Saudi Chiller Commissioning

Man commissioning a chiller in Saudi wareing head gear

Saudi Chiller Commissioning

We arranged the trip to carry out Saudi chiller commissioning for our Company Director and overseas engineer Dave Thompson. 2x 500kw air cooled chillers had been positioned at high level on a gantry. These were at the back of a newly constructed building at a factory in Jeddah. The factory produces plastic water pipes used for buildings and industry. Their own pipework, produced onsite, was used for the water systems of the plant in this article.

Water System Check Valves

There are two underground water system reservoirs for the plant. A check valve is fitted below the water line on the inlet pipe feeding all of the pumps. This ensures that water is available to the pumps on start up, despite the reservoirs being below the pumps.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of Chiller Pump Set

The chiller pump set sucks water from the underground chiller reservoir. It then discharges the water through a plate heat exchanger, then it flows up to the chillers. The chilled water then returns 5°C cooler back to the underground chiller reservoir.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of PHE Pump Set

Another pump set sucks from the separate underground process reservoir and discharges through the other side of the above mentioned plate heat exchanger. The water is chilled by around 5°C which can be adjusted with a pressure regulating valve on the outlet of the PHE. This chilled water then returns to the underground process reservoir.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of Process Pump Set

A third pump set also sucks from the above mentioned underground process reservoir. It then discharges up to a ring main which goes along the top of 6 lines. Then, it drains down into plastic extrusion moulding machines to cool the newly formed plastic pipe. It does this at just the right rate to prevent bending and distortion. After this, the chilled water drains at gravity pressure back into the underground process reservoir.

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Control Panels for Pump Inverters

All of the pumps run on inverter drives which saves a significant amount of electricity. These drives are located in three panels- one for each pump set. A spare inverter is available in each panel for easy switch over in the event of failure. A touch screen pump control display is fitted to each panel. Each display is wired into a PLC.

Touch Screen Central Control

The PLCs in each panel are in turn wired into a Schneider Electric touch screen central control interface. This is located on the front of the middle panel. All of the analogue sensor and transducer inputs are wired into this interface from around the plant. The underground process reservoir temperature sensor was found to be reading 4°C high, so an offset was put into the program. The digital outputs go from here to the various components around the plant.

3 Way Valve

One of these components is a 3 way valve on the plate heat exchanger. This valve regulates the percentage flow of water through the PHE, relative to the percentage of bypass to the chillers. In high load conditions, 100% of water is pumped through the PHE. With no load, 0% of water goes through the PHE with full bypass to the chillers. In a low load condition, the valve modulates at between 0% and 100%. All of these scenarios achieve a close control of 20°C in the underground process reservoir.

Saudi Chiller Commissioning of Filtration Systems

Chiller Evaporators

The chiller evaporators are protected by a ‘y’ strainer on each inlet.

PHE Chiller Side

The plate heat exchanger also keeps contaminants from the process reaching the evaporators of the chillers. This prevents the premature failure of the evaporators and also prevents heat exchange issues due to thermal insulation.

PHE and Process Bollfilter

Both of these water systems go through a Bollfilter back flush system. As the difference in pressure between filter inlet and outlet reaches a predetermined level, the back flushing operation is initiated with a green light being illuminated. This feature prevents the need to manually clean the filter at scheduled intervals. During the visit, however, these filters were overwhelmed by the residue left in the pipes and a narrow 100 micron filter size. The maximum difference in pressure was exceeded and the filtration system yellow warning light became illuminated. The filters were stripped down, cleaned and reassembled.

‘Y’ Strainer in Parallel

The factory engineer who had designed the system had the foresight to build a second filter into the water system. This ‘y’ strainer runs in parallel to the above Bollfilter and ensures seamless operation of the factory in the event of a blocked Bollfilter.

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Start Up during Saudi Chiller Commissioning

On first start up of the chillers, they were both found to be tripping on high pressure and not loading up. The chillers run on R134a which is a low pressure refrigerant in the UK. In Saudi Arabia, however, the ambient is around 40°C. This translates to an operating pressure of between 15 bar and 18 bar depending on loading and water temperature.

Loading Solenoids

Unloader switches are available on each system. These feed back to the PLC, from here the program energises the loading solenoids. They had been set to 14 bar which was the cause of the unloading issue. Our overseas engineer set the switches to 19 bar.

High Pressure Switches

He then changed the high pressure cut outs from 15 bar to 20 bar.

