How To Eliminate The Worst Refrigerant Contaminants


A substantial amount of moisture, acid, air and/or oil can cause a huge dip in the operational efficiency of your cooling or refrigerant unit. When these contaminants are left to accumulate over time, their potential to cause a serious failure in the unit increases exponentially.

Reduced efficiency increases energy consumption as the unit works harder in an attempt to make up for the shortfall. On top of the rising utility bills, you can expect an inefficient cooling unit to experience a serious breakdown, sooner rather than later as most moving parts are forced to work harder.

Furthermore, the increased possibility of experiencing a serious and unexpected breakdown due to the effects of an accumulation of contaminants means that you might have to call in an emergency repair service sometime in the near future. From the above it’s clear to see that refrigerant contaminants need to be eliminated in two ways, on an ongoing basis to prevent gradual accumulation, and where necessary, on an emergency basis, when an accumulation leads to a major breakdown.

Read on below to learn more about how you can eliminate the worst refrigerant contaminants, and with it, safeguard the efficiency and continued performance of your AC unit.

Which Are The Worst Contaminants

Before we look at the ways through which you can deal with the worst refrigerant contaminants, it’s important to start by taking a detailed look at the types of contaminants under consideration.


Water or moisture is by far the most dangerous refrigerant contaminant. When it makes its way into the refrigerant side, and remains undetected for an extended period, it has the potential to cause a serious failure that can only be fixed through costly and time consuming repairs.

Moisture can lead to the formation of deposits of ice in evaporators, expansion valves and capillary tubes. It can also cause bearings to seize as it deposits copper ions picked up from copper tubing. When the moisture comes into contact with the compressor oil a variety of acids are formed. These acids can cause the motor to burnout as they gradually eat into the motor windings. Furthermore, sludge, resulting from the water and oil mixture, ends up blocking oil passages and in addition to restriction metering devices.

As you can see, any moisture that makes its way to the refrigerant side, anything over 50 ppm has the potential to kill off major components of the unit, with time.


Also referred to as the non-condensable contaminant, excess air in the refrigerant side can cause premature compressor failure. As this contaminant builds up in the refrigerant side over time, it raises head pressures to excessive levels, and with it, increases operating temperatures.

The effects of having excess air in the refrigerant mentioned above lead to serious problems such as the breakdown of the effectiveness of the lubricant used, increased energy consumption as the unit tries to make up for the falling efficiency levels, all of which ultimately lead to premature compressor failure.

It is worth mentioning that air, although not the most dangerous, is the most difficult refrigerant contaminant to deal with. As such, it is definitely considered to be one of the worst contaminants.


This is the most common refrigerant contaminant of them all. Even in units where the refrigerant has been recycled recently, traces of oil can still be found in the refrigerant side.

It is worth mentioning that since oil as a contaminant, only results in reduced operational efficiency; as opposed to the damaging effects of contaminants such as water, very little has been done in the past to deal with it.

It is also much harder to detect the presence of oil in the refrigerant as a refrigerant analysis, which tends to be much more expensive is required. On the other hand, detecting the presence of other contaminants such as moisture, metal fragments and air only requires an oil analysis which is more affordable and easier to conduct.

Finally, oil as a refrigerant contaminant is only suspected to be the main cause of the losses in efficiency once all other causes have been dismissed. At this point, efficiency levels will have decreased by a significant margin. By waiting until efficiency levels have decreased by a significant margin, and then scheduling a refrigerant decontamination or installing fresh refrigerant owners are left to shoulder huge increasing utility bills for an extended period and high system repair costs.

Now that you have a clear idea of the worst refrigerant contaminants, here’s a description how to eliminate them.

Refrigerant Contaminant Purgers

Purgers are specifically designed to help eliminate the above contaminants on an ongoing basis, thereby preventing their accumulation and the associated negative effects. These solutions are divided into two; oil purgers remove acid and oil contaminants while non condensable purgers remove excess air from the refrigerant.

Equipping your cooling or refrigeration unit with both an oil and non-condensable purger is a cost effective and permanent solution, that will help remove keep all contaminants at bay on a continuous basis.

It is best to use newer purgers as they are designed to offer better performance as compared to older units. For instance, older non-condensable purgers are known to release a significant amount of refrigerant when removing the air contaminant. Newer units release a substantially lower amount of the refrigerant while consuming less energy and can run even run during the unit’s downtime. These units are also designed to support easier retrofitting.

Refrigerant Decontamination Services

If your cooling system is experiencing downtime as a result of the effects of an accumulation of any or all of the refrigerant contaminants described above, then you will need to deal with them differently. Onsite decontamination services can prove to be invaluable in such circumstances.

Service providers usually use a portable refrigerant decontamination unit to eliminate all the contaminants in the refrigerant. To do this, the decontamination unit must be connected to the cooling unit in question. It is worth noting that this is costlier solution as the unit will not be in use when decontamination is being conducted. This is why it is mostly suited to emergency situations.

Minimal efficiency losses can cause your utility bills to skyrocket as the cooling/refrigeration unit tries to meet the shortfall by working harder. Use the above solutions to remove the worst refrigerant contaminants from your cooling unit before they cause expensive damage.

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