Chiller Fault Finding & Diagnosis

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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6 green Bitzer scroll compressors being maintained in a chiller

Scroll Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Here at Maximus Chillers, we carry out scroll chiller compressor maintenance to extend the lifespan and reduce downtime to your critical plant. This planning ahead is central to how we do things- we resolve small problems before they become big problems. Having the capability to do anything is part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere.

How they Work

The refrigerant vapour passes in between two scrolls (spirals) One of these is fixed, the other orbits backwards and forwards against the fixed scroll using a swing link. This creates a series of crescent shaped gas pockets in between the scrolls. These gas pockets get smaller in size as the refrigerant travels from the suction at the edge, down the spirals to the discharge at the centre. It then leaves downwards through a port. There are check valves to prevent back feeding of refrigerant during off cycles when other compressors on the same system are still running.

Advantages

There are several gas pockets occurring at any one time through the scroll, therefore giving a smooth and continuous compression cycle. Other advantages are low internal friction resulting in a quiet operation and low vibration levels. These low vibration levels help to lower the occurrence of leaks around the compressor.

Oil Level during Scroll Chiller Compressor Maintenance

The correct oil level is noted on our detailed Tick Sheets for all of the compressors. This record helps with the diagnosis when things start to go wrong. We can look for a pattern where the level starts to drop off in the compressors on a particular system, then look at the other readings which may be the cause.

Oil Samples during Scroll Chiller Compressor Maintenance

At periodic intervals, we take oil samples which we analyse in our laboratory at Head Office in Droylsden. We look for white metal, coloured metal, refrigerant composition, acid and sludge. This means that we can notice, then resolve system issues before a costly compressor failure occurs.

Oil Changes during Scroll Chiller Compressor Maintenance

This kind of compressor is fitted with a service port for the draining and filling of oil. The correct procedure is followed due to system pressure being present inside. We then carry out the oil changes using our specialist oil handling tools. Our skilled engineers carry the correct PPE for the work being carried out. We also we provide Risk Assessment Method Statements for each job.

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Crank Case Heaters

In the photo you can see the silver band of the crank case heaters at the bottom of the compressors. They keep the oil at the required temperature so as to not cause compressor wear on start up. The heaters also have the effect of ensuring that the refrigerant cannot condense into liquid during cold weather. As a compressor cannot compress a liquid, compressor failure would occur. A normally closed contact on the delta compressor starter contactor usually runs the heater: it drops out when the compressor starts. The function of all of these heaters is checked on each maintenance visit.

Discharge Temperature

It is critical that the discharge temperature is not too high, as this is the cause of the refrigerant breaking down into acid and sludge as previously mentioned. The acid rots the insulation on the copper windings inside the compressor. When this has occurred, an electrical failure will result in the compressor, causing the fuses to blow and a fault condition on the chiller. Compressor swap out is the cure which is expensive and inconvenient. We take the discharge temperature readings during the maintenance so as to fault find the cause.

Suction Pressure

Adequate suction pressure is needed to ensure good oil return to the compressor and prevent low pressure trips. As the refrigerant entrains the oil around the system, a good mass flow rate is needed, or the oil will just ‘pool’ in the bottom of the evaporator. Poor oil return will result in a seized compressor. Therefore, particular attention is taken to the low pressure gauge by our engineers. System adjustments or recommendations are made to ensure the seamless operation of your plant. If system overhaul is required, a Quote will be submitted at the end of the visit.

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Compressor Holding Down Bolts

There are usually four of these on each compressor. They fit though a steel sleeve which, in turn, fits through a rubber mount. The whole assembly is bolted into the frame of the chiller. The function is to securely hold the compressor in place and to dissipate vibration. We check the tightness is correct with our torque wrenches and change the rubbers periodically. A compressor rattling around uncontrollably, especially during start up and stopping causes catastrophic leaks around the compressor. This usually leads to the whole, or the most part of the refrigerant charge being lost to atmosphere.

Motor Protection Module

A resistance sensor embedded in the compressor windings plugs into this module on the S1 and S2 terminals. The fault feedback to the controls is on the M1 and M2 terminals. The power supply to the module is on the L and N terminals. When the windings start to get hot, the module detects this after a pre determined level of resistance is reached. The M2 terminal opens and volts drop out to the relay board, then a lower volt control signal drops out to the controller. We check the sensor resistance and compare it to a chart to ensure it is within the allowable range on each visit.

Wire Tightening during Scroll Chiller Compressor Maintenance

We waggle the motor connectors and check for any cracking to the wires which may lead to an earth sort out. We tighten the wiring on the compressor starter contactors and check the condition of the contactor contacts. These become ‘splattered’ causing an uneven amount of amps to the compressor. This volt drop causes the contactors to fail and will eventually cause compressor motor failure. We change the contactor contacts from our range of parts at Head Office.

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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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Blue recovery unit with a grey recovery cylinder during a chiller breakdown

Chiller Breakdown

A rainy day for a chiller breakdown for our engineer in the North West.

News Article No.8

Electrical Faults during Chiller Breakdown

Our customer called us out because he was having electrical faults with the chiller. The power supply to part of the panel had gone down and he required our assistance. Our engineer found a blown fuse which he replaced and tested operation- it blew again. Using his multimeter, he followed the diagnosis though to an earth fault on the flow switch…

Water System Flow Switches

The flow switch vapour seal had failed allowing rain water to ingress. This caused an earth failure on the 240v control circuit, and so blowing the fuse. The customer raised an order forthwith and so our engineer replaced the flow switch with the stock from his car. Each of our engineers keeps a range of flow switches for a variety of applications…

Stainless Steel

Where water system chemicals are corrosive, we carry corrosion resistant flow switches. This type has a longer working life due to the use of stainless steel. They are more expensive due to the higher manufacturing costs, but they are worth the money as they are less likely to fail, causing a potential loss of production.

