Chiller Compressors

Chiller compressor failure of blue Grasso in enclosure

Chiller Compressors

System Testing for Chiller Compressors

Chiller compressors fail often the result of ineffective servicing and system testing.

News Article No.4

At Maximus Chillers, we carry out extensive tests during our visits to ensure that small problems are resolved before they become big problems. If we notice a reading starting to become abnormal, we can carry out the diagnosis, then do the necessary service. Some of the compressor readings we monitor:

Compressor Temperature

The suction, discharge, motor windings and bearing temperatures are recorded for comparison to previous visits. These are often available in the PLC for the chiller, or our engineer can take the readings with his test equipment. Problems with the oil system can be the cause of higher compressor temperatures, the system running outside of its nominal operating conditions is another reason. Magnetic drive systems have an advantage as they do not use oil.

Accelerometer

Portable vibration sensors are carried in of each of our company vehicles. This is an accelerometer to measure vibration. Along with other system readings, we keep an on going record of the vibration levels around the compressor. When internal components are coming out of alignment due to wear, this causes an out of balance condition in the compressor. This, in turn, causes a knock on effect- causing other components to go out of balance. Catching this condition early will prevent a compressor smash up resulting in the replacement of expensive internal components.

Oil Analysis

Another way of preventing big problems to occur is periodic compressor oil testing. Samples are taken, usually on alternate visits, which are sent off to a laboratory for analysis. The acid level is tested to provide pre warning of a potential compressor motor windings burn out. This is because acid in the compressor oil rots through the electrical insulation on the motor windings. The presence and quantity of white metal and yellow metal is analysed too. This is a window through to a component starting to wear inside the compressor.

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Screw Chiller Compressors

The compressor in the photo is a screw compressor. It operates with ammonia refrigerant. This refrigerant is usually used for low temperature applications, mainly associated with food production. This compressor, however, has a 1° refrigerant saturation and is used to cool computer rooms. Common causes of compressor failure on this kind of compressor are:

Leaking Compressor Castings

The various compressor components are sealed together using ‘o’ rings or paper gaskets. ‘O’ rings are especially prone to leaks due to work hardening and flattening of the sealing face of the ‘o’ ring. The system can be pumped down and the compressor valved off. Then, our lift and shift team can remove the compressor to our remanufacturing facility for strip down.

Leaking Shaft Seal

The mating surface of a shaft seal has a mirror smooth finish. This is to reduce friction and aid with a better seal. Over time, this starts to wear, causing an ineffective seal and a leak of refrigerant and oil. A service visit can be arranged to change the shaft seal on site. The shaft couplings can be split, the shaft seal can then be removed and replaced. A quick job, then the machine is up and running again.

Slide Valve Potentiometer

This is an electronic device with a slide attached to the moving compressor slide valve. The device has a start and an end position programmed into it during commissioning. The potentiometer converts the slide valve position, usually into a 4-20mA signal which is fed back to the chiller PLC. They are prone to reading out or the reading being jammed in one position. This results in a trip out from the controls, as the controller is not able to determine the true position of the compressor slide valve. We have an off the shelf stock of slide valve potentiometers for the various compressor range. A service visit can be arranged to replace the part after diagnosis has been carried out.

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Centrifugal Chiller Compressors

Centrifugal compressors are a very reliable kind of compressor but when they go wrong, they can go wrong in a big way. Compressor overhaul is expensive, this can be carried out onsite, or a better option is a lift and shift to our remanufacturing facility. Proximity sensors are usually fitted to monitor the distance between the impeller and the casting. This is an added protection along with the other sensors and transducers around the compressor.

MCS

We are on account with Micro Control Systems- an American company who specialise in building panels to order for specific chiller compressors. We easily fit this control system to any compressor to control the loading of the vanes in accordance to the available load from the process. The control panel has previously been fitted to other machines of the same model number, so any teething issues have already been ironed out. Maximus Chillers can achieve seamless operation of your plant.

