Monthly Archives: October 2021

Troubleshooting of a chiller panel on a system running on ammonia refrigerant

Chiller Troubleshooting

In this article a bespoke chiller with ammonia refrigerant is having troubleshooting carried out to identify the faults. Read below to have a look into the various issues that commonly occur on this machine…

News Article No.19

Chiller Troubleshooting of Low Oil Level

There are times when this machine experiences a low load condition. This is because another chiller is also available as well as free cooling.

Building Management System

The BMS regulates the sequencing of the chillers, the pump sets, the water system valves and the free cooling. We found after troubleshooting that, especially in the winter, the BMS can be slow to react. This causes the chiller to continue running with low load.

Slide Valve at 0%

During a low load condition, the compressor has been designed to run with the slide valve at 0% to prevent too many start ups. These start ups would cause a higher amount of electricity to be used because of the amps being drawn to get the compressor going. Although the compressor uses star/ delta contactors which are a soft start, the repeated starts would still draw a lot more amps. Therefore, the compressor continuing to run at 0% is a lot more efficient.

Oil Pump and Oil Level

When this condition occurs, however, the oil pump continues to suck and then discharge the oil. Eventually, the level in the oil separator drops to below the oil level switch and the alarm is triggered. The photo shows this switch which is a float on a stem. The circuit is completed when the float is at the top of the stem. When the float slides down the stem- this triggers the alarm.

Stainless steel oil level switch removed from the chiller showing the float and the stem
The switch protects the compressor

The Repair

Specialist ammonia resistant personal protective equipment, or PPE is donned by our engineers. Then, ammonia grade oil is pumped in so as to complete the circuit of the switch. After a start up, the same amount of oil has to be taken back out at the other end of the system using the dead man’s valve. This is a valve on the bottom of the economizer which shuts by itself using a spring.

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Chiller Troubleshooting of Oil Filter Differential

When this alarm occurs, you can see the discharge pressure remain at 8 bar and the pressure after the oil filter slowly drop off to less than 6 bar. When interrogating the program, the oil pressure differential trip out is set to 2 bar. After this differential is exceeded, a timer starts to prevent spurious trip outs occurring if the differential pressure is exceeded momentarily. If the differential pressure continues to be exceeded after the timer has timed out- the machine goes into a fault condition which needs a manual reset.

Chiller Troubleshooting Inspection

When removing the cover for the compressor enclosure, the discharge oil pipe can be seen going into the oil filter. An oil pressure transducer can be seen on the far side of the filter.

Contaminants

After the above troubleshooting, it was found that with this kind of system, the oil becomes contaminated with sludge and debris from around the system. Over time this builds up behind the oil filter and so causes the trip out.

The Repair

The repair requires the oil filter to be valved off on either side. Then, full length PPE suitable for the handling of ammonia is required along with beathing apparatus. Each of our engineers carries a portable ammonia alarm and state of the art ammonia handling equipment. We also produce our own ammonia oil filters which we keep on the shelf at Head Office. Give our Technical Support Desk a bell for further assistance.

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Chiller Troubleshooting of Slide Valve Potentiometer

This is a 4-20mA sensor which detects the position of the slide valve. 4mA being shut and 20mA being open. We attended a call out to troubleshoot the alarm message of “slide valve failed to reach the closed position” There is a spring on the end of the slide valve which is used to push it to the closed position when the compressor is off. We decided to activate the drain and fill solenoids which are used to open and close the slide valve. Still the same fault persisted. Having decided that the slide valve was indeed at its closed position, we decided to calibrate the closed and also the open position of the valve.

The Repair

The compressor was valved off and our engineer donned the necessary PPE. The sensor stem was removed from the end of the spring which is attached to the slide valve. A lock nut is available to hold the stem at the required position. This was found to have vibrated loose and so causing the problem. The correct length was set on the stem and the lock nut was re tightened. After rebuilding the end of the compressor, the valves were opened and the compressor checked for leaks. Then, the system was run tested using the manual load and unload buttons on the controller. A good read back was recorded and the machine went into seamless operation.