Outside Use

This was the type fitted by our engineer on site in this news article. It has been developed and tested across a range of adverse weather conditions including freezing conditions and heavy rain. The electrical and switching compartment is protected by a sealing gland to keep the weather out. A rubber ‘o’ ring provides the seal into this compartment.

Inside Use

Some applications have the flow switch located inside the building in the plant room with the control cable extending out to the chiller controls. Another configuration allows for the flow switch to trip out the building controls and so dropping out the run signal to the chiller. In either case there is no need for weather proofing. This kind of flow switch is cheaper due to the lower construction costs.

High Pressure

Some water systems operate at considerable pressure. Therefore, high pressure flow switches have been developed for this application. They are capable of preventing water ingressing from the water system and into the electrical and switching compartment.

Test and Adjustment

Our engineer carried out testing and adjustments to the flow switch to ensure that it ran reliably. He achieved this by monitoring the water system readings and measurements against the design specifications of the switch. When he got it to settle down, he replaced the fuse and ran tested the chiller...

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Condenser Fans

The condenser fans were not coming on at all at first and later only slowly. They are controlled by a fan speed controller which is sensitive to pressure. A minimum value of volts is supplied to the fans, so as to prevent stalling and over heating of the internal motor windings. The fans were found to be in good working order, so he decided to turn his attention to…

Pressure Temperature Relationship of Refrigerant

There was found to be a lower pressure and so a lower temperature in the condenser. After careful fault finding and diagnosis involving putting the pressures and temperatures into a calculator, our engineer decided that the chiller was running short of refrigerant. This is consistent with Charles’s Law of Constant Volume. It is one of the fundamental scientific principals of how a chiller works: the higher the pressure- the higher the temperature/ the lower the pressure- the lower the temperature.

Recovery Units for Refrigerant

After receiving a further order from our customer, we gave the go ahead to our engineer to use his recovery unit to decant the gas. The refrigerant is sucked into the unit using a small one cylinder reciprocating compressor. The compressor discharges into the on board condenser which is cooled by a fan. The subcooled refrigerant travels down a refrigerant hose which is connected to the recovery cylinder in the picture. After this process was complete, he started looking for a leak...

Leak Testing and Pressure Testing

The leak was identified on the flange for the expansion valve. This component was removed, cleaned with our in house refrigerant grade solvent, then the joint re made with a compound suitable for the temperature range of the component. After a satisfactory nitrogen pressure test, the evacuation process can begin…

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Refrigerant System Vac Pumps

Each of our engineers carry a high capacity vacuum pump of the highest quality. We believe in investing in state of the art equipment as this is part of how we provide the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere. Good equipment makes the job go easy.

Vane Pump

The pump works by sucking vapour into the inlet port. A rotary vane system extracts the vapour and discharges it through the top of the pump module. Oil is used to lubricate the vanes that slide around the pump cylinder. The vanes are kept a tight fit against the cylinder with the use of springs. As our pumps are high capacity, an oil filter is fitted to the outlet with a gauze inside to catch any oil droplets.

Electric Motor

This motor fits onto the back of the vane pump module. It comes from the factory set to 240v, but we change the pins for the electrical connections to convert it for use with 110v. This is because customers and engineers demand the use of 110v as if is safer for use in the UK climate. The 110v plugs and extension cable are shrouded and weather resistant. Weather resistant does not mean weatherproof, so we take measures to limit the exposure to adverse weather conditions. The pump motor, however, is not weather resistant at all, so care is taken to locate it somewhere dry. After a long time running, the motor runs hot, so our engineers take readings and carry out adjustments to ensure that it stays within its nominal operating temperature range.

Oil Changes during Chiller Breakdown

The vac pump oil is changed before each use with our specialist grade, high quality oil. Contact our office for prices and delivery times. The manufacturer of the pump recommends these oil changes as moisture and impurities absorb into the oil and so reduce its performance, also the working like of the pump.

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Refrigerant System Evacuation

Having set up the vacuum pump, our engineer started the evacuation process.

Torr Gauges used During Chiller Breakdown

We use analogue Torr gauges as they are more reliable than digital ones. Also, they do not need batteries and it does not matter if they get wet. Our engineer attached the Torr gauge to a suitable part of the system with a refrigerant hose, ensuring that a good seal was made between the components with a sealing compound.

Fittings used during Chiller Breakdown

Fittings were used to get between the different thread types from the vac pump to the fridge system. Having warmed up the pump for half an hour he was ready to start the process.

Non Condensables Removed during Chiller Breakdown

One purpose of evacuation is to remove the gasses that will not condense such as nitrogen remaining in the system from pressure testing. Another non condensable is air that has entered the system from when the expansion valve was removed. These non condensables affect how a fridge system works according to Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures: that all gasses in a vessel act as if they are on their own. The non condensables cause a higher head pressure in the condenser. When this pressure is added into our calculation- it throws out the sum and so gives a false reading of subcooling.

Dehydration during Chiller Breakdown

The other purpose of evacuation is to dehydrate the system. Water, as we know, has a boiling point of 100°C at sea level, which is 1bar absolute or 760 Torr. As you start to drop the pressure, so correspondingly, the boiling point also drops. For example, water boils at the top of Mount Everest at around 68°C. If we continue vacuuming a refrigerant system, eventually we can remove all moisture by dropping the pressure below the saturation point of water. This works even in the winter in UK ambient conditions. Moisture in the system causes system failures and malfunctions leading to expensive breakdowns.

