Iowa Freon (410A) leak in Hydron system

Discussion in 'Maintenance and Troubleshooting' started by sak12344, Jul 10, 2016.

  1. docjenser

    docjenser Well-Known Member Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Please be aware that there is a significant difference between inhaling glycol (propylene glycol, antifreeze) and refrigerant (R410A).

    I would question your sniffer, and get a second one. Again, all in view that you did not loose any refrigerant out of the system.
  2. sak12344

    sak12344 New Member

    I didn't have the $200 to buy the first one that I got which matches the one the contractor uses. I think it might be more cost effective if the contractor bought a different one (or tried using a different one, if he has another brand).

    I understand that PG, antifreeze (ehtylene glycol), and R410A are all different chemicals. But, looking at their respective MSDS sheets, the symptoms of inhalation are very similar for each one. And it doesn't help that I am someone who is cursed with chemical sensitivity.
  3. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Intriguing not no. To leak enough refrigerant to cause you reaction would render the system in-operative. You could be having a reaction to the POE oil, which I believe is an organic oil.

    Cat litter boxes will set off refrigerant leak detectors.

    I think you have mold growing in the insulation installed in the system. You need someone with an Anderson Impactor to find out. A spectrometer might work for some molds, but the samples I am talking about are made by shotting large volumes of air at a pet try dish. The samples are then grow for a few weeks and molds identified and counted using an electron microscope.

    Mold grows in car a/c systems too. Have you ever been tested for mold allergies?

  4. sak12344

    sak12344 New Member

    Hi Mark,

    Yes, I do have mold allergies. But the vehicles no longer cause any symptoms since having the antifreeze issues fixed. No litter box anywhere near where we were testing. No flex duct except that coming off of the fresh air exchanger (shown in one of the above photos) and that was just purchased about 6 months ago. We used Galson Labs in NY (an industrial hygiene laboratory) who sent their own equipment which pumped air into a tube for over an hour.

    I appreciate your input folks. I will be heading to Mayo to visit with doc's soon and need to get some things wrapped up before leaving. I won't be around the forums for a while. But, thanks to all who gave some input.
  5. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    A/C units once repaired and operating properly could end a mold issue.

    I did IAQ work and owned an Anderson impactor and vacuum pump to power it. Had a customer who got sick every time she left home. A drip leak in a brand new hot water heater seeped under a wooden glue down floor, allowing enough asperillius niger to grow under the flooring to cure all the staph infections in Ohio. The Cleveland Clinic guys gave up and told her not to leave the house, because if she did she got very ill.

    I found the mold with the old fashioned real test equipment. Fixed the leak and dried up the mold. Last I knew she was cruising the oceans.

    Having been un-successful trying to die three times in the last 18 months, I have found Doctors put their panks on the same way we do. One leg at a time.

    Good luck and god's speed.
  6. sak12344

    sak12344 New Member

    lol ~ Thanks Mark. I agree 100% with what you said about doctors. They're human and they make mistakes just as easily as everyone else does. A lot of people view Mayo Clinic as "the mountain" (using a religion perspective). Mayo just happens to have a lot of doc's in the same building complex, that have seen a lot of rare things. But, it's their business model that sells them to the public.... and that is, they communicate quickly with one another. Any hospital, any where, could do essentially the same thing. But, their administration chooses not to adopt that business model. My doc has only seem the type of cancer that I was diagnosed with 10 times in his 30 year career. And he's never done a surgery to remove it.... and I don't care to be his guinea pig. :p So, I'll see what Mayo doc's think about it. But, I'm also a big fan of alternative medicine and I'm sure I'll be employing some complementary alternative cancer treatments in addition to (or maybe "in spite of") what Mayo recommends.

    Question: maybe I'm mis-reading what you're saying about your customer. How did she get sick when she "left her home", if the mold was "in her house" ? Am I misunderstanding you ? I'm asking because I'm interested and I want to make certain that I understand you clearly.

    BTW, I found the report from Galson Labs on out mold test.

  7. sak12344

    sak12344 New Member

    Also, Mark.... I just watched a quick 15 min youtube video on the Anderson impactor that you mentioned. For sure that's nothing like the collection pump kit that Galson sent to use, which we operated and sent back to them. Although the pump sounds similar, but that's just details. Interesting little gadget you have there. I may look into finding someone who can do that test in the future.

    Thanks also for the well wishes. I'm sorry to hear you had three near death experiences in 18 months. My close calls were six trips to the ER with anaphylaxis. Never a fun place to be.
  8. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    My anaphylaxis triggers are mostly from penicillin and stinging insects. I get that drill. I never felt as helpless as I did learning the symptoms. Not so scary now. Do you carry an epi-pen? I am never more than 6 steps from mine.

    It has been twenty years since I used one I will look and see what I can find. We collected real samples and grew them up and then counted them. Breathing went out of vogue and IAQ went with it.

    I get the mountain stuff. I was born and grew up in the large shadows of the Cleveland Clinic.

    When talking to the mountaineers find out what they need for a sample to see if you are bothered (reaction) by the inert refrigerant or the organic oil. I will find and send what they think they need. I want you to put to bed one way or the other, the HVAC causing distress, as you will need all of your powers and any anyone will lend you to get yourself healed.

  9. sak12344

    sak12344 New Member

    Hi Mark,

    Yes, I carry epi-pen's like they're an American Express card... "Don't leave home without it !" lol

    I got a call from the local doc today who said, "If you decide not to pursue surgery, don't discount radiation therapy." I'm not sure that I'm too keen on radiation "therapy". I get visions of secondary malignancies "dancing in my head". I think I'd try a lot of different alternative treatments before i'd consider radiation.