Chiller Troubleshooting of Ammonia Leak Detection System

This device is stand alone from the chiller and has its own uninterruptable power supply. This UPS is needed so that when there is a power failure to the building, the alarm would still function. There are 2 toxic gas sensors and 2 fire detectors fitted in different locations on the chiller.

Out of Calibration

When we took over the contract 5 years ago, the chiller had been in fault for some time with a leaking shaft seal. After troubleshooting the problem, we found that the small amount of ammonia leaking from the shaft seal and onto the sensor had knocked it out of calibration. This is because the sensor needs to be calibrated to a zero ammonia atmosphere as a reference point.

The Repair

After changing the shaft seal, we decided to change all 4 of the sensors and plug the detection system into our laptop for calibration. The benchmark was set for each sensor, then each sensor was bump tested to the required parts per million of ammonia to ensure that the detector trips when it should. All read backs were found to be okay, so we completed the calibration certificate which the customer keeps in his chiller file.

Related Articles:
Industrial Refrigeration Oil

Industrial Chiller Maintenance

Industrial Refrigeration Ammonia

Industrial Refrigeration Sludge

Hit the Tags at the top of the page to navigate your way to our extensive library of further reading on this subject.

Watch a video about chiller faults troubleshooting from The Engineering Mindset on Facebook


Showing how do chillers work with pipework of black centrifugal compressor

How Do Chillers Work? Compressors

How do chillers work, this time focusing on compressors. Read below and we will explore the subject in detail…

The compressor can be seen as the heart of a chiller system. As explained in the last article in our Chiller Basics series: it enables the principle of the pressure temperature relationship to take place and circulates the refrigerant.

Evaporator

The sucking action of the compressor drops the pressure in the evaporator. This lower pressure, corresponding to a lower temperature, enables the refrigerant to boil off, absorbing latent heat from the process. The refrigerant, laden with heat energy, is then sucked into the compressor.

Condenser

The refrigerant is discharged from the compressor at a high pressure, relative to a high temperature, this is sufficiently above atmospheric temperature to enable the latent heat in the refrigerant to exchange into the surrounding air.

How Do Chillers Work - Mass Flow Rate of Compressors

Compressors enable the refrigerant to flow around the system. The higher the pressure of the refrigerant, the higher the mass and so the higher the mass flow rate. In low temperature systems that run on a vacuum, a very large compressor is needed to achieve the required mass flow rate and so to cool the process.

Below are the 4 main types of compressors and how they work…

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How Do Chillers Work - Scroll Compressors

This compressor is more often found on smaller chillers. Scroll is another way of describing a spiral. There are two spirals, one inside the other. One of them is fixed and the other one orbits. This creates crescent shaped gaps in between the two spirals. The volume of these crescent shapes gets smaller towards the middle of the spirals and so compresses the refrigerant. The refrigerant is then discharged through a port at the middle of the scrolls.

Maintenance

Scroll compressors are meant to be maintenance free as they are hermetically sealed with no moving parts on the outside. However, the correct amount and sufficient quality of lubricating oil must be maintained to prolong its life. A lack of routine maintenance by a chiller company causes frequent compressor failures and also allows acid to accumulate in the system. This acid causes further compressor failures to occur. Give us a bell and we will put together a tailor made maintenance schedule to prolong the life of your plant.

How Do Chillers Work - Reciprocating Compressors

Small

These compressors can be small and used for low capacity applications. The motor is usually inside the compressor with the cylinder heads being removable. This is described as being a semi hermetic compressor.

Large

Reciprocating compressors can also be very large and often arranged in multiple compressor systems for high capacity applications. They are open drive when used with ammonia refrigerant which means that the motor is external from the compressor. This is because ammonia corrodes the copper windings of the motor.

How They Work

The circular motion of the crankshaft is converted into the linear motion of the connecting rods and pistons running up and down inside the cylinders- see a video of how they work. Another way of describing back and forth linear motion is reciprocating. The refrigerant is sucked into the cylinder on the down stroke and then the suction inlet valves are closed. The trapped refrigerant is compressed on the up stroke and then the discharge valves are opened when the piston reaches the top of the cylinder.