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Chilling plant maintenance of grey machines with red warning signs

Chilling Plant Maintenance

We at Maximus Chillers carry out chilling plant maintenance in factories and facilities around the UK and overseas.

HFC Refrigerants

HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) chiller refrigerants were developed to be chlorine free. For a while they were seen to be the great new thing until the GWP (global warming potential) of the refrigerants became more of a concern. The release of these refrigerants from leaking systems dramatically increases the green house effect and so trapping more heat in the atmosphere. For this reason, F-gas regulations are phasing them down to 21% by 2030. Because of the 650kg charge in the chillers in the photo, we carry out leak testing at one month intervals. Where a leak is identified with this refrigerant, the system can be pumped out using the push/ pull method. There are no refrigerant system shut off valves available to allow the systems to be pumped down.

Chilling Plant Maintenance using Leak Detectors

We employ HFC refrigerant leak detectors to identify any leaks around the system. On systems of this size, there may be more than one leak, with a large leak alerting the attention of the engineer and the smaller leaks found subsequently. Our leak detectors are sent off periodically to be calibrated with the internal replaceable components upgraded as necessary.

Static Leak Detectors

Static leak detectors are available for each machine to catch any leaks as soon as they happen- before the one month intervals. This reduces the amount of refrigerant leaking to atmosphere and so adding to global warming. These leak detectors are bump tested on each visit to ensure reliability with replacements available on site, should one of them fail.

Chilling Plant Maintenance for One World

The above measures are essential with this kind of refrigerant in the interests of the environment. Basic checks now, protect the future of the planet. We only have one world, so we need to look after it as best we can. You can rest assured that you are in safe hands with how we handle this range of refrigerants.

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Shell and Tube Condensers

During the maintenance, we assess the subcooling values under part and full load to diagnose the efficiency of the shell and tube condensers. This kind of condenser is very popular with larger chillers in the UK. They are not sensitive to different weather conditions as the heat rejected into the condenser water system is pumped into the cooling towers outside of the plant room.

Chilling Plant Maintenance of Copper Pipework

The nest of pipes inside the shell are constructed using copper. This is because of the excellent heat transferring properties of this metal. On other sites where the refrigerant is ammonia for example, stainless steel is used as ammonia corrodes copper and most other metals or alloys. Thorough maintenance of the pipework is carried out on each visit.

Water System Maintenance

The water loop is inspected at various test points around the system with our range of test equipment. Where there are readings that are starting to go beyond nominal conditions, we carry out adjustment to bring them back into line. If the water system is behaving abnormally, this will in turn affect the efficiency of the condenser. In extreme circumstances, a system failure can occur causing a potential loss of production. Effective maintenance from Maximus Chillers has evolved over time to prevent this from happening in the first place. Each time we encounter a new issue, a thorough investigative process is carried out, the solution is arrived at and this is added into the routine.

Air Bleed Ports during Chilling Plant Maintenance

Air can be pulled into the condenser from the cooling towers outside. This can sit on top of the water in the condenser and so prevent the heat exchange of latent heat from the refrigerant and into the water. An air lock in the condenser amounts to that portion of the heat exchanger from not being in use. This dramatically affects the efficiency of the plant. We carry out checks to each condenser and bleed any air on each visit to ensure the best running conditions of the plant.

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Standing Pressure

One of the ways to assess the condition of the refrigerant is the standing pressure. Only during factory shut down are all the chillers off for long enough for the system pressures to stabilize and so have a consistent standing pressure around the system. The pressure readings can be taken and added into our software to determine the composition and purity of the refrigerant and the presence of non condensables. Where the refrigerant is found to be in poor condition, maintenance can be arranged to rectify the issue.

Coefficient of Performance

The coefficient of performance is the cooling effect compared to the amount of electricity used. In an inefficient system, a small amount of cooling is achieved relative to a large amount of electricity used. In this age of environmental concerns, we carry out extensive measures and adjustments to improve the COP. Not only is an efficient plant cheaper to run, it is better for the environment too.

Control Panels

The control panels for the chillers in the photo are defunct. That is to say- the component parts are no longer manufactured. I am sure there is the odd circuit board rolling around on a shelf somewhere, but we fit state of the art controls. Our supplier builds bespoke panels exactly suited to each particular machine. They are plug and play with associated sensors, transducers and vane loading actuators supplied. The panel is fixed next to the chiller, wired in and ready to go. All settings come as default, so just the odd one needs to be modified. The panel can be easily integrated into the existing remote start stop and variable speed drives.

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Glycol Chiller Maintenance

Preventative Chiller Maintenance

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For further reading on Hydrofluorocarbon Refrigerants | Click Here


Maximus Chillers sign outside our chiller maintenance company office

Chiller Maintenance Company

Diagnosis of Chillers

One of the most important parts of a chiller maintenance company is the diagnosis. If this is done wrong, the wrong parts are ordered and the return job goes wrong.

News Article No.7

For us at Maximus Chillers, it is imperative that we get the diagnosis right, so the return job goes easy. On a maintenance visit, a detailed Tick Sheet is completed with all the necessary readings and adjustments.

Chiller Maintenance Company Case Study

One of our engineers was on a maintenance visit recently and he found an electrical fault with a relay. An intermittent fault- so the most annoying to diagnose. The relay interlocks the compressor A1 run signal on the start contactor. The fault causing the relay to drop out was the high pressure condition. The high pressure switch was found to be in good working order with continuity back to the relay, so the relay was deemed to be not switching intermittently. The relay was changed with the available stock on site and the machine went back into seamless operation.

