Originally Posted by fall-line
Well Damn.. my shiny new fridge that I bought for a steal on craigslist turns out to have a freon leak. I'm investigating doing a DIY recharge, but it looks like someone has already done that recently, indicating a serious leak. Even the newer 134a stuff is a killer on our ozone layer, so I'm leaning towards just scrapping it and starting over with the search for refrigerators.
It's a shame. It was working ok when I brought it home. I unplugged it for a few days and put a ton of work into it to convert it, and only then found the real problem.
I did a little (ok, a LOT) more research on this subject, and in the end curiosity got the better of me. I realized that either way, I'm going to be polluting, it's just a matter of the air or the land(fill). I discovered that 134a refrigerant used by fridges, your car's A/C, etc has a Global Warming Potential
score of 3400, when it is released into the atmosphere (it breaks down over time, but this is the worst case scenario. Carbon dioxide's score is 1, for reference.
This means that 1 oz of 134a = 3400 oz of co2 in terms of "relative impact" on the atmosphere, according to the best scale we have fore measuring such things. 3400 / 16 (oz to a lb) = 212.5lb. There are approximately 20lbs of co2 released for every gallon of gas that you burn
, so that means releasing 1oz of 134a into the atmosphere is approximately as bad as driving your car long enough to burn 11 gallons of gas..
My fridge takes 4oz of 134a, so even if I fill it all the way up and it all leaks out, it's only a couple of tanks of gas worth of atmospheric impact.. according to the references above, and the shaky math.. The impact is definitely there, but it's not the massive guilt inducing amount I had feared.
Armed with that knowledge I trudged off to the auto parts store to get a few items: A can of 134a, an a/c recharge pressure gauge
, and an adapter to connect the snap on socket to my tap's threaded socket
(note, my fridge already had one of these installed
I watched a youtube video, and got to work.
Recharging the refrigerant
Almost instantly I could hear the compressor start to work harder. I went around front and looked inside the freezer and I could see frost forming on the remaining coils before my eyes. I didn't do the recharge very scientifically. I just added a little bit, then waited a few minutes and looked at the frost pattern, then repeated until the frost got almost to the top of the coils (not all the way as I didn't want to overfill.) I should have used my kitchen scale (the same I use to measure hops) to meeter out ~4oz, to be more precise.
After about 30 minutes of filling, waiting, and watching, the coils had a nice layer of frost, and the temp in the freezer had fallen from 40ºF (ambient temp in the garage was 51ºF for comparison) to -2ºF!
The coils, after recharging. Compare to the picture on the previous page.
Now, there is no guarantee that this will last. The refrigerant may leak out over the next few weeks and I'll be back to square one, having polluted the atmosphere. I talked to the guy I bought the fridge from however and he said he had no knowledge of it being recharged in the past. The last service record I could find for it was from 2003.. so there is a chance that the leak is so slow that this will last, and keep this massive thing out of the landfill for years to come.
I'll keep you posted. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!
NOTE: 134a, despite the justification I wrote above is still nasty stuff. Please be very careful with it for your own health, an the health of our environment.