Hear that hissing sound? Could be dangerous
Industrial safety relies on many things going right. Clean floors and air can be seen quite easily … but how about those really small, virtually invisible problems? Being small does not necessarily mean unimportant - leaks are a case in point.
Some leaks, such as compressed air, are easy to diagnose. All you have to do is walk around at a quiet time and listen. But what if the substance is something more valuable, or potentially dangerous?
A type of inspection equipment known as the leak detector is used for two purposes. The first is to see if anything is leaking out of the system, such as coolant in a freezer. The second function of a leak detector is to see if anything is getting in, such as outside air in a vacuum system.
Industries that use or make vacuum equipment - such as vacuum furnaces, laser process equipment and ion beam process equipment - are big markets for leak detectors, which can be linked into your workplace's alarm monitoring system.
Helium leak detectors
These are the most common type of vacuum leak detectors because helium is
- reasonably inexpensive
- available in various grades
- very small in atomic size, which allows the leak to pass through very small openings
- normally absent except in tiny trace amounts, so that detection is unaffected by outside sources.
The helium method utilizes a Mass Spectrometer Leak Detector (MSLD). The gas can be trapped inside or outside of an item. The MSLD system measures the partial pressure of the helium.
Bubble test leak detectors
An item is pressurized with air and immersed in water. Bubbles will appear if and where there is a leak. This leak detection method is only suitable for large leaks and with products that are waterproof.
Halogen leak detectors
The air conditioning and cooling industry commonly uses halogen leak detectors. This process uses an infrared detector to detect the halogen tracer gas.
Pressure decay leak detectors
Many industries, such as plumbing, use pressure decay leak detectors. A compressor and pressure gauge are the only tools needed. You pressurize the system and watch for pressure changes.
Acoustic leak detectors
The ultrasonic or sonic energy created by an escaping gas can be quantified.
Sensors placed around a building can also detect the leaking of gases such as ozone or liquids such as water. When detected, the sensor could trigger alarms, turn off machinery or simply send a signal somewhere else.
Detecting leaks is part of an enterprise-wide "energy audit" that's recommended for companies of any size. The audit starts with a walkabout across your facility to check out obvious problem areas such as the hissing of leaking air or unexplained deposits of water.