State of the Art Equipment

At Maximus Chillers we know that incorrect test equipment can lead to incorrect diagnosis. That’s why we have the highest quality equipment which is regularly inspected, replaced or calibrated. With a Fluke multimeter with fused leads- we diagnose the most complicated of problems. Sometimes a wiring diagram is not available, or the machine has been modified. Even wires disappearing into a conduit and ending up on the other end of the chiller can be traced and effectively diagnosed. You can rest assured that with the ongoing maintenance by Maximus Chillers- we will extend the useful life of any chiller.

Chiller Maintenance Company Technical Support Desk

For over the phone diagnosis, our contract customers enjoy the full benefit of our technical support desk. Faults are often something and nothing, or are just to do with how the machine was restarted. If we can get a chiller away over the phone, that saves us time and that saves you: the customer money too. Just part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere.

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Expansion Valves

We at Maximus Chillers have a comprehensive range of expansion valves, on the shelf, in our stores at Head Office in Droylsden, Manchester. There are three commonly used types of expansion valve used on a chiller:

Pulse Expansion Valve

This is a simple design of a solenoid coil lifting a solenoid valve and opening the diaphragm in the expansion valve. This allows the refrigerant to pass from the high side of the system into the low side. A sensor either side of the evaporator feeds back to the controls. The controls work out the length of time the valve stays open and the length of time the valve stays closed. Quite a simple idea and quite reliable from our experience too. The replacement of parts are a straight swap.

Electronic Expansion Valve

Another type of valve we stock is the electronic expansion valve. Similar to the above, this valve uses a sensor either side of the evaporator to work out the superheat. Another method of working out the superheat is a sensor and a transducer. Either way amounts to the same thing: the controls work out the difference in temperature and saturation point. The mechanical part of the valve is a step motor which winds all the way shut when the chiller starts. This is so that the controls can register step 0. As the valve opens, the controls record the amount of steps. It therefore knows the position of the valve to regulate a close control of superheat.

Thermostatic Expansion Valve

A thermostatic expansion valve is a completely mechanical and stand alone part. The pressure in the bulb increases with temperature and so forces the valve open. We have the full range of orifices for the commonly used varieties of valve on the shelf. Each orifice is used for a different application, ranging from low temperature -40°C saturation, through medium temperature 0°C saturation, to high temperature 20°C saturation. High temperature applications include laser chillers- the secondary refrigerant cools the oscillator and the laser head.

HFC Refrigerant

HFC refrigerant is being phased down to 21% by 2030. This is in accordance with F-gas guidelines and the emission reduction measures as defined in the Kyoto Protocol. This refrigerant, however, still remains to be the most popular type amongst chillers, with new chillers coming off the production line charged with, most commonly, R407c and sometimes R410a. R134a is also a popular chiller refrigerant most commonly used in flooded centrifugal chillers. The more the phasedown starts to pinch, the more the incentive to use a lower GWP (global warming potential) drop in refrigerant. This extends the useful life of the chiller, therefore removing the need to build a new chiller, with the associated high amount of carbon emissions.

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Evaporators

Eddy current Inspections by Chiller Maintenance Company

At periodic intervals according to the maintenance schedule, the end plates are taken off the evaporators and the tubes are inspected. We have calibrated eddy current instrumentation to assess the integrity of the evaporator tubing. This equipment uses electromagnetic coils to produce eddy currents, the electrical impedance is then measured. It picks up any cracks, pitting or corrosion. The conclusions are mapped onto a chart showing the tubes which are likely to fail. These tubes can be taken out of operation to prevent catastrophic system failure in the future. The system can then be pressure tested in accordance with F-gas leak testing requirements to prove the integrity of the system. Just part of the joined up, forward thinking of Maximus Chillers.

Chiller Maintenance Company Lagging

On our maintenance visits, one of a long list of checks is to check the insulation and vapour seal. If the lagging is not in place correctly, moisture from the air forms as condensation on the steel shell. This is not visible, so the condition of the steel can deteriorate dramatically over time. Where the lagging is in good condition, industry guidance states that it should not be removed to inspect. Where the lagging is in poor condition, however, it should be stripped back to the location of a good seal to inspect the integrity of the shell. For low temperature glycol or brine applications, rapid deterioration occurs as the shell is defrosting and re freezing between production cycles or defrost cycles. We heat treat the steel to remove all the moisture, then grind off any rust, before adding a two kinds of specialist paint available for sale at Maximus Chillers. We then match into the old lagging for a good join with our off the shelf varieties of lagging. The lower the temperature of the application, the greater the thickness of the lagging supplied.

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400 kw white chillers with panels open during air cooled chiller maintenance

Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

A nice day to carry out air cooled chiller maintenance at a new site we have taken over in the South East.

News Article No.6

Our engineer attended site at around 9am with the risk assessment method statement having been sent in advance. A site survey was carried out to see if there were any additional risks. Should there have been any changes- the RAMS have a section for the additional risks and control measures. After gaining a permit to work, our engineer was issued with a security pass to access the chiller compound. Three chillers are located in the compound which feed air handlers for a critical application. Two of the chillers are multiple system, scroll compressor, air cooled chillers. The other is a single system screw chiller.