PRVs Checked during Saudi Chiller Commissioning

The pressure relief valves vent at 23 bar which is enough of a difference in pressure from the high pressure cut out.

Low Load Trips

Because only one line was running at the time of commissioning, one of the chillers was found to have tripped on a low temperature related trip. This fault had occurred the following morning when the water temperature had become too low due to the minimum run time of the compressors. The freeze up set point was also found to be too high at 7°C. Our overseas engineer entered a password into the front end of each chiller and modified the parameters to prevent this fault re occurring.

Full Load Testing

The water system temperature was allowed to build up to 30°C when production in the factory was offline. Then, the chillers were ran in anger until set point was achieved. An efficient superheat value of 3°C was recorded on all of the systems. This is due to electronic expansion valves being fitted. When the factory came back online, the systems were found to be off cycling or unloading to match the load.

Chiller Redundancy

Redundancy has been considered in the capacity of the chillers to allow for future factory expansion and systems being offline during repairs.

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Two large air cooled chillers during condenser testing

Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Testing

We at Maximus Chillers have recently carried out air cooled chiller condenser testing at a new 3 year maintenance contract in the North West. The last of 4 systems had gone down on the morning that we first attended site. 1.2 MW of cooling had been lost which resulted in the water system temperature rising to 31°C. These chillers are used to cool an office block, so we wanted to get some of the systems up and running as quickly as possible…

News Article No.16

Air Cooled Chiller Condenser 1 Testing

One of the systems was disabled due to a condenser fan failure. 1 of 5 fans was found to be seized and disconnected. Fan speeds have sufficient redundancy built in to allow for a high ambient and a partially blocked condenser. There was a high ambient condition, but the condenser was found to be clean. Therefore, our engineer decided to run test the system and monitor the condenser pressure…

Fan Speed Transformer

3 fan speeds available on this chiller- low, medium and high. The fan speeds are achieved using a transformer which makes a different voltage for each fan speed. This is quite a good way of controlling the condenser pressure, as all of the fans run smoothly together. The program looks at the condenser pressure using a transducer, then selects the required fan speed.

Medium Fan Speed

As expected, the chiller program selected the medium fan speed. This provided the required saturation pressure in the condenser and so adequately subcooling the refrigerant.

Compressor Protection

All of the system pressures and temperatures were nominal, so the compressor was protected. There was a good oil return and sufficient cooling to the suction housing from the refrigerant. This cooling ensured that the internal motor windings did not overheat.

Monitoring

Having got this system away- our engineer monitored the water system temperature which started to come down. More cooling was required, however, to get the water system temperature down to set point…

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Air Cooled Chiller Condenser 2 Testing

Another system had been the only system running for some time.

Blocked Condenser

Grass pollination had caused a covering of organic material to accumulate on the condenser. The increased head pressure had caused the high pressure switch to trip. This type of material was easy for our apprentice to remove, as it clumped together when brushed.

HP Reset

The high pressure switch was reset and the system was run tested. It did not trip again, but a high pressure condition still persisted in the condenser.

Chemical Clean

Therefore, our engineer decided to carry out a chemical clean. After the whole of the ‘v’ type condenser was cleaned- the pressure came down a little.

Non Condensables

This system stayed running, but in the high fan speed. On the upcoming maintenance visit, a refrigerant diagnosis will be carried out to assess whether there are non condensables in the system. If this is the case, a false reading of subcooling will be recorded, as the non condensables throw out the calculation.

Cool Building

With 2 systems now running, the water system got down to set point. Our customer was really happy as the situation had gone from: office workers walking out of the building- to a cool building before 10 o’ clock on the first day of the contract.

Air Cooled Chiller Condenser 3 Testing

The third system had been on pressure test for the past 2 months with the condenser valved off. There was still pressure in the system, but our engineer decided to confirm the pressure test for himself. He did this by leaving it on pressure while having a drive round the suppliers. Several hours later, the pressure had remained constant, so he was able to start the evacuation process. After this was completed, the system was recharged and run tested. Now there were 3 systems up and running.

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Air Cooled Chiller Condenser PRV Testing

The pressure relief valves on the condensers have recently been changed. Industry guidelines state that they should be tested or replaced every 5 years. There is no guarantee that the PRVs will re seal satisfactorily after they have been tested. Therefore, in practice they are usually replaced. We inspected the date of the replacement, the burst pressure, the associated certification and paperwork- all was found to be satisfactory.