Oil System for Chiller Compressors 

Newer centrifugal compressors are oil free so as to eliminate any of the service issues relating to oil. There are a substantial amount of compressors, however, that use oil to lubricate the bearings. This kind of compressor, if properly serviced, can last for 50 years. The oil system picks up impurities which are caught by various filters. These filters can be changed or cleaned according to the prescribed service schedule. Our engineers make sure that spares are ordered and kept onsite prior to a visit.

Cost Effective

Our visits and ongoing upkeep of your plant saves money. Money spent as a preventative measure saves so much more money in the long run. With competitive prices on specialist internal compressor parts- Maximus Chillers completes the picture. When compressor failure occurs, you are in safe hands with years of industry experience invested in each of our engineers.

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Scroll Chiller Compressors

High Discharge Pressure

With high discharge pressure, there is a corresponding increase in discharge temperature. This means that the compressor is operating beyond its recommended values. The cause of this is often a poorly maintained condenser. Especially on industrial chillers, there can have been gaps in the schedule where the condenser was not correctly serviced. This condition is often rectified easily by an onsite engineer by giving it a brush down. Where the fins are bent over- we carry a specialist tool to straighten them back out- how they came out of the factory. We also use different formulas of chemicals to rinse the various kinds of dirt from deep within the fins.

High Suction Pressure on Chiller Compressors 

Some chillers are used where very high water temperature can come back from the process if the chiller were to be off line for a short period. Usually, this happens in factories where certain industrial processes are being carried out. When the onsite engineers start the plant back up, the chiller experiences a high heat load to deal with.

MOP Expansion Valves

Maximum operating pressure expansion valves limit the pressure in the evaporator to a given level, regardless of the available heat load from the process. They do this by having a limited amount of liquid refrigerant in the bulb. When this runs out, the power element cannot push the orifice open any further- thus limiting the suction pressure. This is important to prevent scroll compressor failure as it prevents putting added strain on the compressor motor windings due to high suction pressure.

Oil and Refrigerant Shortage

Where there is a shortage in refrigerant, there follows a low oil level condition. The refrigerant mass flow rate, carries the oil around the system and back to the compressor. This is greatly impaired when the chiller is short of gas. The oil cools the compressor and lubricates the shaft bearings. These bearings and other internal components wear down and seize causing failure. Maximus Chillers can put together a package to minimise chiller compressor failure.

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Visit Wikipedia to read more about impellers which are used in centrifugal compressors | Click Here


Chiller service company's PLC and relay board in a panel

Chiller Service Company

Chiller Service Company Diagnosis

System Testing

A chiller service company can carry out diagnosis even when a wiring diagram is not available- our engineers can trace the wiring around the chiller.

News Article No.3

This often aids with diagnosis even when there is a wiring diagram, as to have your eyes on a component often makes more sense than a symbol. In any case, our engineers carry out system testing with Fluke multimetes and ammeters. We carry a range of thermocouples and probes to be used in conjunction with our calibrated digital thermometers. We use these along with comparators to carry out leak testing…

F-gas Leak Testing

According to the frequency dictated by the quantity of refrigerant, we use the above test equipment to carry out F-gas leak testing. First, we have a visual look around the chiller for a sign of a gas leak. All parts of the pipework and system components are inspected. Then, we carry out a full refrigerant diagnosis to determine that the refrigerant system is operating with a full charge of refrigerant. The report for each chiller being completed and filed in the onsite F-gas leak register. A history can be built up to assess the serviceability of the plant and the frequency of leaks.

Chiller Service Company Monitoring

Where intermittent faults are concerned, on going system monitoring is required. If the job is not progressed on each visit, there is little point in a call out. We carry out tests during monitoring and ensure that the wiring is tight. Hopefully, waiting for the fault to occur whilst next to the machine. Alongside this, we rely on a report from the end user, as regards, the symptoms and the circumstances of the chiller when the fault occurred. From this we extrapolate the diagnosis and decide the next step to take. This may be to attempt to move the fault to another machine or, at least eliminate one thing each visit.

