Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Two blue open drive Vilter reciprocating chiller compressors being maintained in a plant room

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Reciprocating chiller compressor maintenance for two low temperature ammonia chillers. Reciprocating means a forwards and backwards motion in a straight line. This is achieved by converting the circular motion of the crankshaft, into a linear motion using the connecting rods. The pistons are on the end of the con rods, which slide up and down inside the cylinder liners.

Piston Rings

There are two types of piston rings which are used:

Compression Ring

This is the upper ring and is designed to a high tolerance to prevent the refrigerant vapour from bypassing the piston.

Oil Ring

This is the lower ring and is designed to regulate the oil flow around the piston.

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Cylinder Head

The cylinder head is usually cast iron and serves as a pressure plate. It holds the valve gear and has passageways for the suction and discharge of the refrigerant. The discharge pressure varies according to the kind of refrigerant and application. For a 0°C saturation it can be as low as 7 bar on R134a, or as high as 30 bar on R410a. The discharge temperature is usually around 60°C to 80°C which is recorded on our detailed Tick Sheet during the maintenance.

Valve Gear

Helix springs or reeds are popular with this type of compressor. Wave springs are another design that can be seen in operation on our YouTube channel. The video uses a cut away view and the oil is depicted in yellow. These springs control the suction (intake) and the discharge (exhaust) of the refrigerant…

Suction

The suction valves have the least amount of failures because the refrigerant is cool, low pressure and is carrying oil.

Discharge

The discharge valves, however, can have heavy molecules of hydrocarbons collect on them in the form of carbon. This causes them to not seat correctly, resulting in a deterioration of compressor performance. The difference in pressure between suction and discharge, otherwise known as the compression ratio, is a check that we carry out during the maintenance. The pressure and temperature is higher on the discharge valves, so more stress is exerted on to them. Therefore, they have a reduced lifespan by comparison to suction valves.

Top Dead Centre

The piston needs to come as close as possible to the cylinder head to create the largest amount of compressed refrigerant. This is called the clearance space which is usually less than 0.5 mm.

Discharge Header Safety Spring

This spring is fitted into the cylinder head and allows the valve gear to lift when:
• Liquid refrigerant slugs back to the compressor due to poor heat exchange in the evaporator.
• An oil slugging condition occurs.
• Water is drawn around the system from a burst condenser or evaporator.
As a compressor cannot compress a liquid, the valve gear lifting prevents an expensive compressor smash up from occurring.

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Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Shaft Seal

The compressors in the photo are open drive. Each has a shaft seal which has two, mirror finish rubbing surfaces. One seal turns with the crankshaft and the other is stationary. We check the amount of oil that is seeping from the shaft seal on every visit. When we notice that the level in the oil bottle is too high, we arrange a visit to change the shaft seal. This can be done without disruption to your process, as the other compressors can be left running while we carry out the work.

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Drives

This kind of compressor is usually driven by an in line electric motor, as in the photo. It can also be driven by ‘v’ belts from an electric motor which is located to the side of the compressor. The ‘v’ belts are checked during the visit to see if there are any cracks on the inside working surface. We replace these with the pre ordered spares that are on site at no extra charge. They are then re tensioned according to standard industry guidelines.

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Crankcase

This is a cast iron housing that all of the above components fit into. It provides the necessary support and strength for the compressor to operate at its high temperatures and pressures. The crankcase heater keeps the oil at operating temperature during the off cycles. It is usually a bore type which pushes into a hole in the casting. We check for the correct operation of the crankcase heaters and replace them where necessary. This is another spare that is kept on site, so that a return visit is not needed.

Service Ports

These bolt on to the compressor crankcase. They can be positioned in various directions, depending on which way the suction and discharge pipes go. The compressor can be valved off when it is being worked on. These ports are used by engineers to attach their gauges during the maintenance. On each visit, we check the calibration of the system pressure transducers by checking them against our gauges.

Reciprocating Chiller Compressor Maintenance of Oil Pump

This is a gear type pump which is fitted to the end of the compressor crankshaft. The pump sucks the oil through a filter from the sump of the compressor. Then, it is discharged from the pump, down the crankshaft passageways to the connecting rods. From here it travels up the con rod passageways and out through the pistons to the cylinder liners. Here, it provides the essential lubrication between the pistons and the liners. According to the maintenance schedule, we periodically change the oil filters to ensure the optimum running conditions of your compressors.

MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

If a compressor smash up occurs and the compressor is found to be obsolete- don’t worry. We can adapt the compressor mountings and the pipework for a different compressor. This is part of what we call The MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™ Any Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere.