Air Cooled Chiller Condenser 4 Testing

The fourth system has a leak on the condenser with some refrigerant remaining in the system. This refrigerant will need to be decanted on a subsequent visit using a pump out unit and a recovery cylinder.

F-gas Leak Testing

The entire system will be pressure leak tested to identify the location of all leaks. Then, the leaks will be repaired using oxy-acetylene. After this, the system will be pressure tested to ensure its integrity.

Dehydration

Then, the dehydration process will be carried out. The achievable pressure of the vacuum pump will be tested and recorded. Evacuation will be carried out until this recorded pressure is achieved. Our engineers are issued with a powerful 10 cfm vacuum pump to speed up this process. This system will then be recharged and its operation tested.

Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Testing and Calibration

One of many tests that we will carry out on the upcoming maintenance visit is condenser transducer calibration. Transducer readings are not linear, so care will be taken to achieve an accurate calibration. A password will be entered into the controller to gain access to the required menu. Then, each of the transducers will be adjusted. The result of this means that accurate diagnosis can be carried out and the correct subcooling readings can be recorded.

The above is just part of the service that we provide to you- the customer! Having the capability to do anything and to extend the life of your chillers is part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere.

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Boxed, shell and tube chiller condenser being lifted into a building with a crane

Chiller Condensers

Shell & Tube

The chiller condenser on a 2 MW centrif we look after had deteriorated over a long period of time. We had carried out tube cleaning and noticed that it had been extensively repaired in the past. There were a lot of damaged tubes that had been blanked off. This had reduced the useful surface area for heat exchange to occur. The chiller was experiencing a ‘discharge limiting’ condition which was causing it to back off to 54% capacity.

Air Cooled

Because of the difficulty to remove and replace the condenser from the plant room, the customer had explored the possibility of air cooled condensers. His idea was to fit the discharge and liquid piping up the side of the building and into the plant room. After considering this possibility, we decided to advise him against using air cooled condensers because it would take two, 16 fan ‘V’ types. This would have a footprint too big for the available space. We decided to use a crane to lift out the old condenser, then lift in the new one.

Pump Out

The old condenser was valved off from the rest of the system and the refrigerant was pumped into an 800 kg recovery vessel. This was one of 2 vessels in the plant room that had been there since the chiller was new.

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Lift Out for Chiller Condensers

The pipework was unbolted and the ancillaries removed. When it came to unbolting the condenser, some of the bolts were seized due to a long period of rusting. Some of them came loose by heating them with oxy-acetylene, the others were ground off with an angle grinder. We used a specialist lifting company to shift the condenser from the plant room and out to the lifting bay. They then attached slings to one end, manoeuvred that end of the condenser to the outside of the building, then attached slings to the other end. Rather them than me! Quite a dangerous operation, but it had been assessed when composing their Risk Assessment Method Statement. The condenser was lifted onto the back of an articulated truck and taken to a scrap yard for recycling. There was quite a lot of copper inside- so our customer got quite a good weigh in!

Lift In for Chiller Condensers

The new condenser, in the photo, was kept in its packaging during the lift up, so as to protect it from damage. Once it was in the building and near to the plant room, it was removed from the box and shifted the rest of the way with dollies. There was some difficulty getting it into its final location. This was because the old steelwork had to be cut back with a blow torch to make the new condenser fit. Also, with limited room and no gantry crane, the lifting company had their work cut out to manoeuvre it. Eventually, it was in location and we decided to call it a day.

Adapting the Pipework

This particular condenser was selected because it was similar in dimensions to the old one. The positioning of the refrigerant and water system pipework was similar too. That said, it was not an exact match. We called an industrial plumbing and welding company in to make the changes we needed. They measured up and built adaptors to bolt in between the condenser and the water system pipework. They cut back the new condenser discharge connection and welded a new flange on. This was so it could be bolted onto the existing discharge elbow from the chiller. The liquid pipe connection on the new condenser was in the same location, but came with a different thread. Therefore, this too was cut back and an adaptor fitting was welded into place.

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Ancillaries

The fittings on the new condenser were BSP and the fittings on the chiller were Flare. We carry an extensive range of fittings that go between BSP and Flare. We can go from male to female, female to male, male to male and female to female. We can step up and step down in size too. Using these fittings, we attached the high pressure switch and high pressure transducer. The wires for the liquid and discharge temperature sensors were extended. This was so they could reach the location of the pockets that were built into the new condenser. Then, we used a special heat transfer paste to get a good transmission of heat in between the sensors and the pockets.

