Scroll Chiller Compressor Maintenance

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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Oil return solenoid removed during industrial chiller service

Industrial Chiller Service

On an industrial chiller service visit, the ammonia alarm was found to have been triggered.

News Article No.10

Industrial Chiller Service Faults

The onsite engineer had fault found the chiller and silenced the alarm, the yellow light was still flashing. The red light was lit on the panel and the red LED was illuminated on the ammonia alarm console. He had reported a smell of ammonia to us over the phone. This gave us a priority of getting to site, as many other alarms of this nature are often spurious. Our engineer attended site within an hour and confirmed that the fault finding was correct as described by the onsite engineer. The chiller is containerized in design as it is situated outside. All around the chiller are door panels for access to the various system components.

Breathing Apparatus and PPE

He donned his mask and full length ammonia resistant PPE before opening one of the panel doors. This was to ensure that he did not get overwhelmed by the refrigerant when he opened the door. He started with the door into the storage area of the containerized chiller. A strong blast of ammonia came out in his face- lucky for the PPE!

Localising the Fault

Working his way around the chiller, our engineer found more and more hazardous door openings! Eventually he found the culprit: one of the two flanges were leaking on the oil return solenoid. The refrigerant vapour was coming out in its usual white form. The oil return pipe feeds off the oil pot which is a chamber that the oil sinks into from the refrigerant economizer. This vessel was valved off and the other end of the pipe valved off too.

Pinpointing the Fault

Now that the ammonia refrigerant leak had started to calm down- it was possible to see through the white vapour to exactly which of the flanges was leaking. It was the right one as seen in the picture. It consists of an ‘o’ ring made of ammonia resistant rubber material.

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Industrial Chiller Service in Local

The above mentioned chiller runs in local in a lead/ lag configuration with the adjacent chiller. That is to say- there is no wire or modem to a remote location. A panel is available in between the two chillers to sequence the switch over between the two. When the chiller tripped out due to the fault, the other chiller was supposed to have been enabled. This did not happen, so our engineer investigated the situation. The sequencer panel sends out a 24v fault feedback signal to each chiller. This, in turn, goes through a relay and back to the sequencer panel if all is good. When a fault occurs, the volts drop out to the relay in the chiller and a relay drops out in the sequencer. When the relay drops out in the sequencer, a normally closed contact makes and brings a red light on. This was not happening, so our engineer followed it through with his multimeter. He found a blown 1 Amp control fuse in the chiller, he replaced it and it blew again. After some careful research he found that there was an earth leakage due to the ingress of water into a safety switch. This switch was nothing to do with the above, but it blew the whole control circuit. Having reinstated the fuse, he found that the panel switched over satisfactorily in local.

Advantages

This kind of operation method has an advantage in its simplicity. There are no complicated BMS systems for the chiller to be integrated into. A sequencer panel is easy to construct and maintain- keeping the costs down to the end user.

Disadvantages

The disadvantage of this kind of system is that the first thing the factory usually notices is that they are loosing the process. The water temperature getting too high is the first alarm signal. With this site, however, there is a permanent onsite engineer on hand. He is experienced with the first checks to carry out and can often get the plant running with no problem.

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Standing Pressure during Industrial Chiller Service

The standing pressure was taken into account on the return visit to fit the oil return solenoid valve seal. Because the valve is on the low side of the system, when the chiller is off, the pressure is higher than when it is on. Therefore, so long as the seal pressure tests to this pressure, then all will be good when the system is running. That is assuming that the valve seals work satisfactorily at a lower temperature range. There are issues sometimes when a seal will be okay at ambient temperature but will leak when it becomes brittle at a colder temperature. This happens usually on an old seal and, indeed, this condition can be tested for when run testing the system.

Leak Testing during Industrial Chiller Service

On fitting the seal, our engineer donned full length ammonia resistant PPE and breathing apparatus. A little at a time, he introduced refrigerant into the area of the valve seal. Any residual air being purged through a valve.

Pressure and Temperature

The standing pressure of refrigerant is affected by temperature. That is to say- that the higher the temperature- the higher the pressure. On the day this job was carried out, the ambient temperature was 12°C and using an app on his phone, he calculated that the pressure should be 5.6bar. This is consistent with Charles’ Law of Constant Volume with a coefficient added for this particular refrigerant. If the pressure had been higher than this, it would indicate the presence of air in the system. Daltons’ Law of Partial Pressures states that all gasses in a vessel will act as if they are on their own, therefore, causing a higher pressure.

Run Testing during Industrial Chiller Service

After the pressure was built up to full standing pressure and the seal held satisfactorily, the system was then run tested to ensure, as stated above, that the seal performed well across the full temperature range during the operation of the plant.

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Mass Flow Rate during Industrial Chiller Service

The mass of refrigerant passing, which is measured by the second.

Suction Density

In this case of the oil return valve seal, we are looking at the density of the low side refrigerant as it passes into the suction port of the compressor. This is shown on the LP gauge near to the compressor. The higher the pressure of the refrigerant, the more refrigerant there is- so it has a higher mass flow rate. This system has a refrigerant saturation point of 1°C which corresponds to a pressure 3.4bar. That is a high mass flow rate for this kind of refrigerant. This is because this refrigerant is usually used in low temperature applications where the pressure of the refrigerant is below that of the atmosphere. In that condition, when a leak occurs on the low side of the system- air leaks in. Air bleed valves are available to remove this unwanted air from the system.

Compressor Loading

The bigger the compressor on a chiller- the higher the mass flow rate. Most compressors have loading solenoids, vanes, or a slide valve to regulate this.

Piston Displacement

Reciprocating compressors use loading solenoids to increase piston displacement. Usually, oil from the oil pump holds the piston valves open and so preventing compression on that cylinder. When more flow rate is needed- the loading solenoid de energizes- the piston valves drop and the cylinder comes into action. Therefore, increasing the mass of refrigerant through the compressor.

Vanes

Vanes are used on centrifugal compressors to increase the flow of refrigerant through the compressor. An actuator linked to a chain is used to open the vanes. The controls work out the correct position of the vanes for a given load condition.

Slide Valve

The slide valve offers a seamless amount of loading, anywhere between 0% and 100% A slide valve potentiometer senses the position of the slide so that the controls can regulate the flow through the compressor. The screw compressor in this article uses a slide valve- on full load with the slide at 100% all readings were taken with a good read back. Another job done- another happy customer!

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A pile of completed chiller maintenance checklists on a table

Chiller Maintenance Checklist

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

News Article No.1

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

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

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

Water System Pressure

Keep an eye on the pressure in the water system.

Small Chiller Maintenance Checklist

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

Strainer

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

Pump

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

Large Chiller Maintenance Checklist

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

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Water System Temperature

The chiller should be:

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

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

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

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

Small Chiller Maintenance Checklist

Low Pressure

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

Breakers

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

Condenser

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

High Pressure Switch

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

Large Chiller Maintenance Checklist

Suction

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

Discharge

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

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Chiller Remote Monitoring

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

Parts

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

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

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