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

Chiller Condensers

Shell & Tube

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

Air Cooled

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

Pump Out

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

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Lift Out for Chiller Condensers

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

Lift In for Chiller Condensers

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

Adapting the Pipework

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

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Ancillaries

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

F-gas Pressure Test

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

Dehydration of Chiller Condensers

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

Open the Valves and Test

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

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Grey centrifugal chiller compressor being maintained

Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Centrifugal chiller compressor maintenance keeps your critical plant up and running and your customers happy. The work can be scheduled to be carried out during factory shutdown, so as not to disrupt your production. We can also carry out this work to your compressors while the factory is in production. This is achieved by isolating the compressor that needs to be worked on when it is in an off cycle. The compressors on remaining machines can carry on running.

Tasks during Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Here are some of the tasks that we carry out…

Oil Changes

The oil becomes dirty over time by picking up contaminants that have formed in the system. Two of these contaminants are…

Acid

Compressor discharge is the hottest part of the refrigerant cycle. Acid can be formed from the refrigerant in this part of the system.

Refrigerant Types

A popular refrigerant for centrifs is R134a. Because it consists only of one kind of refrigerant, it does not fractionalise into different component refrigerants. This would be no good for a flooded system because one or more of the refrigerants would end up in the bottom of the evaporator and condenser. The remaining refrigerant would circulate and the whole plant would not function as it should. Refrigerants popular for other kinds of system are zeotropic HFC refrigerants. This means that the different component refrigerants have different boiling points- R407c is a good example.

Metal

White metal from the compressor and copper from the heat exchangers end up in the oil. They will eventually be caught by the system oil filters…

Oil Filter Change

After completing the above, now is a good time to change the filter as the compressor is valved off and has been broken into. It is also when an oil sample is taken depending on the schedule…

Oil Samples during Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Our oil samples are transported using our specialist kits which include the bottles and labels. This saves mix ups in our laboratory during the analysis.

Leak Rectification

The drawback of carrying out the above are leaks because the pressure has been pumped out of the compressor into another part of the system. The ‘o’ rings and shaft seal can now leak, this kind of failure can be rectified whilst still on site by the knowledge of our engineers.

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Oil Pre Lubrication

When the compressor starts, the oil pressure is built up first using an oil pump. This is so the internal components such as the high and low speed shaft are properly oiled before they start to rotate. They can run at 10,000 RPM and are very expensive to replace. Therefore, we check the oil pressure gauges and the system controls to ensure optimum ‘pre lubing’ of your compressors.

Volumetric Efficiency

The ratio between the volume actually compressed and the theoretical volume derived from compressor design calculations. This kind of compressor has a lower volumetric efficiency than positive displacement compressors. It is because the refrigerant is compressed off the tip of the rotating impellor or impellors. The refrigerant moves outwards in a circular path due to centrifugal force. A centrif more than makes up for this lower volumetric efficiency by the high mass and volume of the refrigerant that it circulates around the system.

Design 

The refrigerant is sucked from the evaporator into the centre of the impellor which is a disc of radial blades positioned to direct the refrigerant outwards. Due to the low differential of pressure, multiple stages of impellors are often arranged in series with the discharge being directed onto the suction of the next impellor. This is simple in design with less moving parts than some other compressor types. Modern centrifs can have magnetic, levitating bearings and so remove the need for oil in the system altogether. The faster the speed, the better the efficiency- so high speed rotation of the impellor is achieved at full load. The compressed refrigerant is discharged into the condenser.

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Electric Drive Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

Most modern centrifs are driven by variable speed drives. This is for efficiency as the load can be exactly matched. Another reason for this is to soft start the compressor. 415v and 3.3kv are popular volt inputs, although other voltages can be made available by the onsite transformer.

Open

An open drive electric motor is the most popular design. It has the drawback, however, of needing a shaft seal which needs to be replaced at periodic intervals. This shaft seal is also prone to leaking refrigerant and oil.

Semi Hermetic

The photo is of a semi hermetic design of this compressor type. The motor is contained inside the suction housing and so has the benefit of being cooled by the refrigerant. No shaft seal is needed and therefore it has none of the associated maintenance drawbacks.

Steam Drive Centrifugal Chiller Compressor Maintenance

On oil rigs there can be an abundant supply of steam that can be used to drive the compressor. It is often used on multi stage compressors which are used for the liquefaction of natural gas. The steam goes through a turbine which is connected to a shaft- this drives the impellors. The steam flow and pressure can be tested and adjusted during the visit.

Woops Something Went Wrong

When you suffer a centrifugal compressor failure- don’t worry. You are in safe hands with the team here at Maximus Chillers. We have a team who can get the compressor out and lift it to the workshop on site, or transport it to our Head Office. We have another team who are experts in the remanufacturing of this kind of compressor. A fast supply chain is in place for delivery of the internal moving parts, gaskets and bearings. We are so confident that you will be happy with us- we offer a 12 month warranty on all of our compressor rebuilds.

