Chiller Controls

Open chiller controls panel showing PLC, relays, contactors and wiring

Chiller Controls

Chiller controls can be remotely operated and monitored, but in this article, we will be looking at chillers operating in local.

Each chiller has a panel where the lead or the lag chiller can be switched from. They have N+1 redundancy built in, so one of two chillers will normally be in standby with the other one running. The chillers in the photo are equipped with kilowatt hour meters because the customer wants to monitor their efficiency. He has targets to meet and wants to gauge the effect that our maintenance has in reducing his energy costs.

Condenser Pressure

The condenser pressure control is external and stand alone from the panel.

Transducer

A transducer is fitted to the discharge pipe near to the compressor. This gives a 0 to 5vdc control signal to the fan speed controller which is bolted to the frame. There is a minimum and a maximum value on the transducer, so the FSC is programmed to work out the pressure from the voltage.

Fan Speed Controller

415v on three phases are the input to the FSC. It uses solid state thyristors to regulate the output to the fans. This is according to the demand received by the transducer. Solid state means that all the parts are electronic with no moving parts. Fan speed controllers are really good at extending the life of the fans. This is because all of the fans operate together- smoothly and reliably.

Chiller Controls Digital Inputs

There are three essential digital inputs to the controls of any chiller. All of them have a volt signal out to them, which returns back to the panel. If there is a fault- the volts drop out.

LP Switch

This protects the chiller from a low pressure condition. Compressor and evaporator failure would result, so this device is set below the running pressure of the system, but high enough to offer protection.

HP Switch

If the head pressure control mentioned above were to fail, this device would save the chiller from damage from excessive pressure in the system. Components or the pressure relief valve can blow causing a catastrophic refrigerant leak.

Flow Switch

This device detects a lack of flow in the water system. Serious system failure would result if this part is not maintained properly. It needs to be periodically tested and adjusted at regular intervals.

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Chiller Controls Analogue Inputs

The essential analogue inputs on a chiller are the Water In and the Water Out sensors. These are usually NTC (negative temperature coefficient) that is to say: if you hold one in between your fingers and warm it up- the resistance will start to drop off. They usually read in kilo ohms which can be read on a standard multi meter. The program looks at these two sensors and using an algorithm, it calculates the loading requirement of the compressor. They can read incorrectly, so a sensor offset function is available in the software for adjustment. This is just one of the many checks and procedures that we carry out during our maintenance visit.

Chiller Controls Relays

In the photo you can see wires from the various devices around the chiller, wired into a row of relays. These, in turn, are wired into the white relay board at the top. This relay board has several expansion boards linked into it which are held together with an electrical ribbon. Next, the relay board is wired into the PLC... 

Chiller Controls PLC

The reason for these steps in between a device and the PLC is for protection. Sensitive electrical components can be blown due to an earth shortage. At each stage there is a volt drop from 240v to 24v and then to 5vdc.The programmable logic controller is the nerve centre of the chiller. This is where all the inputs go to and where all the digital outputs are sent from. The controller on this chiller is Beijer Electronics- it comes blank from the factory. User keys to operate the chiller are positioned below the display. It can be programmed to run most chillers and indeed it is often seen in factories running anything. A laptop plugs into it and the software for the chiller is uploaded. On one visit, we found a fault with this controller. We bubble wrapped it and took it to our electronics laboratory at Head Office. The issue was easy to resolve- it was just dust tracking across the back of the PCB and so corrupting the program.

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Chiller Controls Digital Outputs

The main digital outputs on this chiller are:

Compressor Run Signal

240v is sent to the compressor starter contactors. There are three: Star (lower amps for a soft start) then a timer switches over to Delta (higher amps for a more powerful running of the compressor) On the other end of the compressor windings is the Line contactor. This contactor runs with both the Star and the Delta contactors.

Float Valve

This is a camber where the level of refrigerant which is coming in from the condenser is detected. The level is transmitted to the PLC, where the program sends a signal to the expansion valve. It opens to the correct degree according to the load on the chiller.

Slide Valve

The compressor can run at 0% with the slide valve shut. When load is sensed from the Water In and Water Out sensors by the controller- the slide valve opens up. The position of the slide valve is detected by a potentiometer. This is calibrated from a minimum to a maximum position. The signal is 4-20 mA which the controller translates into the position of the slide valve.

MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

Whatever the problem with the controls, we can find a solution to resolve it. With years of industry experience and a fast supply chain, we offer a service that is second to none. Being able to retrofit is part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere.