F-gas Pressure Test

We then carried out a strength test and a pressure test in accordance with F-gas guidelines. This was witnessed at the beginning and at the end by the customer. A satisfactory outcome was achieved, so on to the next phase of the job…

Dehydration of Chiller Condensers

We needed to dehydrate the system and remove the nitrogen that was used in the pressure test. This is because nitrogen is a non condensable which will affect system performance. Our powerful vacuum pump was set up, then we left it running overnight. A 1.5 Torr vacuum was achieved, which was the same pressure as when the Torr gauge was fitted directly on to the vacuum pump.

Open the Valves and Test

After removing the vacuum pump, the recovered refrigerant was pumped back in, then the discharge and liquid valves were opened back up. Then, our engineer had a good look round for leaks. I know it had just been pressure tested, but we think it’s always a good idea to check again. This done, the water system pumps were started and the water temperature showed at 23°C on the controller. The set point for the chilled water was 6°C so this warm water was helpful as it gave us plenty of load to carry out the testing. The chiller went through a timer and then started up. It loaded steadily up to 100% with no dramatics- splendid!

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Chiller fault finding & diagnosis tool case and car boot

Chiller Fault Finding & Diagnosis

Accurate chiller fault finding & diagnosis saves money! This is because when the wrong parts are ordered and your machine still does not work- it has been a wasted visit with unneeded parts.

News Article No.12

Expert Training for Chiller Fault Finding & Diagnosis

All of our engineers are time served, attending the Government approved college course. This includes the F-gas HFC and BESA ammonia refrigerant handling certificates. Our engineers also go through rigorous training at The Maximus School of Chillers at Head Office in Droylsden. Here we have various chiller types ranging from small air cooled chillers, to the panels for large water cooled, screw and centrifugal chillers. They have been wired up as test rigs to simulate the various fault conditions. The manager will simulate a fault and the engineer will then have to follow it through to a successful diagnosis. This off site training ensures that when our engineer attends site, he is armed with all the skills he needs to follow through the fault finding easily.

Technical Support Desk

Whilst on site, our engineer is connected to our live stream, real time Technical Support Desk on his laptop and smart phone. He can also face time the support desk on his device. We often find that it is a lot easier to show somebody something than describe it. This service is available to you the customer too- free of charge. It is just one of the many features that help us to achieve The MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere. PDF chiller manuals and wiring diagrams can be sent to our engineer’s phone and then printed off on your computer. This means that you have all the technical information you need, in the chiller panel for when our engineer is not in attendance. Just face time our support desk and we will talk you through. This helps to keep your service costs down as it will often save you the cost of a call out.

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Mobile Workshop for Chiller Fault Finding & Diagnosis

Each car boot is a mobile workshop with a blueprint of equipment repeated across each car in our fleet. We have recently opened The Spanish Office with one engineer down there now too. Our fleet of cars in the UK are Peugeot 508 and in Spain our engineer has a Seat Arona. In both countries the equipment is duplicated and standardised. This is so that Head Office knows what each engineer has at his disposal while on site, so he can find out what the problem is- fast!

Fuse Wire

It is the small things that we carry that help- fuse wire for example. This is so that a big box of spare fuses does not have to be carried.

Contactors

We carry 4 medium sized contactors which have 24vac, 24vdc, 110v and 230v coils. Each has NO (normally open) and NC (normally closed) contacts. This means that a blown relay, or a process chiller compressor single phasing- will be repaired while on site. Just another cost saving exercise for you the customer.

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Fluke Multi Meters

Our multi meters are calibrated annually for accuracy. They are equipped with fused leads to protect the engineer when working on high voltages. They have long, thin prongs too for access to the most difficult locations. Electrical plugs which are fixed onto relay boards are a good example. We test:

Resistance Temperature Detectors

RTDs are sensors that are often: NTC (negative temperature coefficient) where the resistance drops when warmed. PTC (positive temperature coefficient) where the resistance goes up when warmed. The sensor reacts to temperature in a predictable way, so a chart can be composed by the manufacturer. This chart shows the resistance reading, which should correspond to a given temperature. When a resistance reading on the multi meter is not where it should be on the chart- the sensor has failed. We carry crocodile clips for our multi meter prongs because sensor wires can be difficult to hold against our standard prongs.