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Chiller Service Company Evaporators

Shell and Tube Evaporators

These have a rolled steel shell, welded down the seam with and end plate on either end. The water system pipes can be bolted to the sides or the end. The endplate can be removed for access to the waterside of the tubes. A strainer is fitted to the inlet to catch any foreign objects that may have been carried around the water system. Inlet and outlet gauges are fitted for the monitoring of the water system readings during a service visit. On larger chillers the screw or centrifugal compressor is mounted directly on top of the evaporator- sucking directly off the top of a flooded evaporator…

Flooded Evaporators

This kind of evaporator has the refrigerant in liquid form on the outside of the tubes. These are a rack of copper tubes extending through the length of the shell. The warmer process water running through the tubes causes the refrigerant to boil off. A sight glass is usually available to check the state of the refrigerant evaporating on the copper tubes. The suction from the top of the evaporator goes round a baffle so as to prevent the slug back of liquid refrigerant into the compressor. The refrigerant flow into the evaporator is controlled by the expansion valve…

Expansion Valves

This takes the form of a fixed size orifice on the liquid line in between the shell and tube condenser and the flooded evaporator. The size of the orifice previously being calculated to match the mass flow rate of the refrigerant dictated by the compressor. Some newer systems have a variable orifice for the more efficient running of the plant. This is controlled electronically along with the loading of the compressor, relative to the available load condition.

Multiple System N+1

Smaller DX evaporators are usually multi system. This gives an N+1 redundancy of the plant. Indeed, when one side of a 2 system evaporator is having service work carried out, the other side continues to operate normally. Thinking ahead and allowing for additional capacity is essential when the application is critical, such as, a data centre or a hospital. When a redundant system comes online due to a failure- getting the system back up and running is a matter of urgency. For this we offer same day delivery of parts and a fully stocked mobile workshop.

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Chiller Service Company Condensers

Various configurations are employed to ensure good air flow through the chiller condenser fins. The most popular being a ‘v’ condenser as the surface area is increased with this design. Powerful fans are used to reject the air and heat upwards and away from the chiller. Where system location causes the recirculation of air, duct work can be fitted to direct the air away from the chiller.

Pressure Transducers

Johnson Controls

A popular kind of pressure transducer used on condensers is Johnson Controls. These can be bolted onto the refrigerant discharge pipe to sense the system pressure. They have a 5vdc input that comes into the transducer on a red wire, a black wire is the ground and a white wire is the signal back to the fan speed controller. The transducer has a minimum to maximum range, so a chart can be used to determine if the signal is reading back correctly. On chillers where the transducer is wired directly in the controller- calibration can be carried out to offset the readings.

Keller

Another kind of pressure transducer is the 4-20mA type. It sends a mA signal back to the controller or the fan speed controller. 4mA is the minimum position, so this relates to the minimum of the transducer pressure range.

R134a Chiller Refrigerant

R134a refrigerant operates at a lower pressure in a condenser than the other commonly used HFC refrigerants. If you were looking for a chilled water set point of 6° in the UK ambient for example, the R134a refrigerant saturation on the high side of the system would be around 36° Latent heat from the water system and heat added into the refrigerant from the compressor are rejected from the condenser. As the refrigerant passes down the condenser tubes, cool air blowing across the outside of the tubes, cools the refrigerant vapour down through the latent heat phase and into a subcooled liquid.

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Chiller Service Company Compressors

Centrifugal Compressors

This kind of compressor has a lower volumetric efficiency compared with the positive displacement compressors below. This is because the refrigerant is compressed using centrifugal force off the tip of the impeller, instead of being mechanically compressed. The advantage of this kind of compressor is a high mass flow rate of refrigerant. These compressors are used in factories where a large amount of chilled water is required to cool the process. They are also used in countries where district cooling is used. The chillers are arranged in rows in a chiller hall and are piped into the district cooling loop.

