Leak detection in CO2 systems
A multi-use CO2-system is made of many different components, which are connected with hoses. (an overview concerning the setup of a CO2 system can be found here.) If the system does not work properly, the fault can be in many possible places, due to the modular build of the whole system. Special care needs to be taken in the event of leaks - escaping CO2 is not exactly harmess in closed rooms. We offer to help you with this article if you have problems with leakage in your CO2 system.
Often leaks in the system are not detected directly. It is rather, that symptoms such as:
- a suddenly depleted CO2 bottle
- insufficient pressure or loss of pressure (e.g. no or little formation of bubbles)
If the bottle is emtpy too early or all of a sudden, the reason might be leaks in faulty gaskets or the fittings of the pressure regulator. Here, the gas chooses the shortest and easiest way, preferably without resistance, and therefore escapes through leaks, which are located directly on the bottle or the pressure regulator. If parts have been replaced on a system that has been operating for some time, it is important to check the tightness of the new parts. Even the regular replacement of the bottles is to be considered an intervention into a running system and thus a potential source of error. Have all fittings been tightened? Are the rubber gaskets, especially those of the bottle, intact, elastic and thus tight?
If the system does not work properly and there is hardly any bubbling in the diffuser, although the manometer and cylinder pressure gauges show normal pressure values, the error may lay in a component of the hose line between the pressure regulator and the diffuser. Here it is necessary to check the fittings and, above all, the components that might offer resistance to the gas: hose, check valve, bubble counter and of course the diffuser itself.
All fittings need to be checked.
Especially the plug connections of the hoses to the various CO2 components such as diffusers, bubble counters, check valves are pretty easily checkable for leaks: for that you just hold the connected parts under water. Escaping gas can the be easily spotted by tell-tale bubbles. Of course, this method can only be applied to components that survive a short water bath. Caution: technical components such as bottle, pressure regulator, pressure gauge, solenoid valve and even some check valves are not suitable for this!
Bubbles indicate leaks under water. In this case, there’s a leak between hose and diffuser.
If you have a good ear, you may be aware of the typical hissing sounds that occur when the gas escapes when the system is turned on (e.g. when activating the solenoid valve). Occasionally, the sounds and thus the location of the leak can be located by listening carefully.
A very good tool for leak detection is the use of leakiness spray. This is available in any well-stocked hardware store. The spray is comprised of a very fine foam which is applied to possible leaky spots. If there is a notable formation of bubbles, you have found the leak. Leakiness spray may of course only be used outside the aquarium! It is particularly suitable for finding leaks on all screw connections (bottle, pressure regulator, needle valve).
With plug connections it needs to be checked, if the hose is pulled well and at sufficient length over the plug and sits tightly. Also possible locking screws need to be fastened.
Rubber gaskets in the fittings need to be intact and elastic and sit well in their respective spots. Depending on the material, the gaskets may get porous over time, accelerated by contact with water.
Untight fittings like the one from the pressure regulator to the needle valve or pressure gauge usually can be easily tightened using teflon tape.
Note: Especially to prevent leakages in fittings, we ask our manufacturer Hiwi to additionally glue technical components such as pressure regulators and gauges.