DC Chiller Fault Finding & Diagnosis

We mostly fault find the direct current which is associated with the controls of a chiller. DC is also found in inverter drives before it is re inverted back into AC on the compressor. We usually fault find inverter drives on either end, however, when the volts are AC. PCB electronics usually run on 5vdc as computer components work well with this kind of voltage. That is not to say that there is not 24v and 230v present on a PCB, it may be part of other things that the PCB is doing. We have the function to read DC on our multi meters.

AC Chiller Fault Finding & Diagnosis

The most often used function on our multi meters is AC. This is because most components around a chiller panel are usually AC. The safety chain including the low pressure, high pressure and flow switches are usually fed by a 230v supply. The 415v line volts to fans, pumps compressors etc. are AC too. On large air cooled chillers, the panel is quite big to control all of the components and devices around the chiller. On large screw and centrifugal chillers, it is just a small panel with the compressor starter panel usually being separate.

Fridge System

Our calibrated gauges can be fitted to a HFC or ammonia chiller with a selection of fittings for each machine type. We carry digital thermometers with various probe types to access the different parts of the machine. Usually, however, the pressures and temperatures are available on the chiller controller. We use these pressures and temperatures, along with a comparator app to diagnose the condition of the fridge system. Superheat and subcooling values are worked out which are transmitted, real time, to our technical support desk. This means, along with the data plate of the chiller which is stored in our system, we can provide you with a Quote for the service job while the engineer is still on site.

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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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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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Carel controller showing R134a refrigerant readings during preventative chiller maintenance

Preventative Chiller Maintenance

We at Maximus Chillers will optimise the efficiency and take years off the life of your plant with preventative chiller maintenance.

News Article No.9

Control Panels

The first thing our engineers check at the start of the maintenance is the control panel of the chiller. In here he checks:

Programmable Logic Controller

Alarm History

The alarm history is analysed in sequential order to build up a picture of the last maintenance period.

Settings and Timers

The various levels of password accessed menus are checked and adjusted for efficiency and to eliminate any spurious trips on the running of the chiller.

Compressor Run Hours

We make a note of the compressor run hours on our detailed Tick Sheet. Bearings on centrifugal compressors and valve gear on reciprocating compressors are changed at pre prescribed intervals as defined by the manufacturer. This is to prevent an expensive failure and the resulting remanufacturing of the compressor.

Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Electrical Safety Devices

Fuses

Each one of these is popped from its holder and the continuity checked with a multimeter. This is maintenance the right way round, instead of run testing and following the fault back to the fuse.

Circuit Breakers

Each of the breakers is tested to ensure it will function correctly when it needs to.

Residual Current Device

RCDs work by detecting current leakage to earth. It monitors the difference between the live and neutral poles. As above these are tested on each visit.

Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Refrigerant Safety Switches

High Pressure Switches

The settings and dead band (the difference in pressure between cut out and cut in) are checked and adjusted on each visit. Sometimes due to malfunctioning controls or condenser condition, fans can be manually left off or can be forced on. Not the best running condition, but we will keep you up and running until we send out the new parts. Where this is a bespoke manufactured condenser, we have the best lead time available.

Low Pressure Switches

As above, the low pressure switches are checked and adjusted as need be. The seasonal and varying load conditions affect the saturation point of the refrigerant in the evaporator. This can cause untimely trip outs when the plant is otherwise running in optimum efficiency.

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Coefficient of Performance during Preventative Chiller Maintenance

The coefficient of performance is the cooling effect compared with the electrical energy supplied to the chiller. It is represented in a ratio, for example 6:1. That is six times more cooling effect compared with the electricity supplied. The higher the cooling effect relative to electricity supplied, the lower the cost in electricity. The ratio is often divided by 1 to show as just a number- in this example 6. The cooling effect is measured in kj/kg and the electrical supply is represented in kw/h.

Latent Heat 

A chiller system would have a COP of less than 1 if not for latent heat. Exploiting this hidden heat when both evaporating and condensing the refrigerant is one of the founding principles of the basic refrigeration cycle. It takes a lot of heat added to the system to get the refrigerant to boil, then the same amount of heat is rejected from the condenser in the liquification of the refrigerant.

