Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

400 kw white chillers with panels open during air cooled chiller maintenance

Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

A nice day to carry out air cooled chiller maintenance at a new site we have taken over in the South East.

News Article No.6

Our engineer attended site at around 9am with the risk assessment method statement having been sent in advance. A site survey was carried out to see if there were any additional risks. Should there have been any changes- the RAMS have a section for the additional risks and control measures. After gaining a permit to work, our engineer was issued with a security pass to access the chiller compound. Three chillers are located in the compound which feed air handlers for a critical application. Two of the chillers are multiple system, scroll compressor, air cooled chillers. The other is a single system screw chiller.

Program Settings During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

A complete download of the program settings is available in our engineer’s phone. This is to cross reference the settings, should one of them be accidentally changed by the maintenance engineers. Onsite engineers are the first port of call for chiller trip outs, with the responsibility to get the plant up and running. We offer real time assistance, over the phone from our Technical Support Desk and can send user manuals in PDF form, direct to their computer. The settings were found to be nominal, so a detailed analysis of the alarm history was carried out:

Alarm History During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

In reverse date order, the alarm history of all the systems was interrogated. There had been several system shut downs to carry out the periodic maintenance by the onsite personnel. The electricity having been shut down, there was a subsequent oil pre heating timer in the history too. On Chiller 2, System 1 however, there had been several low pressure trip outs. Our engineer decided to start the maintenance with this system by carrying out a full diagnosis of the low side of the refrigerant system:

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Superheat During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

The system runs on R410a refrigerant. This refrigerant has higher operating pressures in comparison with other HFC refrigerants. It has an efficient temperature range which can be seen on a pressure enthalpy chart. Below or above this range- the refrigerant loses efficiency and so has a lower coefficient of performance. The most common saturation point for this refrigerant is 0° which corresponds to a 7 bar suction pressure in the evaporator. Above this is the superheat of the refrigerant returning to the compressor. On this occasion there was found to be 26° of superheat and a suction pressure of 4 bar- close to the low pressure trip out. After careful diagnosis, our engineer decided to focus his attention on the expansion valve:

Thermostatic Expansion Valve

There are 4 forces acting on a TEV:

Liquid line pressure coming from the condenser.
Versus
Suction pressure down the equalising line from the far side of the evaporator. This compensates for the pressure drop across the evaporator and shows the true compressor side pressure.

Spring pressure acting upwards and closing the valve.
Versus
Bulb pressure forcing the valve open.

To reduce the superheat, the bulb should have forced the valve open. The refrigerant charge in the bulb acts upon the bellows to achieve this. The reason for the malfunction, on this occasion, was found to be the failure of the expansion valve orifice. It had become jammed- causing a shortage of refrigerant in the evaporator/ high superheat.

Latent Heat

Our engineer was carrying out the above fault finding with one compressor running and the other two being held off. This was to prevent a low pressure trip. Where chillers are left running with a high superheat condition, the reduced amount of latent heat causes a higher cost in electricity relative to refrigeration effect (COP) The refrigerant carries on superheating without absorbing latent heat- pointless and inefficient for a chiller.

Chiller Pump Down

For convenience, this chiller can be pumped down and valved off using the service valves. The evaporator can be worked on after breaking in procedures are carried out. Therefore, we have arranged for this to be carried out before fitting the new expansion valve parts. These chillers also have the ability to pump down the refrigerant on receiving a fault feedback from the electronic leak detector. This is an added measure to lower the environmental impact of refrigerant leaks.

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Subcooling During Air Cooled Chiller Maintenance

Cooling the refrigerant vapour down, through the latent heat phase and then subcooling the liquid down further. On System 2 of the same chiller, a subcooling issue was identified. 21 bar/ 36° saturation was normal for that system as defined by the fan speed controller. Now, the system pressure was higher at 28 bar/ 47° saturation, so our engineer decided to work out the subcooling. A very high reading of subcooling was recorded at 28° this was diagnosed to be due to non condensables in the refrigerant:

System Non Condensables

Non condensables are gases that will not condense, such as, air and nitrogen. If nitrogen is not vented properly and a deep vacuum then achieved, the gasses will remain in the refrigerant system. When calculating the subcooling, the readings work out incorrectly due the presence of the gasses. This can lead to false diagnosis. The remedy for the issue was to arrange a full refrigerant decant, pressure testing and dehydration, before charging with new refrigerant.

Efficiency

Having good subcooling values on a refrigerant system is critical to efficiency. Where there is no subcooling- the refrigerant has not fully rejected all the latent heat from the condenser. This can be seen when looking at a PH chart and plotting the pressures and temperatures. This heat remains in the refrigerant and adds to the system along with heat added from the compressor and heat from the process. This is another reason the coefficient of performance is reduced and so incurring increasing electricity costs for the plant.

Economiser

These chillers are also fitted with refrigerant economisers- one for each system. They work by diverting some of the refrigerant from the condenser, through a small expansion valve, then through a plate heat exchanger. The rest of the liquid refrigerant passes on the other side of the plate heat exchanger and so is further subcooled.

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

For further reading on chilled water visit 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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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.

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Read more about chillers on Wikipedia | Click Here


Green Bitzer compressor being vacuumed during HFC chiller service

HFC Chiller Service

The HFC chiller being serviced in the photo is 600kw. It consists of two systems with a large Bitzer compressor for each system. It has a bespoke Micro Control System front end to run the machine and stop it should there be a fault condition. The chiller had been reported by the customer to have tripped out on a low pressure fault.

HFC Chiller Diagnosis Service

The readings of superheat and subcooling are available in the controller. This removes the need to fit instrumentation carried by our engineers. The process of diagnosis was therefore speeded up. The result being that the chiller was found to be running short of refrigerant.

Return Visit to Decant the Refrigerant

A Quote was submitted to the customer for approval. Once the Order was raised, a convenient time was arranged to return to site and carry out the service visit. The remaining charge of refrigerant was decanted into our recovery vessels with one of our fast pump out units which are carried by each of our engineers.

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Looking Around the Pipework for a Leak

Nitrogen, an inert gas, was introduced into the system to assist in the location of the leak. The leak was quickly found on one of the end turns of the condenser.

Brazing and Pressure Testing

Our engineer made good the leak using his brazing torch. Then, the integrity of the system was proven to industry standards with a system pressure test.

The Evacuation Process for HFC Chiller Service

The picture shows a 10 cfm (cubic feet per minute) vacuum pump being used to dehydrate the system during the visit. Each of our engineers carries a vacuum pump of this capacity as it speeds up the process. One refrigerant hose being fitted to the discharge pipe and another, smaller hose being fitted to the suction pipe. The system being vacuumed to a deep vacuum.

Recharge and Run Testing

After the chiller had been recharged with some of the charge of the refrigerant R134a, the remaining refrigerant was charged in its liquid phase, away from the compressor, until the superheat and subcooling values were within industry limits. A large amount of load was available as the chiller feeds an air blown film plastic manufacturing facility.

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Read more about a film blowing machine on Wikipedia | Click Here


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