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To read more about chiller control systems hit the Tag at the top of the page.

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Large chiller, refrigerant cylinder, brazing equipment and tools during chiller service company visit

Chiller Service Company Visit

A typical rainy day in the North West, perfect for a chiller service company visit.

News Article No.11

Electrical Faults during Chiller Service Company Visit

This was a return visit to do a refrigerant leak, but the customer alerted our engineer’s attention to an electrical fault. System 2 was found to be locked out in fault on the recent maintenance visit, but now System 1 was being held off too. The fault message on the controller was High Pressure. The controller sends a 240v fault feedback signal, through the high pressure switch which returns to the controller. Our engineer had a look at the wiring diagram to find the number on the terminal strip and checked it out with his multimeter. As he suspected, there were volts going out, but not coming back. He removed the side panel for system 1 and found the switch on the discharge pipe. It was the type that has a red button on the top. When he pressed it, there was a click and volts returned to the controller.

Alarm Reset during Chiller Company Service Visit

He interrogated the Carel controller and followed the reset procedure. The controls went through a timer and then the start sequence was initiated.

Run Testing during Chiller Company Service Visit

After the first scroll compressor started, the head pressure started to build up, but the condenser fans did not start. The on board high pressure gauge carried on rising until the high pressure switch was tripped again.

Head Pressure Control

A transducer on the discharge is used by the controller to sense the pressure in the condenser. When our engineer looked for this in the controller, it was found to be reading wrong by a considerable amount. There is a facility to enter a password and recalibrate the transducer, but this only allows for a small adjustment.

Test Instrument

Our engineers carry various kinds of test instruments which can be used to give a temporary false reading to the controller. This gets the customer up and running and back in production whilst a new transducer is ordered and sent to site.

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Chiller Company Service Low Pressure Visit

Now on with the job to resolve the low pressure issue with the chiller.

Refrigerant Pump Out

Our engineer lifted the liquid line solenoid valve and decanted the remaining refrigerant into a vessel using his recovery unit. He only got out 7kg of a charge of 36kg.

Leak Testing during Chiller Company Service Visit

We use nitrogen for the leak testing as it is an inert gas that will not cause problems with the refrigerant system. There was a sign of the leak in between the steel frame at the middle of the condenser and the condenser tubes. We always strip the chiller down and leak test the entire system though. This is so that the job does not end up going round in circles. At first the leak could not be found, so the pressure was built up in stages, taking into account industry recommended guidelines for a chiller. Sure enough the leak was where it was suspected to be. The occurrence of this kind of leak can be reduced with the use of vibration eliminators.

Brazing during Chiller Company Service Visit

The location of the leak was reported to the maintenance engineer onsite and a hot work permit obtained. The equipment we use is tested at regular intervals to be safe and in good working order. A half hour fire watch was stipulated in the permit, along with the removal of combustible materials from the work location. Correct PPE being donned, he brazed the leak to the required industry standards.

F-gas Pressure Test

A chiller has a different pressure test procedure to other systems, so our engineer built the pressure up according to industry standards, then recorded it on his pressure test certificate. After the required time had elapsed, he rechecked the readings which were found to be satisfactory.

Vac Pump

Each of our engineers carries a state of the art 10 cfm vacuum pump to speed up the dehydration process. We use high quality Torr gauges too, so as to get an accurate pressure reading. A good read back was achieved at the end of the process.

Recharge and Run Test

After the refrigerant recharge was carried out, a satisfactory run test was achieved.

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Refrigerant Economizers

This particular chiller uses an economizer to further subcool the refrigerant. Chiller designers have worked out that the end user can save a considerable amount of money over 10 years if these components are used. After the subcooled liquid refrigerant leaves the condenser, it goes through a plate heat exchanger. Some of this refrigerant, however, is diverted through a thermostatic expansion valve, to the other side of this plate heat exchanger. Further subcooling occurring through the plates.

Expansion Valve

The refrigerant drops in pressure as it goes through the expansion valve. A bulb is fitted to the suction pipe on the outlet of the heat exchanger. The bulb has to be at the correct 'o clock position as oil insulation will affect the operation of the valve. A capillary tube connects the bulb to the valve. Inside the bulb, the same kind of refrigerant that is running in the system is present in its liquid state. As the temperature rises in the suction pipe, this refrigerant boils off, adding pressure into the capillary tube. This added pressure forces the power element down on the valve body and a needle forces the valve open.