    It's late, I need to get some sleep. Catch up with you later. :)
  10. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    Both of my wives have very successfully survived brain surgery. The first wife survived the radiation but unfortunately it did not kill the growth.
  11. sak12344

    sak12344 New Member

    Hi Mark,

    Quick FYI, we did another air sample test thru the hygienic lab in NY. Test results show these four chemicals in the indoor air:

    Ethane, 1,1-difluoro- ,
    Ethane, 1-chloro-1,1-difluoro- ,

    All of which are components of.... refrigerant.

    Combine this with all the alerts that I get from my 410A detector and the obnoxious chemical smell coming from the air registers and permeating the furnace room.... I'm calling this a freon problem.
  12. JP-RIC

    JP-RIC New Member

    Sorry to hear about all of the problems with your system.

    One of your photos shows that the unit holds a total of 80 ounces of refrigerant.
    Unless the contractor has been adding refrigerant because of a leak, that is the total volume of refrigerant you are dealing with.

    If your home is 3000 square feet with 8 foot ceilings, it has an internal volume of about 24,000 cubic feet (less walls & furniture).
    If the house is larger or has higher ceilings, the volume goes up and the gas concentration goes down.

    I'm not a big fan of metric, but for this calculation it makes things a lot easier. The assumed home volume of 24,000 cubic feet is about 679 cubic meters.

    R-410a is a 50 / 50 mix of 2 other refrigerants as you can see on the MSDS.

    The total refrigerant charge of 80 ounces ( 5 pounds) of refrigerant is 2,268,000 milligrams.

    If that much gas is distributed throughout your home, the concentration would be 2,268,000 milligrams divided by 679 cubic meters or 3340 milligram / cubic meter.

    Being made up of a 50/50 mix of two other refrigerants, each gas would be at a concentration of 3340 / 2 = 1670 milligram / cubic meter.

    The MSDS indicates that the permissible exposure level is 2200 mg/cu meter for one chemical and 4900 mg / cu meter for the other.
    But those levels would only exist if the full charge was released into the house all at once, and if there was no ventilation to dilute it.

    As soon as that happened, the unit would not cool or heat, and the ventilation system you mentioned as well as normal air leakage into and out of the house would dilute the refrigerant until it is at a level too low to measure.

    All this is to prove what someone else said earlier, your health problems are not from a refrigerant leak.
    There is something else. I don't doubt your symptoms, or that the house has something to do with it, but as someone else said, "You are chasing the wrong ghost".

    Is the house insulated with spray foam insulation? Some of them off-gas Formaldehyde and other noxious fumes which have caused similar symptoms to what you describe.

    Some Upholstered furniture foam, carpet padding and other flooring materials have similar issues.

    As we tighten up our homes for energy efficiency, we are trapping in these chemicals.
    Thus the need for ventilation systems now.

    Also, I saw an R-410a leak detector on Amazon for about $ 40. As much as I buy from Amazon, a good 410A leak detector costs $ 400 - $ 800 from
    I was just looking to buy one today, and your post came up in the search.

    If your detector is going off, I believe it is a false positive, or is picking up another chemical source.

    As far as the Coil Condensate drain pan, older units did have a flat pan that holds water; however newer units designed to meet new Indoor Air Quality standards have sloped drain pans and shouldn't hold any water. Shim the whole unit, not just the drain pan. Just a little slope in the correct direction should make a big difference.

    If you have high quality filtration, there is more pressure drop across the filters and the condensate trap needs to be deeper to compensate.
    The higher suction pressure across the filter, makes it harder for the water to flow out, unless the trap is deep enough to compensate for the pressure difference.
    In your photo of the new trap, it looks relatively deep, but to be on the safe side, it should be at least a couple of inches deep on a residential unit. The better the filter, the deeper the trap should be.

    If you are still smelling the sweet glycol smell, but the system is circulating plain water now; you can clean the cooling coil if you want, but I don't see how glycol could get anywhere near it.
    The more likely source would be at the coil connections to the unit or in the compressor section at the base of the unit if there were any leaks there.
    My money would be that some antifreeze ran under the unit or something else in the basement near he manifold.
    Try to clean up around the unit connections or anywhere the antifreeze could have run when it leaked.

    If you shim up the unit to make it drain correctly, see if you can shim all sides a little, and wash under the unit. Maybe there is residual antifreeze under it, or somewhere else on the floor.

    As I began, I'm really sorry to hear about your problems with your new home, and I hope this helps you rid find and your home of the chemicals causing your problems.

    But please start looking at other potential sources, there just isn't enough refrigerant in your heat pump to contaminate your house that heavily or that long.
  13. Mark Custis

    Mark Custis Not soon. Industry Professional Forum Leader

    I do not do the math for free. Never did.

    I have never lost a customer to refrigerant leaks.

  14. JP-RIC

    JP-RIC New Member

    In my gut I knew it wasn't due to a Refrigerant leak, but I'd never done the number s on a house, only large supermarket refrigeration systems with small enclosed spaces.

    Running the numbers on a house was an interesting exercise.

    - JP
  15. MaxWeber

    MaxWeber Banned

    sak12344, can you contact me? We survived a refrigerant leak and are still recovering. Trying to put together a list of people who know about this stuff. Please. Thanks.

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