Program Settings During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

A complete download of the program settings is available in our engineer’s phone. This is to cross reference the settings, should one of them be accidentally changed by the maintenance engineers. On site engineers are the first port of call for chiller trip outs, with the responsibility to get the plant up and running. We offer real time assistance, over the phone from our Technical Support Desk and can send user manuals in PDF form, direct to their computer. The settings were found to be nominal, so a detailed analysis of the alarm history was carried out:

Alarm History During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

In reverse date order, the alarm history of all the systems was interrogated. There had been several system shut downs to carry out the periodic maintenance by the onsite personnel. The electricity having been shut down, there was a subsequent oil pre heating timer in the history too. On Chiller 2, System 1 however, there had been several low pressure trip outs. Our engineer decided to start the maintenance with this system by carrying out a full diagnosis of the low side of the refrigerant system:

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Superheat During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

The system runs on R410a refrigerant. This refrigerant has higher operating pressures in comparison with other HFC refrigerants. It has an efficient temperature range which can be seen on a pressure enthalpy chart. Below or above this range- the refrigerant loses efficiency and so has a lower coefficient of performance. The most common saturation point for this refrigerant is 0°C which corresponds to a 7 bar suction pressure in the evaporator. Above this is the superheat of the refrigerant returning to the compressor. On this occasion there was found to be 26°C of superheat and a suction pressure of 4 bar- close to the low pressure trip out. After careful diagnosis, our engineer decided to focus his attention on the expansion valve:

Thermostatic Expansion Valve

There are 4 forces acting on a TEV:

Liquid line pressure coming from the condenser.
Versus
Suction pressure down the equalising line from the far side of the evaporator. This compensates for the pressure drop across the evaporator and shows the true compressor side pressure.

Spring pressure acting upwards and closing the valve.
Versus
Bulb pressure forcing the valve open.

To reduce the superheat, the bulb should have forced the valve open. The refrigerant charge in the bulb acts upon the bellows to achieve this. The reason for the malfunction, on this occasion, was found to be the failure of the expansion valve orifice. It had become jammed- causing a shortage of refrigerant in the evaporator and high superheat.

Latent Heat

Our engineer was carrying out the above fault finding with one compressor running and the other two being held off. This was to prevent a low pressure trip. Where chillers are left running with a high superheat condition, the reduced amount of latent heat causes a higher cost in electricity relative to refrigeration effect (COP) The refrigerant carries on superheating without absorbing latent heat- pointless and inefficient for a chiller.

Chiller Pump Down

For convenience, this chiller can be pumped down and valved off using the service valves. The evaporator can be worked on after breaking in procedures are carried out. Therefore, we have arranged for this to be carried out before fitting the new expansion valve parts. These chillers also have the ability to pump down the refrigerant on receiving a fault feedback from the electronic leak detector. This is an added measure to lower the environmental impact of refrigerant leaks.

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Subcooling During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

This is cooling the refrigerant vapour down, through the latent heat phase and then subcooling the liquid down further. On System 2 of the same chiller, a subcooling issue was identified. 21 bar/ 36°C saturation was normal for that system as defined by the fan speed controller. Now, the system pressure was higher at 28 bar/ 47°C saturation, so our engineer decided to work out the subcooling. A very high reading of subcooling was recorded at 28°C this was diagnosed to be due to non condensables in the refrigerant:

System Non Condensables

Non condensables are gases that will not condense, such as, air and nitrogen. If nitrogen is not vented properly and a deep vacuum then achieved, the gasses will remain in the refrigerant system. When calculating the subcooling, the readings work out incorrectly due the presence of the gasses. This can lead to false diagnosis. The remedy for the issue was to arrange a full refrigerant decant, pressure testing and dehydration, before charging with new refrigerant.

Efficiency

Having good subcooling values on a refrigerant system is critical to efficiency. Where there is no subcooling- the refrigerant has not fully rejected all the latent heat from the condenser. This can be seen when looking at a PH chart and plotting the pressures and temperatures. This heat remains in the refrigerant and adds to the system along with heat added from the compressor and heat from the process. This is another reason the coefficient of performance is reduced and so incurring increasing electricity costs for the plant.

Economizer

These chillers are also fitted with refrigerant economizers- one for each system. They work by diverting some of the refrigerant from the condenser, through a small expansion valve, then through a plate heat exchanger. The rest of the liquid refrigerant passes on the other side of the plate heat exchanger and so is further subcooled.

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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 white chiller being inspected to compose a chiller maintenance schedule

Chiller Maintenance Schedule

The chiller maintenance schedule in essence is as follows:

  • What is the plant? According to the asset list for that particular contract.
  • What are we going to do with it? The checks, procedures and diagnosis in the pursuit of the maintenance of the chillers.
  • How often? The periodic maintenance schedule defining the required interval between visits to ensure seamless operation of the plant.

News Article No.5

Chiller N+1

N+1 is intrinsic in the development of a chiller maintenance schedule. N+1 means the amount of cooling required + the same amount again in parallel. It can also be represented as 2N. Two water system pumps are a good example: where the pipework splits in two- one pipe for each pump. When a pump fails, the redundant pump comes online. Chillers are arranged in parallel, in this way, on the water system. This redundancy allows for a stress free maintenance of the plant. The failed system can be rectified and brought back online while the redundant system takes the load.

Intervals of Chiller Maintenance Schedule

The intervals in the contract are influenced by the redundancy of the chillers on site. The less run hours the compressor does, the less maintenance is required. We at Maximus Chillers can tailor make a maintenance schedule exactly to your needs by looking at how much the chillers are used and how hard they work.