System Efficiency

A lot of basic things routinely drag down the efficiency of a chiller system. Just with the effect of our engineer attending site to carry out the maintenance- he will keep the COP optimised. Here are some of the system checks and procedures he carries out:

Superheat

When a compressor never goes off due to refrigerant shortage, there is a dramatic increase in electricity consumption. Also, the system will not have very much cooling effect. Continuing like this will cost more money and achieve little.

Subcooling

Basic condenser maintenance will improve the subcooling values. These readings will be taken at various load and ambient conditions at different times of the year. This is so we can build up an understanding of the plant. We carry a wide range of chemicals for the maintenance of your condenser. These chemicals are carefully selected so that they do not damage the condenser causing leaks. Condenser fans also cause a poor COP:

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Preventative Chiller Maintenance and Condenser Fans 

Basic Design

With some basic chiller designs, the chiller condenser fans come on and off forwards and backwards at different pressures. This means that when other fans have failed, or are stuck going backwards- the one on the end comes on with the higher pressure then blows to earth. This is due to the ingress of water in the year it did not run.

Refrigerant Leaks

The above design means that there are fluctuating pressures in the condenser. This causes continuous expanding and contracting of the copper tubes. These copper tubes rub against the steel frame which is holding them in place- causing reoccurring leaks. Another reason for repeated leaks on the condenser is the vibration issue of the fans banging on and off. Add into this equation a cheap, flimsy frame that develops its own resonance- you then have an un ending problem.

Preventative Chiller Maintenance with Fan Speed Controllers 

Part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere is that we can source any fan speed controller from our fast supply chain. This remedies the problem, as fan speed controllers bring all the fans on together at different speeds. Therefore, extending the lifespan of the fan and maintaining an efficient coefficient of performance.

Axial Fans

Most air cooled chillers use axial fans. They suck the air through the condenser and reject it upwards and away from the chiller. Ducts are often fitted to help this process. Scaffolding is erected to provide safe access to engineers.

Radial Fans

Radial fans are also called centrifugal fans or blowers. They are very popular in server rooms where air is blown down into a mezzanine floor and up through the racks. They are also used outside in chillers where they blow out and away from the chiller. They are usually driven by belts which require regular inspection and maintenance.

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Preventative Chiller Maintenance and R134a Refrigerant

In the photo, the controller shows R134a refrigerant and the 8.3°C of superheat as calculated by the program. This superheat may look at first to be okay, but when considering the compressor loading and expansion valve- it points towards a system issue. Our engineers diagnose if the issue is related to a component or a refrigerant shortage.

Characteristics

HFC refrigerant which has a chemical name of Tetrafluoroethane or CF3CH2F. It has low toxicity which is good for the health and safety or our engineers. It is not combustible, but other chemicals are made as a result of a fire. It is non corrosive too, which extends the lifespan of the pipework and components around the system.

Centrifugal Drop In

This refrigerant is widely used as a replacement for HCFCs, such as, R22 used in centrifugal chillers. It is only one fluid, where as the other popular HFC refrigerants are blends. These blends fractionalize in a flooded condenser or evaporator. That is to say: one or two of the refrigerants in the blend separate out and do not continue their cycle around the system. The chiller now has the wrong refrigerant circulating around the system for the application temperature. Extreme running faults follow, such as, ice on the compressor, suction pipe and expansion pipe. This is as a result of the refrigerant pressures and temperatures being outside of nominal conditions.

Global Warming Potential

A global warming potential of 1430 is considered to be high. Therefore, the refrigerant is being phased down to 21% by 2030 in line with F-gas guidelines. These guidelines are in accordance with the European Union and the Kyoto Protocol. Because of the regulations for the handling of fluorinated gas, our engineers attend college to learn how to decant the refrigerant safely. We then ship it to the recycling centre for disposal. A waste carrier note being completed each time to track the refrigerant from dispatch to disposal. Finally, F-gas leak tests are carried out and recorded on each visit. Maximus Chillers completes the picture.

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A pile of completed chiller maintenance checklists on a table

Chiller Maintenance Checklist

Introducing a series of in depth news articles, this time featuring the chiller maintenance checklist:

News Article No.1

This article has been written with you- the customer in mind. Read below for practical advice on how to keep your chillers in the best condition.

Each day when you walk round, you can check to see if your plant is starting to malfunction. Become accustomed with the usual readings to help you diagnose the faults.

Here are the things to check for and how to remedy them:

Water System Pressure

Keep an eye on the pressure in the water system.

