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Tips to design out leaks

Getting a refrigeration system right at the design stage can help to reduce carbon emissions and prevent failures and future operational problems.

It is vital that the initial design of any refrigeration system is right. Getting the design right in the first place will:

  • Reduce both indirect (energy use) and direct (refrigerant release related) carbon emissions
  • Minimise the risk of a catastrophic failure

Prevent operational problems in the long term


Top 10 tips
1. Put leak reduction at the top of your list - there are lots of whole-life cost or TEWI models to help make a convincing argument. New systems should last 20-plus years so reducing the potential for leakage from the outset will have a significant long-term impact.
2. Design standards - new systems should be designed to standards and industry guidance such as EN378:2008, the IOR Minimisation of Leakage Code of Practice, the PED, BRA Codes of Practice etc. Even if you are making changes to an older installation it is worth reviewing the installation and recommending
essential upgrades so it conforms.
3. Capping valves - ensure all valves are capped and remain so. Uncapped valves are a common source of leakage.
4. Access to pipework - where possible avoid routing pipework in concrete or ceiling voids if there is no access to the whole section of pipework. If you can’t access it - you can’t test it for leaks.
5. Specification for pipework joints - where possible do not use flared joints, use qualified brazing personnel and minimise the number of joints. Poor joints are often difficult to identify visually.
6. Eliminate or reduce vibration and stress - excessive vibration or inadequate pipework support will weaken joints and lead to leakage in the future. Also, ensure pipework is protected from impact.
7. Fixed leak detection systems are mandatory for systems more than 300 kg, and recommended in EN 378 for many smaller systems. They should be included in specifications for relevant systems.
8. System register and labelling - new equipment must, by law, be handed over to the customer suitably labelled and with a system register identifying key items such as the type and total charge of refrigerant.
9. Specify service and maintenance - correctly specified regimes will help to prevent leaks developing and ensure that any that do occur are fixed rapidly.
10. Specify Installer Qualification Standards - use qualified installation personnel to ensure that installations are carried out competently to minimise leakage over the life of the system. Further guidance and a list of useful industry guidance, standards and legislation is available in the full Real Zero guidance note “Designing out leaks - design standards and practices”.