Load affecting Chiller Maintenance Schedule

For some applications, the chiller operates under a high load condition all the time, with a redundant system in standby. On other applications, the chiller works in minimal load conditions. Regardless of the load conditions, the chiller is critical to the cooling of buildings or for an industrial process.

Lead/ Lag of Chiller Maintenance Schedule 

An important thing to remember is to balance compressor run hours and bearing wear by rotating the lead/ lag duty of the chillers. This can usually be done in the in the sequencer (if fitted) by changing a program setting. Otherwise, the switchover controls can be changed on the off/hand/run toggle switches. Where manual changeover is required, the onsite engineers are usually conversant with the procedure concerning the water system pumps, valves and controls. During the maintenance, the stop checks can be carried out on the redundant system, while the run checks are carried out on the system which is online.

Chiller Maintenance Schedule for Recip Compressors

Recip compressors require a log of the compressor run hours. This is because the valves and bearings should be changed at pre prescribed intervals as laid down by the schedule. Particularly important to reciprocating compressors are regular oil changes and oil sampling- a small change in the result of an oil sample can prevent a serious compressor smash up. A check list including the model number and serial number is completed on each visit and kept in a file on site. This file can be consulted during diagnosis and maintenance to decide on the beast way forward with an on going issue.

Chiller Maintenance Schedule for Air Cooled Condensers

Air cooled condensers can often be looked after by the onsite engineers in between maintenance visits. Just a quick brush down every few months is usually all it takes. Where the environment lends to a type of contaminant being collected on the condenser coils, an effective chemical is selected from our stores and used on the coil. Where there is an issue with the serviceability of the condenser, we can put together a plan to keep on top of it. We can even retrofit a new condenser- it’s what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

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Shell and Tube Evaporators

The shell is made from a heavy steel sheet rolled into a circle. The seam is welded together to form a cylinder. The tubes are pushed though the tube holders which are made from steel and are welded into the shell of the evaporator. The tubes are copper because of its good thermodynamic properties.

Direct Expansion Evaporators

Direct expansion is achieved in an evaporator with a thermostatic, or electronic expansion valve. The refrigerant enters the valve from the condenser as a high pressure, hot liquid. The pressure drop on the evaporator side of the valve makes the refrigerant flash off into a cold, saturation point liquid and vapour mix. The liquid boils off, absorbing latent heat through the inside of the copper tubes. On the outside of the copper tubes is the return water from the process, or the cooling of buildings.

The parts of the maintenance schedule that relate to DX evaporators are:

Oil Pooling

The inside of the tubes are in the clean environment of the fridge system. This means they do not become fouled. A tube insulating issue, however, can be caused on the inside by oil. If there are issues with the oil return system, the oil can pool in the evaporator. A low refrigerant charge can have the same effect. Written into the maintenance schedule are manual oil return and oil draining visits. During these visits, the monitoring of the refrigerant charge is also carried out.

Sensor Location

If a sensor is not located in its pocket correctly, or without sufficient heat transfer paste- it will read incorrectly back to the electronic expansion valve driver. This will cause the expansion valve to malfunction.

Pressurisation Units

A full maintenance of the pressurisation unit is carried out. This includes the pumps, controls and program adjustments as required. Incorrect pressure in the water system will cause a knock on effect of faults on the chillers.

Pump Sets

As above with chiller lead/ lag change over, water system pumps are manually changed over from lead to lag in the building controls. Carrying out this procedure reduces the chance of pump failure between visits. This is because it balances the pump run hours and so prevents bearing seizure after a long period not running.

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Flooded Evaporators

Flooded evaporators are the reverse of the above DX evaporators. The refrigerant is on the outside of the tubes, with water on the inside of the tubes. Gravity and refrigerant charge determine the refrigerant level in the condenser and evaporator. In between the two is located the liquid pipe with the orifice located in the pipe for the expansion of the refrigerant. The cooling water flows through the condenser tubes and off to the cooling towers. On the low side, the chilled water flows through the evaporator tubes and off to the process, or the cooling of facilities.

The parts of the maintenance schedule that relate to flooded evaporators are:

Tube Fouling

Because the condenser cooling water and chilled water systems are pumped through the pipes, the tubes become dirty over time. This occurs more often on the condenser as the water towers are open to atmosphere. Contaminants from surrounding buildings and factories gets into the water system and thermally insulates the tubes. This thermal insulation reduces the heat exchange through the copper tubes. The knock on effect is higher head pressures and eventually high pressure trip outs.

Specialist Cleaning Equipment

We at Maximus Chillers have in our stores the required equipment to carry out the cleaning of the tubes. Our engineers can attend site and liaise with the onsite engineers as regards the draining, strip down and lift out of the heat exchanger end plates.

Flushing Agents

A water sample is taken from the cooling and chilled water systems. These samples are sent off to our laboratory for analysis. Bacteria can build up in the water system causing slime- this can be rectified with a careful selection of chemical agents. Also, silt can build up- various chemicals are added to positively charge the silt and so carry it around the system to the strainer. Where the issue is caused by rust- an inhibitor can be added to prevent, or slow the oxidization of the steel.

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F-gas Testing of Leaks

The frequency of F-gas leak testing is determined by the size of the plant. This will be detailed in your F-gas file which is kept on site. Another record of this is kept by the chiller company at their registered office. The copies of the periodic leak testing sheets are kept by both parties. These detail the result of the test, refrigerant added to the system, refrigerant removed from the system and the required follow up actions. Some methods of leak detection are:

Visual Inspection

On each visit our engineers remove the coverings of the ends of the condensers and panels. This is to inspect the whole machine for a sign of a leak. Any potential leak is marked for future identification of where it is. A visual inspection will always be backed up with a further diagnosis such as:

Superheat and Subcooling

These readings are taken during a maintenance visit to determine the refrigerant charge of the chillers. The engineer, however, has to bear in mind that the subcooling and superheat readings can read abnormally due other reasons.

