Best Ammonia Detector for Refrigeration Leaks (2024 update)

Ammonia Detector, Ammonia Meter, Ammonia Sensor -

Best Ammonia Detector for Refrigeration Leaks (2024 update)

Ammonia, a cost-effective and energy-efficient refrigerant, is widely used in commercial and industrial refrigeration systems, particularly in the food and beverage industry. However, its toxicity and flammability make gas detection crucial for ensuring safety. Ammonia leaks can be lethal if not addressed promptly, posing significant risks to workers and facilities. Ammonia detectors are essential devices in areas where ammonia refrigeration is employed, continuously monitoring the atmosphere for any signs of leaks. These detectors provide early warnings, enabling swift action to mitigate potential hazards. By implementing reliable ammonia gas detection, businesses can protect their employees, assets, and the environment from the dangerous consequences of ammonia leaks, ensuring a safer and more secure working environment.



  •  An Ammonia detector alarm if an ammonia refrigeration is leaking.
  • An Ammonia detector are more accurate than other means of detecting the presence of ammonia gas.
  • Ammonia detectors can also be linked to valves and solenoids to disable a massive leak, and contain a dangerous situation.
  • Ammonia is a toxic gas and may leak in a refrigeration situation.
  • Some devices can be rather expensive as an initial expense.
  • An Ammonia detector do need to be replaced and calibrated over time.
  • There are other, less expensive, ways to test for ammonia, but unfortunately they are less accurate.

What is the Best Ammonia Detector?

There are a number of ammonia detectors that are quite useful for refrigeration. Several effective devices may include the following:

What is Ammonia?

Ammonia is a naturally-occurring gaseous compound that is colorless. It tends to have a distinct, pungent odor. It is represented by the chemical symbol NH3.

ammonia detector comparison

Why is Ammonia used as a Refrigerant?

Because ammonia is 3-10% more efficient than CFCs as a refrigerant, an ammonia-based system uses less electricity, resulting in cheaper running costs. With an Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) of 0 and a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 0, ammonia is environmentally friendly.

What Risks Does Ammonia Pose in Refrigeration?

Ammonia can pose a risk in refrigeration if a leak occurs.

This can cause ammonia gas to be released, which is both flammable and toxic. In high concentrations, such as those in the 300-500 ppm range, ammonia can even be fatal to those exposed.

Ammonia refrigeration is particularly dangerous since:

  • High pressure is required to compress a gas into a liquid in vapor-compression refrigeration, substantial amounts of anhydrous ammonia are always present and under high pressure.
  • Ammonia is explosive at high concentrations (16-25%) at temperatures above 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. However, because ammonia is held under high pressure, tanks can explode in the event of a fire.
  • At a concentration of 300 parts per million (ppm), or 0.03 percent, OSHA deems anhydrous ammonia to be "immediately harmful to life and health."
ammonia detector

Is Ammonia Dangerous?

Ammonia can be dangerous when introduced to the human body. The New York Department of Health notes how it can react with other chemicals in the body to form ammonium hydroxide that can then damage some of the body's cells. Damaged cells are then unable to carry out their proper function, resulting in negative health effects.

Specific symptoms of ammonia poisoning may include the following:

  • Cough
  • Nose irritation
  • Throat irritation
  • Burning of the eyes
  • Burning of the nose
  • Burning of the throat
  • Burning of the respiratory tract

Untreated symptoms may lead to serious health effects such as blindness or death. The severity of the symptoms is influenced by route of exposure, duration of exposure, and amount of exposure.

How Do You Test for Ammonia Gas?

There are several ways to test for ammonia gas when a leak is suspected. One way may be to use a litmus test. With that said, the best method to test for ammonia gas is to use an ammonia detector, such as the device produced by Forensics Detectors.

When these devices are used, the user simply makes sure the detector is calibrated and turned on before detecting ammonia in a given space. The device will alert the user to the presence of ammonia if any is present.

What is an Ammonia Detector?

An ammonia detector is a piece of sensing technology used to monitor the presence of ammonia gas. They commonly feature a long life in terms of battery-life and the ability to alert the user to the presence of ammonia gas through audible cues and/or visible clues.

How Does an Ammonia Detector Work?

Many ammonia detectors operate using an electrochemical sensor. Essentially, the presence of the ammonia gas is monitored using voltage, electrolyte, and electrode to report upon the gas concentration.

ammonia sensor

How Long Does an Ammonia Detector Last?

The amount of time that ammonia detectors last depends on the type of detector used. On average, Chemisorption (CS) sensors last 8 years or longer, change carrier injection (CI) sensors last 3-5 years, and electrochemical (EC) sensors last 1-2 years.

Having an awareness of the type of sensor used can be critical in order to replace the device in the recommended timeframe.

How Do You Calibrate an Ammonia Detector?

Most ammonia detectors, including the device produced and distributed by Forensics Detectors, arrive to the user already calibrated. Yet, they still need to be calibrated every six months for optimal function. This involves performing both zero calibration and span calibration. More info on calibration is here.