Flash Gas

Imagine if the refrigerant was not subcooled at all. It would be around its saturation point with a lot of it flashing off into its vapour phase. Not good when you have warm water coming back from the process. The refrigerant would not absorb very much latent heat into the refrigerant system.

Efficiency

Imagine, on the other hand, the economizer which is fitted to this chiller. Now we have a good proportion of refrigerant in its liquid phase, on the low side of the system, with a minimum amount of flash gas. The warm process water has more chance to cool and the refrigerant absorbs a lot more latent heat. The chiller achieves set point easier and therefore saves a considerable amount of electricity. With this further subcooling monitored for a while, time for a signature from the customer and another job well done!

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6 large air cooled chiller condensers maintained with 12 fans each

Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Maintenance

The photo is showing air cooled chiller condenser maintenance being carried out by Maximus Chillers. 6 water cooled chillers are located in the plant room below. They are 750 kw single screw compressors with a control panel located to the side of each. On this visit, the emphasis was to carry out a thorough maintenance of the condensers.

Fan Speed Controllers

The refrigerant for the systems is R134a, so to allow for the saturation of the refrigerant, 8 bar is the head pressure set point. This pressure corresponds to the desired condenser temperature of 36°C. Subcooling of 6°C to 8°C is achieved during the nominal operation of the plant. Each fan speed controller runs the 12 condenser fans together. Other condenser designs where fans bang on forwards and backwards cause vibrations resulting in reoccurring leaks on the condenser. Chiller No. 2 had tripped during a 'discharge override' system message. On inspection of No. 2 condenser- the fans speed inverter had tripped on 'over temperature' alarm. The panel fan, which is the kind to cool computers, was found to be still trying to run but seized. This failure had caused the alarm on the inverter. The panel fan was replaced from the stock of parts in the onsite stores. The chiller was reset and a detailed Tick Sheet was completed noting the occurrence of this fault on arrival.

Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Maintenance Cleaning

Because of the large size of the plant, the customer had installed a fireman’s hose for the cleaning of the condensers. This is located in the free space beneath the condensers. It is fitted to a portable buggy so it can be moved under each condenser. Setting the nozzle to the correct attitude, our engineer moved the buggy sideways, so as to rinse the condenser in the direction of the fins. The condenser was relatively clean as the onsite maintenance engineers carry out this task as part of their monthly schedule.

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Design Considerations for Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Maintenance

The kind of condenser in this article is:

Multiple Row Tubing

3 Rows

It has tubing of ½” diameter which is 3 rows deep. Each pass starts at the discharge header which is at the inlet to the condenser, goes down to the far end, through a condenser end turn, back to the discharge end, through another condenser end turn and back again to the liquid pipe end. The heat removed from the condenser, per kg of refrigerant, is the heat content of the vapour as it leaves the compressor, minus the heat remaining in the liquid at the end of the condenser.

6 Rows

Some condenser designs are up to 6 rows deep. This allows a small footprint of space where there is not much room for the location of the chiller. The downside to this, is that the chiller engineer can often struggle to locate the exact location of a leak when it is deep into the coil. If a condenser is too small, it will cause a higher head pressure and reduce the life of the compressor. We can arrange the lift out and repair of deep row condensers in our workshop.

Finned

This condenser has aluminium fins which are pressed around the copper tubing. This increases the surface area of the condenser heat exchange medium and so increases the dissipation of heat. The same amount of heat delivered to a condenser from the compressor must also be rapidly removed. For this condition to be reached, enough head pressure will need to be built up so that the condenser temperature is at least 15°C above the ambient. This is why the same chiller can be picked up and shipped to the Middle East and still work. It will just run at a higher discharge pressure/ temperature. There will, however, be a loss in the coefficient of performance as the higher pressures will result in more electricity in, versus the same amount of refrigeration effect out.

Forced Convection Type

The fans mounted on the ducting provide this forced convection. The air is sucked through the bottom of the condenser, across the 3 rows of tubes, along the fins and up through the fans. The air flow is stable as it enters the fins so good heat transfer is achieved. As it leaves the fins at the top, there is lower heat transfer as the air is turbulent.