Bubble up Leak Spray

Various makes are available from the suppliers. Each engineer having his own preference. We at Maximus Chillers stock leak sprays and a wide selection of other materials.

Electronic Leak Detectors

Fixed

This type of leak detector is installed in the chiller low down in the panel. This is because HFC refrigerant is heavier than air. The leaking refrigerant will tend to pool in the bottom of the various panels around the chiller.

Portable

Each of our engineers carries a portable sniff tester. It comes with an extended tip to get into the most tight and awkward places. The leak detector has a replaceable element inside the unit. It also comes with replaceable tips which can be swapped out periodically. They come with a portable plug socket and transformer to charge the on board batteries after use in the field.

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Chiller compressor failure of blue Grasso in enclosure

Chiller Compressors

System Testing for Chiller Compressors

Chiller compressors fail often as a result of ineffective servicing and system testing. 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 and then remedy the problem. Some of the compressor readings we monitor are:

Temperature of Chiller Compressors

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 cooler 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 for Chiller Compressors

Another way of preventing big problems from occurring 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

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°C refrigerant saturation and is used to cool computer rooms. Common causes of compressor failure on this kind of compressor are:

Leaking Castings on Chiller Compressors

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. 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 with 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. The controls operate the loading and unloading solenoid valves to change the position of the slide valve.

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Centrifugal

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 centrifugal 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

These are some issues affecting a scroll compressor:

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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PLC and relay board in a panel during chiller service company visit

Chiller Service Company

Electrical Testing

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

News Article No.3

Doing this often aids with the diagnosis even when there is a wiring diagram, as having 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.

F-gas Leak Testing by Chiller Service Company

We also 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. After fitting the probes, we first have a visual look around 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. Reports for each chiller are 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 any leaks.

Chiller Service Company Monitoring

Where intermittent faults are concerned, on site 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 feedback 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

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 visit. 

Flooded

On larger chillers, the screw or centrifugal compressor is mounted directly on top of the flooded evaporator. The refrigerant is in its liquid phase on the outside of the tubes. These are arranged in a rack 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.

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 failed 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 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. The pressure is monitored using a HP gauge.

Pressure Transducers

Johnson Controls

A popular kind of pressure transducer that is 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 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°C in the UK ambient for example, the R134a refrigerant saturation on the high side of the system would be around 36°C 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. We 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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Large air cooled brown chiller with test equipment during planned preventative chiller maintenance

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance

Featuring planned preventative chiller maintenance, which is part of a series of longer, in depth articles.

News Article No.2

This time concentrating on the checks, adjustments and diagnosis our engineer carries out while on site. We can extend the life of your plant and reduce energy costs- just with the effect of our maintenance. As well as completing a detailed checklist, which is sent to your office in PDF form, our engineer carries out extensive F-gas leak testing.

Planned Preventative Maintenance of Chiller Controls

The first part of the maintenance is carried out to the controls of the redundant systems. This is because all the pressures and temperatures should be reading the same. If not, this is an opportunity for:

Sensor Calibration

Before calibrating a sensor that is reading out, our engineer carries out a diagnosis to assess the serviceability of the sensor. With NTP (negative temperature coefficient) and PTC (positive temperature coefficient) sensors, the resistance is taken at a given temperature, which is then compared with a chart. With pressure transducers the 0-5vdc feedback signal is analysed to see if it is within the allowable tolerance. Once this diagnosis is complete and the sensor is deemed to be in good working order, our engineer will then calibrate the sensor. A password is entered into the PLC (programmable logic controller) to gain access to the service menu. From here, he can select the particular sensor, then offset it by the required amount. A lot of controls are not linear, that is to say, a sensor reading 2°C high being reduced by 2°C may not calibrate correctly. An amount of trial and error is often required. Also, monitoring the sensor against a digital thermometer at various temperatures is carried out.

Program Settings and Timers

Each program setting and timer in the various menu levels is checked against the previous maintenance checklist. Sometimes these are changed accidentally by the onsite engineer when looking for something else- it is easily done.

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Safety Chain

Each component on the safety chain is manually tripped or the fault condition is replicated to cause the device to trip. This part of the PPM (planned preventative maintenance) is essential to ensure the safety chain protects the chiller during a fault condition. Compressor failure or evaporator freeze up can occur with dramatic cost implications. We routinely prevent small problems, such as a faulty switch, becoming big problems.

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Wiring

Each wire on the chiller is checked for tightness including the fans (on air cooled chillers) This includes the compressor motor connectors and compressor contactor contacts. Loose line wiring will cause breaker and fuse faults. Loose control wiring will cause error messages and chiller faults. This is a call out in between visits that can be eliminated. With the effect of our maintenance, any chiller becomes more reliable and has lower energy costs.

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After the above stop checks are carried out, system run checks are carried out:

Superheat

Using R134a refrigerant as an example, the refrigerant pressure will be 1.9 bar at 0°C This refrigerant is in the HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) family- a commonly used refrigerant. If the refrigerant vapour returning to the compressor is excessively superheated- this is a sign of system issues. Here are some of the causes for a high superheat condition:

Refrigerant Shortage

Not enough latent heat being absorbed by the refrigerant in the evaporator. This allows the refrigerant to carry on superheating with the available heat load. Refrigerant leak testing is required to identify any leaks. The history of maintenance checklists can be consulted to see if the issue has been deteriorating over several visits.