Maintenance

Reciprocating compressors need regular maintenance and strip downs at pre prescribed intervals. Failure for this to be carried out results in internal components becoming worn or loose. This imbalance in the compressor causes further wear and damage to take place. Eventually something like a piston comes loose and a compressor smash up occurs. The damage is usually limited due a low oil pressure condition occurring from the location of where the part came loose. Sometimes, however, parts of the connecting rods stay attached to the crankshaft which flail around inside the compressor. An example of this is when a compressor we rebuilt had carried on running on the last one of its 8 cylinders. The rest of the internal compressor components were reduced to small, triangle shaped pieces of metal in the sump. Our maintenance saves money!

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How Do Chillers Work - Screw Compressors

A pair of matched helical rotors are machined to a high tolerance. One of them is driven by a motor and the other one interlocks with it. The gap between the rotors gets smaller as the refrigerant continues down the screw and so compression is achieved. Oil is injected into the screw to provide a seal, to lubricate and to cool the rotors.

Maintenance

This type of compressor is very reliable and can quite often out live the chiller. The components around the screw, however, require regular maintenance and replacement to enable the compressor to function effectively. Some of these components include the loading solenoids and coils, also the slide valve and its potentiometer which senses its position. When these components are not working as they should, the compressor cannot match the required load and so excessive electricity consumption occurs. The inspection, adjustment and replacement of these components is another way of how our maintenance saves money.

How Do Chillers Work - Centrifugal Compressors

These compressors are mostly found on very high capacity systems used for the cooling of large industrial processes, district cooling and the cooling of large facilities. The compressor in the photo, however, is a small centrifugal compressor used for the cooling of a building.

How They Work

The refrigerant is sucked into the middle of the impellor. Then, centrifugal force pushes it out to the tip of the impellor edge and so providing the compression. Unlike the compressors above, these compressors are not positive displacement and so they have a lower compression ratio. That is to say: a lower difference in pressure between the suction and the discharge.

Maintenance

Regular oil and filter changes are required to prolong the life of the bearings. When this kind of compressor fails due to worn bearings and damaged internal components, the rebuild is extremely expensive. Read more about our centrifugal compressor remanufacturing facility

Related Articles:
Scroll Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Screw Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Hit the Tags at the top of the page to navigate your way to our extensive library of further reading on this subject.

Read more about types of compressors on the Carel website


Red chiller with lantern illuminating the internal components showing test equipment for checking chiller efficiency

Improve Chiller Efficiency

In this article we will be looking at some basic ways to improve chiller efficiency...

News Article No.18

Improve Chiller Efficiency with a Clean Condenser

When an air cooled condenser becomes blocked, there is a reduction in air flow through it. This causes a high pressure condition to exist. The compressor pulls more amps to achieve the same mass flow rate of refrigerant. Also, more fans come on to try and reduce the excessive pressure. The on site maintenance team usually brush down the condensers at regular intervals. However, some of the contaminants require specialist cleaning equipment to be used by our engineers during the scheduled maintenance visits. We also carry a set of fin alignment tools to ensure that the air flow is kept at its optimum condition.

Improve Chiller Efficiency by Removing Evaporator Thermal Insulation 

Contaminants circulating in the water system accumulate on the surface of the tubes in the evaporator. This thermal insulation prevents the absorption of latent heat into the chiller refrigerant system. Because the water is not being chilled efficiently, the compressor stays on longer to try to achieve set point. When this condition is allowed to deteriorate, the compressor never goes off and the chilled water temperature rises to a point where little effect is being made to the cooling of buildings or the cooling of an industrial process. We strip down the heat exchanger and use specialist cleaning equipment to repair the problem.

Blocked Strainer

This problem is particularly prevalent on chillers supplying chilled water to a heavy industrial process. The strainer is essential to prevent the contaminants continuing to the evaporator and causing the above mentioned thermal insulation. This is usually one of the periodic checks of the on site engineers as part of their planned preventative maintenance schedule. Our engineers also check the strainer on each maintenance visit.

