Chiller Controls Company

Blue ammonia chiller with panel open during chiller controls company visit

Chiller Controls Company

Having an effective chiller controls company saves money! We at Maximus Chillers can repair any fault and upgrade where necessary. Read below to learn more…

Non Condensables

One of the non condensables that is found in a chiller is air. It had got into the system of the chiller in the photo due to a poor repair having been carried out. The end user had tried to save money by using a cheaper company to carry out a change of the suction strainer. They had forgotten to purge the pipework of air, leak test, and then pull a vacuum.

High Subcooling

The ingress of air had caused a ‘high subcooling’ message to appear on the PLC display. The controls work out the subcooling by looking at the pressure transducer reading, in this example it was 14 bar. Then, the onboard comparator understands the pressure/ temperature relationship of the refrigerant which is ammonia. This gave the saturation point temperature of 39°C. Also, the temperature sensor reading on the condenser was 25°C. The 14°C difference between the two temperatures was the subcooling. The parameters in the controls trigger this message if the subcooling is more than 12°C.

Air Purging

Our engineer attended site to carry out air purging according to standard industry guidelines. Our Risk Assessment Method Statement outlined the necessary PPE that was needed when handling this refrigerant. It also outlined the training and certification required by our engineer to handle anhydrous ammonia.

Subcooling Readings

He then ran the system up and checked the subcooling readings again. The condenser pressure was now 11 bar which corresponds to a saturation temperature of 31°C. The condenser temperature was still 25°C, so the subcooling was now 6°C. This was now below the alarm trip out level.

Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures

This gas law states that all gasses in a pressurised vessel will act as if they are on their own. Therefore, with the air that was in the system, the condenser pressure was 14 bar, then after the air purging it was 11 bar. This means that there was 3 bar of air sat on top of the liquid refrigerant in the condenser. The air was causing a false reading of subcooling and therefore triggering the fault condition.

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Electrical Problems

Another fault message which had occurred during the time we have maintained this machine was oil separator low temperature. The oil separator is the vessel, just visible, to the left of the panel in the photo. This alarm is critical to protect the screw compressor from running with cold oil which will cause an expensive failure.

No Heater Burn Out

The oil separator heater was found to be off despite the cold temperature of the oil. The obvious reason was that it had burned out. The breaker was found to be in the 'on' position and there was no electrical charring visible.

Ohms Checked by Chiller Controls Company

When our engineer checked the ohms readings, they were found to be okay and there was no short to earth.

Run Signal

It was found that the 3 phase contactor was not pulling in to bring the heater on. Therefore, the next thing our engineer checked was weather the controller was sending out the run signal. It was- with 24v coming from the controller and the light being lit on the display. Somewhere in between, there was a problem…

Blown Relay

After consulting the wiring diagram, our engineer traced the fault to a blown relay. This relay provides a step in between from the 24v coming from the controller, to the 240v coil on the oil heater contactor. Rainwater had ingressed through a screw hole in the back of the panel. It had dribbled to the location of the A1 coil terminal on the relay. Here, it had been ‘tracking’ a few volts to earth. This was sufficient to burn out the coil without blowing the fuse. A drying agent suitable for electrical components was used, then the hole was sealed using a compound. There was a spare relay of the same type in the panel, so it was a quick job to swap it out.

Monitoring by Chiller Controls Company

Having done this, the contactor pulled in and the oil heater came on. Balanced amp readings were recorded on all three phases of the heater and the oil started to warm up. The oil separator temperature sensor was monitored for an hour on the controller. When the oil temperature rose to above the trip out level of 46°C, the fault condition automatically reset and the chiller came back on.

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Software Upgrade by Chiller Controls Company 

We had also previously found that the controller software was too finicky- causing a lot of spurious trip outs. Therefore, we decided to design our own software and upload it. This is easy to do because the controller is Bejer Electronics. It is a blank control system which can be used for almost any chiller, or other application. Read below to find out how we did it…

Chiller Controls Company Reliability

We rationalised what the customer needed and developed an upgraded program which was much more reliable. Getting a chiller to settle down and cost the customer less money is what we at Maximus Chillers are all about.

Chiller Controls Company's Test Rig

The controller had been removed from the chiller and wiped of its program. Then, the finished program was uploaded to the controller and a test rig set up. This was to iron out any teething problems before sending it back out into the field.

Laptop Plug In

When our engineer attended site, he fitted the upgraded controller and plugged it into his laptop. All of the program settings can be adjusted on the controller without the need of a laptop by entering the correct passwords for the program level required. However, a laptop has a bigger screen and so multiple readings can simultaneously be monitored. This facilitated the commissioning process.

Chiller Controls Company Testing and Adjustment

The chiller was run tested under various load conditions to check its performance. Also, all the fault conditions were either simulated or tripped out on the chiller. This was so that the program could be put to the test and adjusted accordingly. There were minor problems with fault timers which were adjusted, one at a time, so that no spurious trips would occur.