Expansion Valve Failure

A thermostatic expansion valve operates with a higher superheat value, whereby an electronic expansion valve has a much closer control. In either case, our engineer will be accustomed to the nominal readings.

Thermostatic Expansion Valves

This type of valve is operated with a power element and orifice. A bulb is clamped onto the suction pipe which is connected to the power element via a capillary tube. The power element is pressurised with the same refrigerant as in the chiller. Some of this refrigerant is in its liquid phase, so with an increase in temperature, there is a corresponding increase in pressure. This pressure acts against the diaphragm and so pushes the orifice open. The orifice allows more refrigerant through the valve. When load conditions change and there is a reduction in heat load, the reverse happens- the orifice closes and reduces the amount of refrigerant through the valve. When the power element looses its charge- the orifice shuts down causing a high superheat condition. A low pressure trip out can also occur.

Electronic Expansion Valves

This type of valve uses sensors on the liquid and vapour sides of the evaporator, or a transducer and sensor vapour side of the evaporator. This is so the program can work out the superheat value. If the sensors are faulty, the valve will not operate correctly and a high superheat condition may occur. If the step motor or driver have failed- replacement parts are required.

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Subcooling

This is the measurement of the refrigerant condition in the condenser. Air cooled condensers are particularly popular in the UK as the ambient conditions make them very efficient. Shell and tube condensers are used on lager systems- these are cooled down using a water tower. When there is a refrigerant shortage, the liquid does not stay in the condenser long enough for it to subcool sufficiently. Some of the refrigerant stays in its vapour phase. With not enough latent being rejected in the condenser- the chiller’s COP (coefficient of performance) will be reduced. This means high energy consumption relative to the refrigeration effect of the chiller. This condition can be remedied with a scheduled visit from one of our team.

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For further reading on the subject of preventive maintenance on Wikipedia | Click Here


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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Green Bitzer compressor being vacuumed during HFC chiller service

HFC Chiller Service

The HFC chiller being serviced in the photo is 600kw. It consists of two systems with a large Bitzer compressor for each system. It has a bespoke Micro Control System front end to run the machine and stop it should there be a fault condition. The chiller had been reported by the customer to have tripped out on a low pressure fault.

HFC Chiller Diagnosis Service

The readings of superheat and subcooling are available in the controller. This removes the need to fit instrumentation carried by our engineers. The process of diagnosis was therefore speeded up. The result being that the chiller was found to be running short of refrigerant.

Return Visit to Decant the Refrigerant

A Quote was submitted to the customer for approval. Once the Order was raised, a convenient time was arranged to return to site and carry out the service visit. The remaining charge of refrigerant was decanted into our recovery vessels with one of our fast pump out units which are carried by each of our engineers.

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Looking Around the Pipework for a Leak

Nitrogen, an inert gas, was introduced into the system to assist in the location of the leak. The leak was quickly found on one of the end turns of the condenser.

Brazing and Pressure Testing

Our engineer made good the leak using his brazing torch. Then, the integrity of the system was proven to industry standards with a system pressure test.

The Evacuation Process for HFC Chiller Service

The picture shows a 10 cfm (cubic feet per minute) vacuum pump being used to dehydrate the system during the visit. Each of our engineers carries a vacuum pump of this capacity as it speeds up the process. One refrigerant hose being fitted to the discharge pipe and another, smaller hose being fitted to the suction pipe. The system being drawn down to a deep vacuum.

Recharge and Run Testing

After the chiller had been recharged with some of the charge of the refrigerant R134a, the remaining refrigerant was charged in its liquid phase, away from the compressor, until the superheat and subcooling values were within industry limits. A large amount of load was available to the chiller as it feeds an air blown film plastic manufacturing facility.

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Yellow oil drums, ammonia refrigerant cylinders and flammable flushing agent of chiller supplier

Chiller Refurbishment Supplier

Maximus Chillers is an established chiller refurbishment supplier. Maximus means the highest and the greatest in Latin, so we pride ourselves in offering the highest and the greatest customer service and technical capability. There is never a job too big for Maximus Chillers- we are seasoned in following a problem through to the logical solution.

Chiller Refurbishment Parts Supplier

Any part is available to our contract customers. We have a worldwide supply chain of the best suppliers. This means any part or refrigerant can be sourced at your convenience. When a part is not available, a different part of the same design specifications is selected and usually delivered same day. By same day we mean: the part is loaded into a van- then driven to site!

Oil and Refrigerant

We keep a stock of oil, refrigerant and other materials in our stores- see picture. This provides you with 'round the corner' convenience to your factory or facility. Whatever kind of ammonia grade specialist oil you require- we have it on the shelf. With a comprehensive range of other chemicals and solvents- Maximus Chillers completes the picture.

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Chiller Refurbishment Diagnosis

Our engineers are in their comfort zone while carrying out diagnosis during chiller refurbishment- that is what they do best! Even when a fault involves wiring that disappears into a loom, down the other end of the machine, with no wiring diagram- Maximus Chillers can help. Usually, however, faults are obvious to our engineers or can be found easily.

Technical Support Desk

Our contract customers enjoy the full benefit of our global technical support desk. We offer real time technical support with manuals being sent electronically to site. Where a time difference is involved, we arrange a time convenient to both locations, or answer emails when the office opens in the morning. If we can talk you through over the phone, we can get you up and running with the minimal disruption to your process.

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Visit the ASHRAE for Standards and Guidelines Under Continuous Maintenance


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