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While replacing the blower motor in my HVAC's air handler, the technician mentioned that the refrigerant in the system was also low and that most likely there was a leak.

Is the leak something that a typical DIYer can find and fix, or is this something I should let a pro handle?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Working on the refrigerant lines requires special tools and skills that most DIYers don't have. And you'll likely need a license to get additional refrigerant. Therefore, fixing the problem will require a professional.

I'm a bit surprised that you didn't say he made any attempt to locate the leak for you. I would start searching for the leak by applying some diluted dish soap over all the joints in the coolant lines. One other place to check are the caps on the valves. If you don't see any bubbling, then turn on the AC and see if any of the joints start to bubble. The vibration and pressure changes may set off a leak. Some of these joints may be within the inside and outside units, so if you don't feel comfortable disassembling these, you can get a professional to find the leak for you. Otherwise, be very careful working around the coils, the metal fins are very thin and easily damaged.

Since it was only low, I would wait for a year and have the system serviced before the next cooling season starts. They can check the levels and let you know if the levels dropped. If they find it dropped again, they should be willing to find and fix the leak for you. Since the first person didn't seem to want to do this, you may want to get a different company to service the unit next time.

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Oh, he offered to find the leak by coming back and charging $300 for a UV dye injection with a follow-up visit.He at least topped the refrigerant off as a part of his blower motor job. I'll wait a while and see how fast the level drops. - Thanks! –  81bronco Nov 29 '12 at 1:40
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Yep, the UV dye is usually the best way of finding it. Look for oil where it shouldn't be as most refrigerant/heat pump systems have oil circulating with the freon to keep the pump lubricated and it accumulates and spreads where it gets forced out through pinholes, porosity in silver-soldered connections. Unlike milk refrigeration systems/mobile reefers, HVAC for homes tends not to use flared or o-ring fittings. They also have a sniffer device that I used frequently on auto AC to find leaks. The sniffer is also sensitive and false-positives on water vapor which the UV dye doesn't. –  Fiasco Labs Nov 29 '12 at 2:35
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