Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Two blue open drive Vilter reciprocating chiller compressors being maintained in a plant room

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Reciprocating chiller compressor maintenance for two low temperature ammonia chillers. Reciprocating means a forwards and backwards motion in a straight line. This is achieved by converting the circular motion of the crankshaft, into a linear motion using the connecting rods. The pistons are on the end of the con rods, which slide up and down inside the cylinder liners.

Piston Rings

There are two types of piston rings which are used:

Compression Ring

This is the upper ring and is designed to a high tolerance to prevent the refrigerant vapour from bypassing the piston.

Oil Ring

This is the lower ring and is designed to regulate the oil flow around the piston.

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Cylinder Head

The cylinder head is usually cast iron and serves as a pressure plate. It holds the valve gear and has passageways for the suction and discharge of the refrigerant. The discharge pressure varies according to the kind of refrigerant and application. For a 0°C saturation it can be as low as 7 bar on R134a, or as high as 30 bar on R410a. The discharge temperature is usually around 60°C to 80°C which is recorded on our detailed Tick Sheet during the maintenance.

Valve Gear

Helix springs or reeds are popular with this type of compressor. Wave springs are another design that can be seen in operation on our YouTube channel. The video uses a cut away view and the oil is depicted in yellow. These springs control the suction (intake) and the discharge (exhaust) of the refrigerant…

Suction

The suction valves have the least amount of failures because the refrigerant is cool, low pressure and is carrying oil.

Discharge

The discharge valves, however, can have heavy molecules of hydrocarbons collect on them in the form of carbon. This causes them to not seat correctly, resulting in a deterioration of compressor performance. The difference in pressure between suction and discharge, otherwise known as the compression ratio, is a check that we carry out during the maintenance. The pressure and temperature is higher on the discharge valves, so more stress is exerted on to them. Therefore, they have a reduced lifespan by comparison to suction valves.

Top Dead Centre

The piston needs to come as close as possible to the cylinder head to create the largest amount of compressed refrigerant. This is called the clearance space which is usually less than 0.5 mm.

Discharge Header Safety Spring

This spring is fitted into the cylinder head and allows the valve gear to lift when:
• Liquid refrigerant slugs back to the compressor due to poor heat exchange in the evaporator.
• An oil slugging condition occurs.
• Water is drawn around the system from a burst condenser or evaporator.
As a compressor cannot compress a liquid, the valve gear lifting prevents an expensive compressor smash up from occurring.

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Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Shaft Seal

The compressors in the photo are open drive. Each has a shaft seal which has two, mirror finish rubbing surfaces. One seal turns with the crankshaft and the other is stationary. We check the amount of oil that is seeping from the shaft seal on every visit. When we notice that the level in the oil bottle is too high, we arrange a visit to change the shaft seal. This can be done without disruption to your process, as the other compressors can be left running while we carry out the work.

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Drives

This kind of compressor is usually driven by an in line electric motor, as in the photo. It can also be driven by ‘v’ belts from an electric motor which is located to the side of the compressor. The ‘v’ belts are checked during the visit to see if there are any cracks on the inside working surface. We replace these with the pre ordered spares that are on site at no extra charge. They are then re tensioned according to standard industry guidelines.

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Crankcase

This is a cast iron housing that all of the above components fit into. It provides the necessary support and strength for the compressor to operate at its high temperatures and pressures. The crankcase heater keeps the oil at operating temperature during the off cycles. It is usually a bore type which pushes into a hole in the casting. We check for the correct operation of the crankcase heaters and replace them where necessary. This is another spare that is kept on site, so that a return visit is not needed.

Service Ports

These bolt on to the compressor crankcase. They can be positioned in various directions, depending on which way the suction and discharge pipes go. The compressor can be valved off when it is being worked on. These ports are used by engineers to attach their gauges during the maintenance. On each visit, we check the calibration of the system pressure transducers by checking them against our gauges.

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Oil Pump

This is a gear type pump which is fitted to the end of the compressor crankshaft. The pump sucks the oil through a filter from the sump of the compressor. Then, it is discharged from the pump, down the crankshaft passageways to the connecting rods. From here it travels up the con rod passageways and out through the pistons to the cylinder liners. Here, it provides the essential lubrication between the pistons and the liners. According to the maintenance schedule, we periodically change the oil filters to ensure the optimum running conditions of your compressors.

MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

If a compressor smash up occurs and the compressor is found to be obsolete- don’t worry. We can adapt the compressor mountings and the pipework for a different compressor. This is part of what we call The MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere.

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Maximus Chillers

Maximus Chillers for centrifugal, water cooled, air cooled and ammonia chillers

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