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Improve Chiller Efficiency with Correct Refrigerant Charge

In the photo, the superheat and subcooling values are being worked out by one of our engineers. This is how we determine a refrigerant shortage. Less latent heat is being absorbed into the chiller refrigerant and so a lot of electricity is being used with little effect to the chilling of the water.

Refrigerant Leak Repairs

The remaining refrigerant is decanted from the system using a pump out unit and recovery cylinders. We then pressure leak test the entire system using nitrogen. After locating the leaks, we repair them using oxy-acetylene. The system is then pressure tested according to industry guidelines to ensure its integrity. Then, the dehydration process is carried out by pulling the system down to a near vacuum. This also has the effect of removing non condensables from the system, such as, air and nitrogen. We then recharge the system with refrigerant, a little at a time, until the superheat and subcooling readings come to within standard industry guidelines. This saves a considerable amount of electricity used for the running of the plant.

F-gas Register

Our leak tests and follow up leak tests are recorded in your F-gas register so that when an external auditor arrives on site, you can show that you are maintaining your plant according to the current regulations.

Blocked Pump Fan

On smaller process chillers, the water system pump is located inside the chiller. Over time, the pump cooling fan inlet becomes blocked causing a reduced air flow across the external cooling fins on the pump. This causes the pump to run hotter and so pulling more amps. The bearing life of the pump is also reduced because of its inefficient operation. As well as the increased cost of electricity, expensive pump replacement is needed at more frequent intervals. Pump efficiency and functionality checks are just some of the procedures that we carry out during a maintenance visit.

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Waste of Money

When you look at these examples of inefficiently running chillers, it is easy to see that there is a significant waste of electricity and the untimely replacement of parts. The above are just a few examples of some of the more basic reasons for a poorly running chiller.

Maintenance Visits Improve Chiller Efficiency

We carry out an extensive list of other checks and procedures during each maintenance visit. We have developed a detailed Tick Sheet to ensure that our engineers do not forget any of the adjustments that can be made.

Mobile Workshop

We also carry an extensive selection of commonly used parts and materials in each company car. This means that we can often improve a chiller’s performance during a visit with no extra cost.

Kilowatt Hour Meters

Our maintenance saves money! With new customers who have poorly maintained chillers, we have the option of fitting kilowatt hour meters. We record the amount of electricity being used at the start of the contract. Then, we carry out our list of procedures and adjustments to improve the running of your chillers. This is a visual way for our customers to see just how much money they are saving. When this is compared to the cost of a maintenance contract, they can see how worthwhile it is having Maximus Chillers on site.

Scheduled Chiller Maintenance

Send us an asset list of your chillers and we will put together a maintenance schedule to keep your chillers running in the best condition. We will recommend how many visits are required each year and what needs to take place on each visit. A plan will be put together regarding the procedures that your onsite engineers can carry out in between visits.

Technical Support Desk

To keep your costs down, we offer a free Technical Support Desk to all of our contract customers. Manuals and passwords can be sent in PDF format direct to your computer. To further assist, we offer real time technical support using face time on your phone. This is because it is often a lot easier to show our technical engineer a chiller that is running poorly, rather than to explain it.

Related Articles:
Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Testing

Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

F-gas Chiller Leak Testing

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance

Hit the Tags at the top of the page to navigate your way to our extensive library of further reading on this subject.

Read more about how to improve chiller efficiency on The Engineering Mindset


Example of chiller types: 2 grey containerised ammonia chillers with air cooled condensers on top

Chiller Types

In this article we will be exploring the various chiller types. They can be categorised according to: how the condenser is cooled, weather they use vapour compression or absorption and the required chilled water temperature…

News Article No.17

Air Cooled Chiller Types

This type of chiller uses the ambient air to cool the refrigerant in the condenser. Fans suck the air through the condenser fins and so exchanging heat energy from the refrigerant and into the air. They are particularly popular in the UK due to the low ambient temperatures. They are also used in the Middle East, but the higher ambient means that they run less efficiently. Read more about air cooled chillers