Small Chiller Maintenance Checklist

On a small chiller, there will be a water outlet pressure gauge. Make a mark on the gauge where the pressure is when the chiller is in good working order. You can use this mark to notice if the pressure is starting to drop off.

Strainer

The most common cause for low water system pressure is a blocked strainer. It is usually a ‘Y’ type with a bolted fitting. With the chiller off and the water system valves closed, unscrew it and check for debris. If it is blocked, make a note of how long it took to block, then add the cleaning of the strainer into the periodic maintenance schedule.

Pump

Ensure the pump rotation is correct by checking that the cooling fan is sucking into the pump. If it is going backwards: isolate electrically, then swap any 2 of the 3 phase wires. Brush down the inlet to the cooling fan to ensure good air flow and a cool pump motor.

Large Chiller Maintenance Checklist

On a large chiller, the water system pressures may be available in the controller- have a look through the menus. The pressure will be measured in bar. Another popular method on a large chiller is a flow meter. This may be a stand alone device on the chiller panel, or on a control panel nearby. It will read in m3/hr. Check to see if the pressure or flow is lower than usual. If so, ring one of our trained professionals.

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Water System Temperature

The chiller should be:

  • Matching the load and running continuously.
  • Loading and unloading in sequence with other chillers.
  • Going through a cycle and achieving set point.

In any case, you will become accustomed with the usual chilled water temperature according to varying load conditions. If the plant is struggling to achieve set point, or is running higher than usual- this is a sign of system faults.

Walk along the chillers that feed the same water system and make a log of the faults showing on the controllers.

Here are the things to check when you have high water system temperature:

Small Chiller Maintenance Checklist

Low Pressure

If the chiller has a low pressure gauge, look to see if the pressure is lower than usual. If so, this is a sign of refrigerant shortage in the plate evaporator. A scheduled visit from one of our trained engineers to carry out a pressure test can be arranged.

Breakers

Look for any breakers that have tripped in the panel. One reset can be carried out by a qualified onsite electrician. If the fault reoccurs- ring our support team. If the scroll compressor has tripped, check to see if the compressor is hot. If so, isolate and do not attempt a restart.

Condenser

A blocked condenser will inhibit the rejection of heat. Brush it down and give it a rinse with water. A common occurrence onsite with some condenser designs is a panel being left off with the chiller running! This happens when the onsite engineers are fault finding another issue with the chiller. The fans will suck through the opening as this is the easiest path. The gauge will be higher than usual as the condenser builds in pressure. A high pressure trip out will occur.

High Pressure Switch

To locate the switch- first identify the discharge pipe. It is the smaller of the 2 pipes on the compressor. The high pressure switch will either be bolted onto the pipe, or a thin pipe will lead from the discharge to the frame of the chiller. In any case, you are looking for a small box with a button and a wire leading to the panel. Press the button and you should hear it click. If this fault reoccurs- ring our technical support desk.

Large Chiller Maintenance Checklist

Suction

Should there be a refrigerant shortage, the controller will display a pre alarm like 'suction limiting' This is the controller preventing the compressor from loading up, so as to prevent a low pressure trip out. As above, one of our team of engineers can be sent to site to resolve the issue.

Discharge

If the controller is showing 'discharge limiting' this is a sign of a condenser issue. A full strip down and cleaning of the tubes may be required. Ring our technical support desk for further advice.

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Chiller Remote Monitoring

We at maximus chiller can install remote monitoring systems to your chillers so we can fault find and diagnose from a laptop. This means we can give you real time advice over the phone. Now you are accustomed with our chiller maintenance checklist, you can give feedback regarding the plant to assist our engineer.

Parts

For our contract maintenance customers: a range of commonly used parts are kept onsite to reduce downtime. We can give practical, step by step advice on the fitting of parts. We often carry out video calls with our customers, as chiller data plates, parts and components can be easier to show than describe.

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

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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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Engineer carrying out process chiller service with yellow and black cylinder

Process Chiller Service

Maximus Chillers has just carried out process chiller service to a flooded evaporator. The refrigerant seal on a four bolt, flanged coupling had been found to be leaking liquid refrigerant. There was no possibility to valve off that section of the machine, as the flooded evaporator is the storage vessel for all of the charge of the system in its liquid phase.

Refrigerant Recovery during Process Chiller Service

Our high capacity refrigerant recovery unit was set up next to the machine to carry out the task. 55 kg of refrigerant was recovered in a short time into our recovery cylinder. This refrigerant was collected for recycling after the job was completed.