What is the Best Ammonia Detector for Refrigeration?

There are a number of ammonia detectors that are quite useful for refrigeration. Several effective devices may include the following:

How Do I Select an Ammonia Detector?

Selecting an ammonia detector should be closely tied to the purposes for which the detector will be used. These can be categorized as the following:

Ammonia Detector for Ammonia Refrigeration Leaks

An ammonia detector for ammonia leaks is a great idea. Either one can use a gas leak detector or a ammonia detector with a sampling pump. The NH3 detector with pump assembly is a great way to test joints, connections, gaskets and other piping of a refrigeration system to assess if ammonia is leaking.

Ammonia Monitor for Continuous Ammonia Detection

Another requirement is to have a permanent wall mount industrial Ammonia monitor. If there is a leak in the indoor space, then a light and buzzer alarm will be enabled. Furthermore, relays can be tripped to turn ON or OFF ventilation systems, solenoids, valves or other mitigating electrical equipment.

An excellent summary on requirements for continuous ammonia monitoring is here.

Ammonia Detector for Personal Protection

A perfonal handheld ammonia meter is often used, clipped on the pants or belt clip to monitor a technicians work space. If there is a leak, it will alarm.

    How are Ammonia Leaks Detected?

    Ammonia leaks are typically detected through a number of means. In some cases, the leak can actually be visually detected by the naked eye if liquid ammonia is present. In non-liquid forms, ammonia may be detected by the following mechanisms:

    • Odor detection by the nose itself-- however, some individuals who regularly work with ammonia may become nose blind to its scent, and thus this should not be the only method used
    • Sulfur sticks
    • Litmus paper
    • Gas detection tubes
    • Ammonia detection cloths
    • Infrared cameras
    • UV flashlights
    • Dye
    • Detection paint
    • Ammonia detectors or ammonia sensors

    Is Ammonia Used in the Food and Beverage Industry?


    In fact, ammonia is often used as a refrigerant in the food and beverage industry. It is imperative that organizations and individuals in this industry using ammonia as a refrigerant take proper precautions to unsure that no one is unnecessarily hurt or injured by the ammonia.

    Why Is Ammonia Important in Refrigeration?

    Ammonia is considered an important refrigerant due to its efficiency and cost-effectiveness. It also benefits businesses using it by exhibiting a distinct odor that can easily alert people to the presence of a potential leak. Additionally, ammonia is not known to damage the ozone layer, so it is a more environmentally-friendly alternative in comparison to other potential refrigerants.

    What Does Ammonia Do to Food and Beverage?

    Ammonia is used as a refrigerant for both food and beverage. In fact, it is a widely used refrigerant in these industries due to its low impact on the environment and excellent cooling efficiency ability to preserve food and beverage for longer durations of time at a reduced cost and impact to the environment.

    ammonia detector

    Are Ammonia Fridges Safe?

    Ammonia fridges do come with some safety concerns, which is why they are typically only used in industrial refrigeration nowadays. Several accidents have taken place in the past that have posed a threat to not only individuals, but products and property as well.

    Is Ammonia Banned as a Refrigerant?


    Ammonia is not banned as a refrigerant, but due to the hazards it may pose, it is typically only used in industrial and commercial operations where people are equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to react in the case of a leak. 

    What are Safe Levels of Ammonia?

    OSHA's Permissible Exposure Limit for ammonia is 50 ppm over eight hours. This exposure to people is deemed safe by OSHA. More conservatively, NIOSH has the Recommended Exposure Limit for ammonia set at 25 ppm over eight hours.

      Final Words

      Ammonia, a toxic gas with the potential to cause significant harm, is widely used in large commercial refrigeration systems to reduce cost and energy consumption. Gas detection is crucial in these settings, as ammonia leaks can pose serious risks to human health and safety. Ammonia detectors, also known as ammonia meters, monitors, sensors, or analyzers, are essential for alerting people when unsafe levels of the gas are present. These devices can help pinpoint the exact location of potential leaks when used with a probe. The food and beverage industry, in particular, benefits greatly from ammonia detectors due to the prevalence of ammonia refrigeration in their facilities. By implementing reliable ammonia gas detection, businesses can protect their employees and assets from the dangers associated with ammonia leaks.

        About the Author

        Dr. Kos Galatsis ("Dr.Koz") is the President of FORENSICS DETECTORS, where the company operates from the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles, California. He is a subject matter expert on gas sensor technology, gas detectors, gas meters, and gas analyzers. He has been designing, building, manufacturing, and testing toxic gas detection systems for over 20 years.

        gas detector expert

        Every day is a blessing for Dr. Koz. He loves to help customers solve their unique problems. Dr. Koz also loves spending time with his wife and his three children going to the beach, grilling burgers, and enjoying the outdoors.

        Read more about Forensics Detectors here.

        Phone: +1 424-341-3886