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Fan Replacement during Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Maintenance

Spare fans are available onsite for replacement when individual fans fail. As mentioned above, these condensers are controlled with FSC's which reduce the occurrence of leaks. As well as this, fan speed controllers increase the lifespan of the fans. Because all of the fans run together, they speed up and slow down steadily. When high pressure control switches are used, they are set at different pressures. This means that some of the fans never come on until the head pressure is too high. This is usually due to a blocked condenser, failed fans or a high ambient. Because the fans have not come on for a long time, they are often seized or have suffered water ingress from the rain. An onsite maintenance engineer is available to help with the lift out and lift in of the replacement fans.

Pressure Relief Valves

Each of these condensers is fitted with a pressure relief valve (PRV) It is fitted into the discharge pipe on the inlet to the condenser. This is so that if the fans and the HP switch were to fail, the dangerous levels of pressure in the system would be vented. It is unlikely, however, that the HP switch would fail as this is a very reliable part. A PRV being fitted is often the requirement of insurance companies. The testing or replacement being arranged at scheduled intervals.

To read more about air cooled chiller condensers click the Tag at the top of the page.

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Air cooled chiller planned maintenance showing both economizers with solenoid valves and expansion valves

Air Cooled Chiller Planned Maintenance

An air cooled chiller planned maintenance visit for a long standing customer of ours. They have just signed up to another 3 year contract. We know at Maximus Chillers that if we want to keep our customers, we must continue to offer the Maximus Service. Maximus is Latin for the highest and the greatest.

Critical Air Cooled Chiller Planned Maintenance

Planned maintenance is essential for these chillers as they are critical plant. They feed a large conference room which is a major part of the end user’s business. They cannot afford to loose the conference room when there is an event on. There is redundancy in the plant, but the customer always makes sure that the issues highlighted on the maintenance are acted on promptly. Also, the chillers feed a water cooled condenser for a pack which cools £50,000 of products used during the conferences.

Air Cooled Chiller Oil Planned Maintenance

There is 1mw of cooling across the 2 chillers. Our engineer noticed that the oil level was slightly below the sight glass on one of the 250kw Bitzer compressors. The machine had previously been extensively run tested to ensure no oil return issues were present. Therefore, he decided to adjust the level with the oil available onsite.

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Economizer

The economizers, in the picture, were tested to ensure the solenoids were opening when the program sent the run signal. The electronic expansion valves functioned correctly and subcooled the liquid further after the condenser.

Head Pressure Control

The head pressure control was functioning correctly, keeping a steady 8 bar of pressure across all stages of loading and water system temperatures. This is because these chillers use a fan speed controller for each system. The fans cut in at the minimum running speed, which prevents stalling and over heating. Also, all fans running together are more reliable. Fans fail on systems using relays or pressure switches as the higher pressure fans don’t often come on. When they do, moisture has ingressed into them causing them to fail.

To read more about chiller critical plant click the Tag at the top of the page.

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Follow this link to read more | Carel cut phase speed controllers


Chiller service of fan decks showing 8 fans

Chiller Fan Deck Service

Bodger Watch

Chiller fan deck service is usually very good, but this is bodger watch! A new customer of ours was telling us about this little guy that used to come. He was reported to have been running around like the apprentice- ringing everybody up! Then when help came, it came in the form of this huge, big man who proceeded to get stuck in the chiller! You couldn't make it up! This is bodger watch! The customer asked for a professional service from Maximus Chillers.

Repeated Leaks on Condenser

Our engineer found the head pressure control was bringing the fans thumping on and off forwards and backwards. During a visit, the fans were found to be rattling the frame and juddering the chiller into leaks.

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Learning How to Think

Instead of just swapping like for like parts. Our engineers have the capability to think outside the box and make changes to chiller design. All of our engineers attend the Maximus School of Chillers at Head Office in Droylsden, Manchester. Read More on the Chiller Company page.

Fan Speed Controller during Chiller Fan Deck Service

On a return visit, we fitted off the shelf fan speed controllers from our stores- one for each system. These fan speed controllers are stand alone- they do not need to be integrated into the existing controls. When the pressure builds up- the fan speed controller speeds the fans up from the minimum (cut in) to the maximum (same volts as the incoming supply)

Chiller Fan Deck Service for Seamless Operation

Now the fan speed controllers are fitted- there are no more leaks. Any chiller can be made to settle down into seamless operation.

Are you a factory manager or facilities manager with recurring leaks on your chillers? Need your fans replacing or the controls adjusting? Look no further than Maximus Chillers.

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Visit the Institute of Refrigeration to read a paper on the comparison between air cooled condensers and evaporative condensers.


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