a gas heater just because it seems easier to get someone to work on them.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
 

poolneophyte

LifeTime Supporter
Jul 1, 2009
267
Long Island, NY
#2
I went through this same thing at the end of last summer. I have a Jandy heat pump and first tried calling the manufacturer who gave me the name of a service company. I called the recommended company and they never returned my call. I also called several HVAC service companies in the area but once they heard the word "pool", they didn't want to be involved. I ended up finding a small two-man HVAC service company who were willing to take a look. I'm very handy and was able to disassemble the heat pump so they could access the compressor and piping. They found the system to be completely flat (empty of refrigerant) and charged it with nitrogen to find the leak. It turned out that the leak was coming from a poor quality factory braze which vibrated until it started leaking. The company brazed the copper pipe joint, tested again with nitrogen and then charged it with refrigerant. My heat pump was manufactured during the period where they were switching over from R-22 to the more environmentally friendly R-410A. The problem with R-22 is that it has become very scarce and thus very expensive. The HVAC tech likened R-22 to "liquid gold". I took a gamble and paid the high cost for the refrigerant and the system worked fine when complete. They also gave me a break on the price because I disassembled (and reassembled) the unit for them and "didn't annoy them". My only concern is that this was done last summer right before I closed the pool for the winter. I'm praying that it is still fully charged when I open the pool this spring. I hope that your unit uses R-410A and that you can find someone to work on it. Post back and let us know how you make out.
 

pooldv

Mod Squad
TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
LifeTime Supporter
Aug 10, 2012
24,993
DFW, TX
#3
I added mine on to my home hvac service contract. I had my guy check it out while he was here doing the spring check up and he said no problem, it looks like a regular heat pump with a water exchange.

So, you definitely need an HVAC guy to track down the refrigerant leak and fix it. They also need regular check ups like your home heat pump and/or air conditioner. The water exchange side might need a pool guy.
 

cjpwalker

Silver Supporter
Sep 1, 2016
173
Yakima, WA
#4
Hvac guy is going to be the ticket. You might try to find a company that does both commercial and residential service - they work on a lot more equipment than a straight resi guy, and aren't afraid of words like "pool." These things really are very simple refrigeration systems.

I'd come out, but I'm afraid you are just outside of our service area, lol...
 

cjpwalker

Silver Supporter
Sep 1, 2016
173
Yakima, WA
#5
My heat pump was manufactured during the period where they were switching over from R-22 to the more environmentally friendly R-410A. The problem with R-22 is that it has become very scarce and thus very expensive. The HVAC tech likened R-22 to "liquid gold". I took a gamble and paid the high cost for the refrigerant and the system worked fine when complete.
Sadly, this is mostly true. R22 is getting very expensive as the federal government has mandated it's phase out and is allowing less and less of it to be manufactured and imported every year. Before summer is out we expect to be charging over $100 a pound. Don't throw your heat pump away just yet, though. There are several retrofit refrigerants out there. While none of them are as good as the original (which has been around since the '30s), and will result in some capacity loss, it certainly might be an alternative to replacing the system. Hopefully, though, your repair will hold, and you won't have any other issues for a long time. Unless there is a leak, the system is sealed and should never lose or "use" any refrigerant.

R410A was in fact marketed as environmentally friendly (Carrier called it PURON in the '90s), and it does not have an ODP (ozone depletion potential). Now it is being target as a greenhouse gas with a high GWP (global warming potential), and will likely be phased out in the next few years. (Coincidentally the wholesale price has been coming down in recent years, but maybe that's just my cynicism coming through...)

What's next? Research and testing is being done on new (and expensive...) HFO refrigerants. DuPont calls their line "Opteon." Testing is also being done on hydrocarbons (usually blends of propane and butane). Time will tell...

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I hope that your unit uses R-410A and that you can find someone to work on it.
At 6 years old it should be. New R22 equipment hasn't been allowed as of 2010. The name plate on the heat pump will say. (R410A or HFC-410A)