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Identifying Leaks in Vacuum Pumps

If you are concerned with leaks in your vacuum pump, A-VAC Industries is here to help you identify it. While there are a few easy ways to test for a leak in your vacuum pump, others may not be so simple to find. The more straightforward ways to identify leaks in a pressurized system may include; audible noise and bubble testing. Leaks in vacuums are often resulting in physical holes in the structures, contaminated seals, or even gases that emit from the vessel walls. Even a leak that is microscopic can drastically affect the process of the vacuum pump. The two main ways to identify a vacuum leak include:

  • Solvent Tests:

Rough vacuum leaks actually respond very well to solvent tests.  A solvent test includes acetone or alcohol that is sprayed on the vacuum component and the change will be visible on the vacuum gauge indicating if there is a leak or not.

  • Pressure-Rise Testing:

Pressure-Rise testing is often used to test for a leak on the vacuum pump. A pressure-rise test includes the rate of the pressure in the vessels rising over a given amount of time. Because a pressure-test indicates if you have a leak or not, if the vessel leaks faster than you would expect it’s probable you will have to conduct a further investigation to identify where the leak is located. A pressure-rise test is often used on vacuum pumps that are within the medium to fine vacuum levels. If you have a rough vacuum pump a Solvent test would be more likely to identify that specific leak rather than pressure-rise testing.

  • Fine Leaks:

The ultrasonic leak detector works by detecting the high-frequency sound associated with the air leak. These sounds are converted down to the audible range where they can be heard in a headset or viewed on a meter. Ultrasonic leak detectors are available commercially by a wide variety of suppliers. The biggest problem with this type of detector is background noise. Background noise can “mask” the sound from the vacuum leak. One of the advantages of an ultrasonic leak detector is that it can also be used to find leaks in compressed air systems/piping.

One of the most accurate methods of vacuum leak detection is the helium leak detector. A sniffer is placed near the inlet to the vacuum pump to detect any increase in helium concentration in the air stream. Helium is then sprayed on any potential leak points in the system or piping. If there is a leak, the helium is instantly pulled into the vacuum system and identified by the sniffer which triggers an alarm to indicate a leak is present.

The advantage of the helium detector is that it is sensitive and can locate very small vacuum leaks. The disadvantage of the helium detector is the cost to purchase and maintain the detector.

Having a leak in your vacuum pump can be frustrating which is why we recommend repairing the leak immediately to keep the machine having good process results and system operation. Depending on which type of vacuum level you are using you will be able to determine the best way to identify the leak in your system.

And remember, vacuum leaks can affect the vacuum levels for a process. If there are enough leaks in the pipes and process, it can prevent the vacuum system from achieving enough vacuum level for the process to function correctly. Leaks can appear to be capacity issues with the vacuum system when there is actually enough pumping capacity.

If you have any additional questions about your system or need a solvent or pressure-rise test conducted on your vacuum pump, please contact us at A-VAC Industries today. 

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