Completion

After monitoring the chiller for the rest of the day, it was time to talk to the customer about the job and get a signature. This chiller is in South West Wales, so it is a long, but very scenic, drive back for whichever of our engineers attends site. Read more about chiller upgrade.

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

Chiller Breakdown

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

News Article No.8

Electrical Faults during Chiller Breakdown

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

Water System Flow Switches

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

Stainless Steel

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

Outside Use

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

Inside Use

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

High Pressure

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

Test and Adjustment

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

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Condenser Fans

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

Pressure Temperature Relationship of Refrigerant

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

Recovery Units for Refrigerant

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

Leak Testing and Pressure Testing

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

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Refrigerant System Vac Pumps

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

Vane Pump

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

Electric Motor

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

Oil Changes during Chiller Breakdown

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

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Refrigerant System Evacuation

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

Torr Gauges used During Chiller Breakdown

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

Fittings used during Chiller Breakdown

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

Non Condensables Removed during Chiller Breakdown

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

Dehydration during Chiller Breakdown

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

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Brazing equipment box and vibration eliminators during packaged chiller service

Packaged Chiller Service

Packaged chiller service due to a refrigerant leak, resulting in a trip out. This visit was to identify the leak and get the plant back online.

Leak Testing During Packaged Chiller Service

Nitrogen was added to the system to aid in the identification of the leak. All parts of the system were checked, including the removal of lagging around the couplings onto the evaporator. The leak was found on a poor quality ‘eliminator’ which had rubbed through on the evaporator.

Vibration Eliminators

We decided to fit high quality vibration eliminators- see picture. These are fitted one in the horizontal position and the other in the vertical. They absorb both directions of vibration, then they are clamped to the chiller frame.

Brazing During Packaged Chiller Service

The pipework brazing was carried out with all combustible materials being removed from the work location. A permit to work was opened with our engineer as the responsible person. A half hour fire watch was carried out on completion of works.

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Pressure Test During Packaged Chiller Service

The pressure testing was carried out using nitrogen. As nitrogen is an inert gas, it will not cause other potential risks to the chiller and other personnel. The pressure test was a pass, so the next phase of the job could be carried out…

Vacuum Pump

Each engineer carries a 10 cfm vacuum pump. This high capacity ensures a fast vacuum. The Torr gauge was fitted to the system and 2 Torr was pulled.

Refrigerant Saturation

In the cylinder, the saturation of R407c is 7 bar at 11°C The refrigerant in the cylinder is in its liquid phase with vapour on top.

Subcooling

On run testing the chiller, the subcooling value was found to be nominal at the industry standard level.

Superheat

The superheat was adjusted, little by little, with the charging of the refrigerant until a good value was achieved. This was tested across all loading conditions for the rest of the visit.

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2 Torr showing on a gauge during process chiller vacuum service

Process Chiller Vacuum Service

During a recent process chiller vacuum service, our engineer achieved a deep vacuum of 2 Torr. This is the same pressure as if the Torr gauge had been fitted directly to the vacuum pump.

Torr Gauge

The Torr gauge was fitted to a refrigerant hose. The refrigerant system uses a different kind of fitting used for breaking in. Therefore, an adaptor fitting was used to go between the two kinds of fitting. A specialist sealant was used between the adaptor fitting and the refrigerant system and another sealant was used between the adaptor fitting and the refrigerant hose. This completed, the Torr gauge was located in a convenient location for inspection on achieving a deep vacuum.

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Process Chiller Vacuum Service Pump

Each of our engineers is issued with a high capacity 10 cfm pump. Only the best equipment will do at Maximus Chillers. The oil was changed as per standard industry procedures and the correct level of oil was checked. The vacuum pump was ran up to operating temperature for half an hour with the inlet valve closed. This was to ensure the correct operating temperature of the oil was achieved before load was given to the pump. A steel braided refrigerant hose with bolted ends fits with the service ports on the refrigerant system. Therefore, adaptor fittings were again used to get between this hose and the vac pump.

Dehydration Process

The purpose for evacuation is the removal of moisture from the refrigerant system. Air contains usually around 50% relative humidity of moisture carried within it. Air had ingressed into the system during the works that had been carried out. The boiling point of moisture is 100°C at 760 Torr (1 bar absolute: Earth’s air pressure at sea level) This boiling point drops, corresponding to pressure until at 15°C the boiling point of water is 10 Torr. The boiling point of water at 0°C is 5 Torr. Therefore, with our vacuum pump achieving 2 Torr, a dry system is capable of being achieved regardless of the UK ambient temperature. Also, various heaters were used to speed up the process. Eventually the pressure in the refrigerant system was recorded at 2 Torr.

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