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

Chiller Controls

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

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

Condenser Pressure

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

Transducer

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

Fan Speed Controller

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

Chiller Controls Digital Inputs

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

LP Switch

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

HP Switch

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

Flow Switch

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

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Chiller Controls Analogue Inputs

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

Chiller Controls Relays

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

Chiller Controls PLC

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

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Chiller Controls Digital Outputs

The main digital outputs on this chiller are:

Compressor Run Signal

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

Float Valve

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

Slide Valve

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

MAXIMUS ADVANTAGE™

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

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

Chiller Service Company Visit

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

News Article No.11

Electrical Faults during Chiller Service Company Visit

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

Alarm Reset during Chiller Company Service Visit

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

Run Testing during Chiller Company Service Visit

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

Head Pressure Control

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

Test Instrument

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

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Chiller Company Service Low Pressure Visit

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

Refrigerant Pump Out

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

Leak Testing during Chiller Company Service Visit

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

Brazing during Chiller Company Service Visit

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

F-gas Pressure Test

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

Vac Pump

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

Recharge and Run Test

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

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Refrigerant Economizers

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

Expansion Valve

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

Flash Gas

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

Efficiency

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

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To read more about chiller electrical faults hit the Tag at the top of the page.

Read more about F-gas leak checking at Refcom | Click Here


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

Read more about pressure sensors 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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Controls panel open during chilling plant maintenance

Chilling Plant Controls Maintenance

Prior to this chilling plant controls maintenance visit, another contractor had changed some of the settings and adjustments in the controllers. They did this while they were diagnosing a fault with the water system and the pumps. Therefore, this visit was to recommission the plant and to resolve the issues resulting from the adjustments.

Chilling Plant Flow Controls Maintenance

The flow controls were found to be set wrong. Therefore, our engineer adjusted the pumps, then various valves on the water system, a little at a time, while monitoring the controller. Full load and part load readings were taken until they came to within standard industry limits.

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Compressor Run On Time

A timer had been adjusted which made the compressor wait to stop after reaching 0%. In the meantime, some more heat would build up in the water system and the compressor slide valve would open up a little. The result was that the compressor would run for an hour with the slide valve shut most of the time. The oil pump carried on pumping during this time resulting in a head of oil building up in the discharge pipe- all the way back up to the oil separator. Then, a low oil level fault had occurred. This being confirmed by the sight glass on the oil separator. The compressor had enough oil charged into it to allow a start up. During the start up, a low oil level timer counts down. As soon as the compressor loaded and started pumping, the oil level returned to the correct level on the sight glasses. The timer was adjusted along with the dead band to ensure the chiller off cycled after achieving set point.

Slide Valve Potentiometer

The slide valve potentiometer has a configuration mode button. It can be pressed to set the 4mA or 0% position. This is the usual position of the slide valve as a spring and 2 drain valves return it to the start position. The slide valve can then be manually opened in the program. Then, the potentiometer button can be pressed to set the 20mA or 100% position. “Chattering” can occur on the fully closed position so a setting is available to only close the slide valve to 2%.

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

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Follow this link to read more about potentiometers on Wikipedia Click Here


Chilled water system repair of condenser to a silver chiller with blue compressors

Chilled Water System Condenser Repair

Chilled Water System Condenser Beyond Repair

The repair of the condenser was required on this chilled water system because the previous company had been chasing leaks round in a circle. Therefore, the customer had decided to buy a new condenser. This was our first job with a new contract, so we wanted to make a good impression.

Condenser Removal

There was no refrigerant in the system, so our engineer cut the discharge and liquid line to the condenser. He then removed the rivets so the frame could be taken apart. Lifting equipment was fitted to the old condenser to aid the removal. Then, slings were fitted and a forklift truck removed the old condenser.

Condenser Replacement

Our engineer supervised the condenser replacement. He found that the new condenser did not fit correctly. The new condenser was 5mm thicker than the old one. It was decided to lift it back out and angle grind the frame to make more room. Once this was completed, the new condenser fitted correctly and was bolted in place.

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Pipework Repair

The pipework had to be repaired and brazed in. Then, the standard practice of a pressure test to ensure the integrity of the system.

The Evacuation Process during Chilled Water System Condenser Repair

Having passed the pressure test, our engineer set up the vac pump and started the evacuation process. This is to dehydrate the system by pulling a vacuum of less than 2 Torr. Any moisture in the system will boil away and leave the system dry.

Recharge and Test Operation

The refrigerant is R410a. Our engineer put around half the charge in, then trimmed the remaining charge according to the superheat and subcooling values. He monitored the system for the rest of the day- looking for leaks as the plant was at operating pressures of 30 Bar. All was well, so the customer signed off the paperwork as he was pleased with the capability of our engineer.

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Read about air cooled condenser installation at the Institute of Refrigeration | Click Here


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