Stainless Steel

Our unit is made from stainless steel because this metal works well with ammonia.

Condenser for Process Chiller Service

The condenser is made from tubing which is connected to ‘u’ bends on either end. These ‘u’ bends send the condensing refrigerant back along the next tube in the opposite direction. This process, back and forth allows time for the refrigerant to condense into a liquid. Fins are pressed around the tubing to increase the surface area and help to dissipate more heat from the refrigerant. A condenser fan is fitted to suck the air through the fins and so reject the heat.

Reciprocating Compressor

A four cylinder reciprocating compressor is fitted to the unit to provide the pressure difference to pump the refrigerant into the above mentioned condenser. It has an air cooled electric motor fitted which is open drive. This is because ammonia would corrode the windings of the motor if a semi hermetic compressor were to be used. Semi hermetic meaning that the windings, stator and rotor of the motor would be internal to the system. The motor is fitted in the vertical position with the four cylinders opposing each other on the central crank shaft.

Controls for Process Chiller Service

For safety reasons controls are fitted to the unit. These include:

HP Switch

If the recovery cylinder were to become over filled, the pressure would build up to a dangerous level. The TARE and the ullage need to be calculated prior to the job to prevent this from happening. The below mentioned liquid pipes have been designed with pressure issues in mind, but somewhere on the system would be the weakest point. This would burst causing a catastrophic refrigerant leak. The whole charge of the machine and all the refrigerant in the recovery cylinder would leak to atmosphere. The HP switch is set by the engineer on site to the correct level given the ambient conditions. This takes into account the temperature of the refrigerant and the safe operating pressure of the vessel.

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Refrigerant Liquid Pipe

Steel Braided

The refrigerant in its liquid phase is pumped into the above mentioned unit down a steel braided liquid pipe. The steel braiding is to provide additional protection from the pipe being damaged on the outside. Damage like being driven over by a forklift truck, or having sharp objects coming into contact with it. Also, the braiding helps to prevent bursts when pressure builds up on the inside. This can be due to a restriction, malfunction of system components or vessel overfilling.

PTFE

The inner part of the pipe is PTFE. Other types of plastics and compounds corrode due to the toxicity of ammonia. Polytetrafluoroethylene is the chemical name for this compound, it is a fluorocarbon solid and is considered to be non reactive.

Fittings

There are various metric and imperial thread types that can be used. This depends on the fitting size on the machine and the fitting size and type going onto the recovery unit. We carry a wide range of fitting types to step down and step up in size. We can go between male to female types and use male to male and female to female where necessary. We carry adaptors to go from metric to imperial thread types.

Remote Access during Process Chiller Service

We carry an extensive stock of liquid pipes that can be connected end to end to provide remote access. We will always try to get the recovery equipment as near as possible to the plant, but when this cannot be achieved, we can arrange access up cat ladders or the side of a building. We can use our lift and shift team to arrange the hauling of all the required equipment and ancillaries to any location. Just part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGEAny Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere. Contact our office for prices for the above mentioned pipes.

Process Chiller Leak Service

The flanged coupling was unbolted and the failed refrigerant seal was removed. The new seal was fitted from our full range of sizes that we keep on the shelf in our stores. Our engineer bolted the flanged coupling back up to the correct torque setting.

Pressure Leak Test

A nitrogen pressure leak test was carried out to ensure the integrity of the system with the result being a pass.

Dehydration Process

As the system was open to atmosphere, air had got into the system which carries moisture content. The moisture and non condensables were removed down to a near perfect vacuum using one of our high capacity vacuum pumps.

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Charging of Refrigerant

The photo shows the charging of a cylinder of refrigerant into the system in its liquid phase. The cylinder has a dip tube fitted for ease of handling. Once the pressure in the system and the cylinder equalized, remaining refrigerant was drawn into the system during the operation of the plant.

Run Testing

The sight glasses and level glasses were found to be at the optimum level under the normal running conditions of the plant. As it is a flooded system, there was found to be a low superheat value. A high subcooling value was achieved with the use of a subcooler. Our engineer monitored a full cycle of an hour and a half: compressor temperatures and oil level were found to be within normal operating limits.

Remote Service Monitoring of Process Chiller

The process chiller can be remotely monitored via a data uplink through the internet. Our office continued to monitor the plant for some days as it went into seamless operation.

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