Best service strategy for leaking Puron A/C system?

We installed a new forced-air furnace and A/C system in our house 6 years ago. The A/C system is Puron and until very late last summer the system worked great; on the last cooling day of the year (more humid than hot), the expansion coils iced up and the system would not cool.
We had it recharged right before memorial day and I asked the service guy if loss of refrigerent was normal -- he said no, it's supposed to be a sealed system but tiny leaks seem to happen and that I shouldn't worry too much about it -- every 5-6 years needing a recharge isn't bad considering the service life is probably around 20 years.
The system worked well until the past couple of weeks when it seems to have trouble keeping up with very hot days (>90F) and two days ago when it iced up again, which leads me to believe the 5-6 year leak has become a 2 month leak I need to have more permanently fixed.
What's the industry best practice for solving these leaks? Is the supply line itself a culprit or is it typically just the solder joints at the expansion coil or the coil itself? Is it a soap-and-water mission over all the joints, or is there some high-tech tool to check for pressure losses?
What I'd like to avoid is a knee-jerk fix (like ripping apart sheet metal to replace the coil when it doesn't need it).
The thing I'm most worried about is a leak in the line itself, since most of it is soffited in an area of the basement that's been remodeled (a year after the install, so likely not a source of a puncture).
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On Thu, 27 Jul 2006 15:13:08 -0500, "Howard Beale"

First things first. Its not Puron. Puron is not a refrigerant. Its a "trade name" for Carrier's shit. Its R-410a. Next, your tech is a lazy dip (unless you specifically told him not to look for the leak?). Anytime refrigerant is added, you should suspect a leak and the customer should be advised accordingly. Then, he has done his job. You can then tell him, "no leak check, just fill-er-up" or you can tell him, "Yes please. I'd like you to look for the leak". Then he can quote you a fee for the leak check. After the leak is found, he can then quote you a repair/replacement fee. Look for the leak in the buried soffit last. You'll almost never find a leak there unless you know you put a screw or nail through it? By the way, constantly recharging a system is very hard on it, especially the compressor. After you've spent a grand or 2 on a compressor replacement you'll stop recharging that system. Look at the indoor coil and if it has to be cut, chopped, ripped outta there then someone didnt do their job in using an access panel for it. Bubba
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I'm not an HVAC professional, I did not know the industry standard designation.

The previous tech did suggest there was a leak, but suggested it was small and unless I was willing to pay a fee not covered by my maintenance agreement, he said it was cheaper and easier to get it filled for nothing about 4 times in its service life than to spend a lot of money sealing it. He also didn't do leak detection, it would have been a seperate appointmnet.
Made sense at the time until it leaked again.

The space the lines run in was an old garage finished off into a basement not long after the new AC was installed -- years ago, I think a nail/screw would have been noticed right away.

Is it the charging or the running low that's the problem? Charging doesn't appear to take long and system doesn't make a different noise or appear strained when it happens.

Perhaps there's some sheetmetal gimmick to open up the coil area, but it doesn't look that way.
Wish I would have had your quite direct advice before I had it installed.
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On Thu, 27 Jul 2006 21:04:13 -0500, "Howard Beale"

I already knew that.

As far as I practice, leaks, freon and a leaking system is not part of a maintenance visit. My maintenance agreement visits are performed on working systems. Systems with problems (leaks, etc.) are charged for accordingly. The customer does of course recieve their priority discount on these additional services. Filled for free 4 times? Interesting concept. I pay for my refrigerant. My customers pay for it too. If my service tech told me he doesnt do or could not do a simple leak detection service I would find a new service tech or company.

Not necessarily. Ive found mighty strange things in my time as the others here have.

Running a system improperly charged is very hard on a system. Overheating, coil icing etc are all variables that strain a system. It WILL reduce the life of your system. A compressor definately makes a different sound running properly as opposed to one that is running low on refrigerant or in a vacuum. You just dont listen to compressors all day long like we do to notice the diff.

No gimmick. Its called Tin Snips preferably handled by someone without a hatchet license. Open it up, install a pretty custom split door for future access and "away you go".

Wish I had a couple million bucks and several large breasted, long legged, blonde haired, naked, horny women at my "beck and call". Bubba
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Not only that your tech.is lazy but his also can artist and it is violating EPA rules of law. he suppose to find the leak and fixed before any gas (refrigerant) is added to the system regardless of customer desire, he is entitle to refuses adding any gas until system is fix, but then perhaps another scam artist will add gas without question asked. from DIDO

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Bullshit, suggest you read the EPA guidelines on leaks in residential systems dildo.
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wrote:

Because you got you license at 10 cent store it does not mean that rest of did same thing
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May I direct your attention here dumbass:
http://www.epa.gov/ozone/title6/608/leak.html
The leak repair requirements, promulgated under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, require that when an owner or operator of an appliance that normally contains a refrigerant charge of more than 50 pounds discovers that refrigerant is leaking at a rate that would exceed the applicable trigger rate during a 12-month period, the owner or operator must take corrective action.
Since when does a residential system hold anywhere close to 50 pounds of refrigerant you clueless idiot?
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Howard Beale wrote:

The best practice for leak detection is to ALWAYS ask the homeowner if they would like the leak found. "Gas-n-Go' does a disservice to the homeowner, the industry, and the environment. Most shops have an electronic leak detector such as this one available:
http://www.professionalequipment.com/xq/ASP/ProductID.2375/id.7/subID.93/qx/default.htm
By the way - my experience is that most leaks are from service valves, either because the valve core is loose or because the core was damaged by improper installation. A good set of valve caps can solve that problem for a few bucks. The tech should check there first.
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wrote:

That is a nice leak detector however they have another model similar at half the cost (around $150-$175) and it uses 2 regular C batteries instead of "special" rechargeables,

Oh my! You havent been around this business long, have you? I usually never find the leak there. 95% of the time its in those wonderful leaky (formicary corroded) evaporator coils.

So you are saying you are going to "patch over" a leaking schrader core with a "good cap" so the next poor fool has to deal with the leak you should have fixed? Shame on you. Bubba
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Bubba wrote:>

Where I live the hacks don't remove the cores before they braze in the lineset, so the valves frequently leak. I agree that formicary corrosion is the other prevalent cause.

I wasn't suggesting that I do this... only that the OP could use this solution if their hack doesn't have new cores in their truck. Around here you'd be surprised how many don't.
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"Travis Jordan" wrote:

Sounds like a sales opportunity to me. Sell the hacks on the idea of owning & using one of these.
http://www.fastenal.com/web/products/detail.ex?sku54314
When I see evidence of hackery, I take digital pix and email them to the property owner/manager & include the name of the installing contractor. And a link to their contractor license. Not hard to track down a model-serial number.
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What does it say when Carrier Corporation uses this product
http://www.cliplight.com/hvacr /
on BRAND NEW 410a systems that develope pinhole leaks (formicary corrosion) in brand new evaporator coils???
Myself, I've successfully used this product for 2+ years on resi- & commercial package & split systems, 1.5 - 40 tons.
granted, the cash cow dies, but the funeral can be expensive.
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Some times I have injected the refrigerant dye into a system and have come back at a later date and scanned the system with the black light to find a leak.
--
Moe Jones
HVAC Service Technician
  Click to see the full signature.
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