Chiller Controls

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

Chiller Controls

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

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

Condenser Pressure

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

Transducer

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

Fan Speed Controller

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

Chiller Controls Digital Inputs

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

LP Switch

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

HP Switch

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

Flow Switch

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

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Chiller Controls Analogue Inputs

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

Chiller Controls Relays

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

Chiller Controls PLC

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

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Chiller Controls Digital Outputs

The main digital outputs on this chiller are:

Compressor Run Signal

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

Float Valve

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

Slide Valve

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

MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

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

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Grey shell & tube chiller evaporator being maintained with centrifugal compressor above

Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

With shell & tube chiller evaporator maintenance to be carried out- it was time to sign the permit to work and get going. There are 5 chillers in total, but 1 of the chillers had been dismantled by the previous company and is unlikely to run again. This left 4 flooded systems to be maintained while the factory was still in production. Therefore, it had been decided in the Method Statement that one chiller would be done at a time. The plant had been designed with N+1 in mind, as it is critical not to loose the process- causing a factory shutdown. This means that so long as 2 of the chillers are running, there will be no loss in production. With 1 chiller out of service and another being worked on, this left 3 chillers in operation. If 1 were to fail, then there would still be the minimum of 2 left running.

Hire Chillers

In the unlikely event that 2 of the 3 chillers left running were to fail, an action plan was in place to lift in 1 MW of hire chillers.

Pump Sets and Hoses

The hire chillers would come with 2 engineers to pipe the pump sets into the onsite water system. This water system has been designed with this in mind so ‘stab ins’ have been built into it with shut off valves for the connection of temporary hoses.

Vanes

The chilled water is close control with a critical 6°C to 8°C set point. The chillers in the photo are very good at achieving this close control as they use vanes on the inlet to the suction. These vanes can be adjusted from anywhere between fully closed, with a small amount of bypassing, to fully open.

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Buffer Vessel

The hire chillers, on the other hand would not be close control. They would be multiple system chillers with various stages of loading on each chiller. One 600 kW chiller and another 400 kW. Each of the chillers onsite are 1.3 MW, but as they never run at 100% the onsite maintenance manager agreed to the proposal. It is unlikely that this plan would be needed, but planning for it is critical. A 10,000 ltr buffer vessel was decided upon to make the hire chillers close control. The chillers discharge into the buffer vessel, then the water mixes around before returning back to the chillers. The process water too being discharged into the buffer vessel before returning to the process. The position of the inlet and outlet on both water systems being strategically decided upon to ensure a steady exchange of heat and a smooth water out temperature back to the process.

Valve off and Drain Down

The Water In and Water Out pipes were valved off and the contents of the evaporator drained down. There was no glycol or chemicals in the water system which made the job easy. Otherwise, the water in the evaporator would have to have been pumped into vessels for disposal.

End Plate Removal during Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

The lift and shift team were on site to assist with the removal of the end plate. After the bolts were removed, they attached their lifting eyes and straps, then lifted the end plate to the side.

Evaporator Cleaning 

We have in our stores a specialist evaporator cleaning tool. After a period of time, the evaporator tubes become fouled with impurities picked up from the water system. Also, contaminants get in from the air into the water tower. The strainer has some effect, but thermal insulation builds up on the water side of the tubes. It prevents latent heat being absorbed into the fridge system from the process. After the cleaning process, the efficiency of the copper tubes was increased to the same level as when the chiller was new. This is part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere. 

Reassembly after Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

The seal was replaced from our range of seal sizes, on the shelf in our stores. The reassembly being the reverse of the strip down, the lift and shift team aligning the end plate for refitting on guide runners. It was then tightened to the correct torque setting. A little at a time, the water system valves were opened until full flow and water system pressure was achieved. No leaks occurred, so it was time to go on to the next phase of the job…

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Run Up after Shell & Tube Chiller Evaporator Maintenance

After bringing this chiller back online, it went through a timer, then loaded up steadily to 68%. The refrigerant system readings had been taken previously, so they were compared to the readings taken after the job. A lot more heat transfer being achieved with more latent heat being absorbed from the process.

Remaining Chillers

The above mentioned process was repeated to the remaining chillers one at a time. No issues were encountered and the whole job proceeded steadily to completion.

Compressor Loading

The load from the factory is very steady, so each time another chiller evaporator was cleaned, the row of chillers would unload slightly. They were running at 72% on arrival, then 68%, then 63% then 59%. This was demonstrated to the customer as a visual way of proving how we had improved the efficiency of his plant. Compressor unloading uses less electricity, so lower carbon emissions and a lower electricity bill are the direct result of our maintenance. Also, kilowatt hour meters are linked to the maintenance manager's computer for monitoring.

Shell & Tube Evaporator Chiller Maintenance Tidiness

As with all of our jobs, the work location of the chillers was left in a better condition than when we arrived. Any waste and unused items being recycled or returned to the stores on site or the stores at our Head Office. The chillers being wiped down and the end plates re painted. With regular maintenance, we at Maximus Chillers will take years off the life of your plant. It is not unusual for us to keep this kind of plant running for more than 50 years.

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

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


Two dark green centrifugal chillers undergoing maintenance in plant room

Centrifugal Chiller Maintenance

At the beginning of the year we completed centrifugal chiller maintenance for one of our customers in America. A last overseas trip for the moment given the current world lockdown. The machines in the photo chill water that is pumped around a university campus.

Centrifugal Chiller Maintenance of Redundant System

The plant has a water cooling shell and tube evaporator and a water cooled shell and tube condenser. It has been designed according to the N+1 principle: N being the amount of cooling required and 1 being that same amount of cooling again. Each chiller has enough capacity to satisfy demand. Given the large size of the campus, this principle was critical to keeping the University functioning should system failure occur. The chiller on the right was the lead chiller on arrival. After taking detailed readings during the maintenance, our engineer switched that chiller over into being the lag chiller and took readings from the chiller on the left. He rotates the lead/ lag of the chillers on each visit to balance the run hours of the compressors.

Volumetric Efficiency

Centrifugal chillers have a lower volumetric efficiency compared with positive displacement compressors such as screws and recips. This is because the impeller does not mechanically compress the refrigerant like a piston in a reciprocating compressor. This kind of compressor relies on centrifugal force to spin the refrigerant off the tip of the impeller and onto the next stage. The refrigerant is then discharged from the compressor.

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Mass Flow Rate

The above is more than compensated for with a high mass flow rate. That is to say: a high volume of refrigerant circulates around the system at its operating density. A large capacity machine is cost effective when considering energy efficiency and centrifugal chiller maintenance costs.

Gantry Crane for Centrifugal Chiller Maintenance

The gantry crane in the picture is available to aid with the lift and shift of the compressor, should compressor failure occur. Maximus Chillers are specialists in the overhaul of centrifugal compressors. We can arrange the lift out, transportation, strip down and reassembly of your compressors. All of our strip downs come with a 12 month warranty to give you peace of mind and confidence in our ability.

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Follow this link to read about centrifugal compressors at The Engineering Mindset | Click Here


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