Chiller Breakdown

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…

Refrigerant Pressure Temperature Relationship

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: one of the fundamental scientific principals of how a chiller works- the higher the pressure- the higher the temperature/ the lower the temperature- the lower the pressure.

Refrigerant Recovery Units

After receiving a further order from our customer, we gave the go ahead to our engineer to use his refrigerant 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 Vacuum 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 Process

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. He 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 and false readings: 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.

To read more about flow switches hit the Tag at the top of the page.

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Read more about rotary vane pumps at Wikipedia | Click Here


Large air cooled brown chiller with test equipment during planned preventative chiller maintenance

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance

Featuring planned preventative chiller maintenance- in a series of longer, in depth news articles:

News Article No.2

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

Planned Preventative Maintenance of Chiller Controls

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

Sensor Calibration

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

Program Settings and Timers

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

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Safety Chain

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

Planned Preventative Chiller Maintenance of Wiring

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

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

Superheat

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

Refrigerant Shortage

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

Expansion Valve Failure

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

Thermostatic Expansion Valves

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

Electronic Expansion Valves

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

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Subcooling

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

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Glycol Chiller Maintenance

Chiller Maintenance Schedule

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


A pile of completed chiller maintenance checklists on a table

Chiller Maintenance Checklist

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

News Article No.1

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

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

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

Water System Pressure

Keep an eye on the pressure in the water system.

Small Chiller Maintenance Checklist

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

Strainer

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

Pump

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

Large Chiller Maintenance Checklist

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

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Water System Temperature

The chiller should be:

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

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

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

Here are the things to check for high water system temperature:

Small Chiller Maintenance Checklist

Low Refrigerant Pressure

If it 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 switch 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: suction limiting. This is the controller preventing the compressor from loading up to prevent a low pressure trip out in the shell and tube evaporator. 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™

To read more about air cooled chiller maintenance click the Tag at the top of the page.

Related Articles:
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Air Cooled Chiller Condenser Maintenance

Glycol Chiller Maintenance

Chiller Maintenance Schedule

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Chiller Maintenance Company

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Read more about chillers on Wikipedia | Click Here


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° 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 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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Read more about reducing refrigerant leaks at the Institute of Refrigeration | Click Here


Frost covered blue oil return vessel during the removal of industrial refrigeration sludge

Industrial Refrigeration Sludge

This industrial refrigeration visit is to remove sludge from the system. There had been a long period of neglect prior to Maximus Chillers attending site, so regular oil changes had not been carried out. Two oil changes have now been carried out and still a small amount of sludge still remains in the system.

Industrial Refrigeration Sludge Removal

Due to previous sludge removal, the plant was down to about half of its 60kg charge of refrigerant. It was starting to show signs of refrigerant shortage as the machine was preventing loading up. An ammonia suitable pump out unit was used to decant the remaining refrigerant into a cylinder for disposal.

Pressure and Temperature

Once this had been carried out, any residual refrigerant in the oil and liquid on the low side of the plant was carefully handled until the plant was at the same pressure and temperature of the surrounding environment. See picture of some remaining liquid boiling off in an oil return vessel on the bottom of the flooded evaporator.

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Industrial Refrigeration Sludge Oil

Once the pressure and temperatures equalized, our engineer drained the oil in the system from four different vessels. The oil was then removed from site for recycling. Usually, pressure helps with the process, but as the system was empty, gravity was sufficient for most parts of the plant. Nitrogen being introduced to the oil supply pipe to push it back to the oil separator.

Flushing Agent

A flushing agent specially formulated for use in ammonia systems was used to aid the removal of sludge and oil from the pipework around the chiller.

Evacuation

After a pressure test, the evacuation process was started. This was to boil off any remaining flushing agent, to remove non condensables and remove any moisture. A near perfect vacuum was achieved.

Run up

New refrigeration grade anhydrous ammonia was charged into the system, a little at first to check for any leaks. Then, the plant was checked for effective running conditions. All readings were okay with the compressor loading up to 100% before backing off to match the load.

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Read more about oil analysis and testing at the Institute of Refrigeration | Click Here


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