Screw Compressors

Oil used to lubricate the bearings is also used to create a seal between the rotors. Computer aided design (CAD) software and computer numerical control (CNC) grinding machines are used in the construction of screw rotors. The shape of the rotors is designed to compress the refrigerant along the screw. The length of the screw that is available to compress the refrigerant can be adjusted with a slide valve. Any stage of loading between 0- 100% can be achieved. This is regulated with a slide valve potentiometer. Screw compressors are very reliable and have a long service life. They also have a low vibration reading which ensures a lower instance of refrigerant leaks around the compressor.

Scroll Compressors

A service free compressor. Service free assuming that the rest of the system is functioning correctly. This kind of compressor relies on oil migration around the system. The oil is entrained along the inside of the pipework, around the system and back to the compressor. An oil level sight glass is fitted into the body of the compressor at the required level. Refrigerant shortage can cause the oil to stay in the bottom of the evaporator, causing a low oil level condition in the compressor. Chiller service companies can be scheduled to attend site to drain the oil, then pump new oil into the compressor.

Compressor Failure

When any of the above compressors fail, you are in safe hands with Maximus Chillers. We have the capability to lift and shift the compressor to our remanufacturing facility for a full overhaul. The reason for the failure is diagnosed to ensure the new compressor does not fail for the same reason. Improving the reliability of your plant and extending its life is what we are all about- if we can reduce your service costs- that makes us happy! All temperatures and pressures are recorded to ensure the replacement compressor goes into seamless operation.

Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere- The MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

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Read more about pressure sensors on Wikipedia | Click Here


Ammonia refrigerant cylinder being winched up a cat ladder using a block and tackle

Industrial Refrigeration Ammonia

The industrial refrigeration ammonia visit was in Aberystwyth. We look after 2 ammonia chillers on site. They are 10 year old chillers that have been designed to need ongoing attention. Quite easy job as the faults they go into are reoccurring round in a circle. They have previously had the same problems.

Ammonia Shaft Seal for Industrial Refrigeration

The shaft seal had started to leak ammonia. It was replaced by removing the shaft seal cover, splitting the coupling and sliding the shaft seal over the shaft. After removing the non condensables, we reintroduced the ammonia back into the compressor. The 'o' rings leaked.

Leaking Industrial Refrigeration Ammonia 'O' Rings

Leaks on ‘o’ rings occur because they become flattened and plastic like. This is caused by heat around the high side of the screw compressor. When there is pressure in the system- the oil if forced against the gap- making a seal. After the ammonia refrigerant had been handled- the oil ran away- causing the leak when the ammonia was reintroduced.

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Lift and Shift Visit

The pipework and ancillaries had been removed from the compressor prior to the visit. Our lift and shift guys arrived and set up their lifting equipment. They raised the compressor and manoeuvred it on across the roof. They then manoeuvred it up then down some steps. They used lifting equipment to get the compressor, end on- down a cat ladder.

Compressor Strip Down

It is always better to strip down this kind of compressor in a workshop- on a bench with compressed air and all the tools nearby. We unbolted the castings and slid the screw out. The various castings being laid out in a line. We replaced the ‘o’ rings for new the rebuilt the compressor.

Industrial refrigeration ammonia being charged by an engineer wearing breathing apparatus and gloves
Ammonia refrigerant being sucked into the low side of a flooded evaporator

Ammonia Refrigerant Charge

Part of the ammonia refrigerant had been handled during the visit. This left the compressor pipework, compressor and the oil separator open to atmosphere. The non condensables were evacuated. In the photo we are lifting the cylinder up a cat ladder into the plant room. From there it needed to be man handled up some steps, down some steps and out onto the roof. We charged the ammonia plant with liquid ammonia until the superheat and subcooling values were within industry known limits. The sight glass levels and condition were monitored too.

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If you would like to buy an introduction to ammonia refrigeration from the iiar | Click Here


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