Water Cooled Chiller Types

This type of chiller uses a shell and tube condenser to remove the heat energy from the refrigerant. The refrigerant condenses from a gas and into a liquid on one side of the tubes. On the other side of the tubes, condenser cooling water is being pumped through and so absorbing latent heat from the refrigerant. The water flows up to a cooling tower where it cascades down through trays and into the sump. In the opposite direction, air is blown up through the cooling tower and so creating the required heat exchange. The cooled condenser water is then pumped back to the chiller. This kind of system is more often used with large capacity chillers. Read more about water cooled chillers

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Vapour Compression

Vapour compression is the most popular kind of chiller. An electric motor drives a compressor. The refrigerant is then discharged into the condenser where the heat energy is rejected from the refrigerant as it cools down into a liquid. It goes through an expansion valve where it drops in pressure and temperature. Then, the refrigerant goes into the evaporator where it boils off absorbing latent heat from the water being chilled. The refrigerant is then sucked back into the compressor. This is called The Basic Refrigeration Cycle read about it in detail. 

HFC Chillers

HFC chiller refrigerants, such as, R407c were developed to replace refrigerants which contained chlorine. This is because chlorine was found to have caused a hole in the ozone layer. The downside to HFC refrigerants is that they have a high Global Warming Potential. That is to say that when they find their way into the atmosphere due to refrigerant leaks, their heat trapping qualities add to the greenhouse effect.

Ammonia Chillers

The photo is of two ammonia chillers with air cooled condensers on top. A steel braided refrigerant charging hose can be seen coming into the foreground of the photo. This refrigerant has a zero global warming potential and so is environmentally friendly. The downside to this refrigerant is that it is highly toxic and corrosive. Therefore, special procedures, equipment and training is required to handle it. Read more about ammonia chillers

Propane Chillers

Propane didn’t really catch on in the UK due to the higher initial cost of the chiller. It is, however, popular on the continent in countries such as Italy. The downside to this refrigerant is that it is highly flammable. Intrinsically safe equipment is required to handle the refrigerant and so aiding with a spark free environment. Read more about propane chillers

Absorption Chillers

This kind of chiller uses a heat source rather than electricity to drive the cooling process. It employs a chemical reaction between two substances, such as, lithium bromide and water. Read about absorption chillers in detail. This type of chiller is a lot less efficient than vapour compression systems. The coefficient of performance is usually around 0.5, were as with a HFC chiller it is usually upwards of 4. Therefore, they are most often used where there is a surplus of waste heat being produced by a process, such as, in a power station.

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High Temperature Chiller Types

Laser cutters use a chiller which operates with a high temperature set point of around 25°C. The laser head and the oscillator need to be cooled to a very close deadband of usually around 0.2°C. If there is a problem with the laser chiller, the controls shut the laser cuter down to prevent expensive failures from occurring.

Medium Temperature Chiller Types

Most chillers operate at this temperature which is used for a variety of applications including…

The Cooling of Buildings

The chilled water set point is usually around 6°C. Large capacity chillers are used which supply chilled water to the building. A plant room is located near to the chillers where a pump discharges into the chillers. The water system pressure is maintained using a pressurisation unit. A different pump is used to supply fan coils around the building. The fans blow air across the chilled coils and so cooling the spaces in the building. This heat exchange warms the chilled water which returns back to the chillers.

The Plastics Industry

Two popular ways of forming plastic are by using: plastic extrusion moulding machines and plastic injection moulding machines. Plastic granules or powder is melted down and forced through a die or into a mould. Chilled water is then used to control the cooling of the newly formed plastic to below its freezing point. Small chillers are used next to each of the plastic forming machines. Alternatively, large, centralised chillers are used to provide chilled water to the whole factory.

Low Temperature Chiller Types

Breweries are a good example of the use of low temperature chillers. The setpoint is often around -5°C with glycol being added into the water to prevent it from freezing. The water/ glycol solution is pumped around the jackets of stainless steel vats which are used to brew the beer. The fermentation process created by the yeast is temperature critical and so is controlled by the chilled water.

Related Articles:
Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

Chiller Condensers

Industrial Refrigeration Ammonia

Glycol Chiller Maintenance

Hit the Tags at the top of the page to navigate your way to our extensive library of further reading on this subject.

Watch a video from The Engineering Mindset about chiller types on You Tube


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