Chiller Condensers

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

Read more about rotary vane pumps at Wikipedia | Click Here


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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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 drawn down 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 to the chiller as it feeds an air blown film plastic manufacturing facility.

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Engineer carrying out process chiller service with yellow and black cylinder

Process Chiller Service

Maximus Chillers has just carried out process chiller service to a flooded evaporator. The refrigerant seal on a four bolt, flanged coupling had been found to be leaking liquid refrigerant. There was no possibility to valve off that section of the machine, as the flooded evaporator is the storage vessel for all of the charge of the system in its liquid phase.

Refrigerant Recovery during Process Chiller Service

Our high capacity refrigerant recovery unit was set up next to the machine to carry out the task. 55 kg of refrigerant was recovered in a short time into our recovery cylinder. This refrigerant was collected for recycling after the job was completed.

Stainless Steel

Our unit is made from stainless steel because this metal works well with ammonia.

Condenser for Process Chiller Service

The condenser is made from tubing which is connected to ‘u’ bends on either end. These ‘u’ bends send the condensing refrigerant back along the next tube in the opposite direction. This process, back and forth allows time for the refrigerant to condense into a liquid. Fins are pressed around the tubing to increase the surface area and help to dissipate more heat from the refrigerant. A condenser fan is fitted to suck the air through the fins and so reject the heat.

Reciprocating Compressor

A four cylinder reciprocating compressor is fitted to the unit to provide the pressure difference to pump the refrigerant into the above mentioned condenser. It has an air cooled electric motor fitted which is open drive. This is because ammonia would corrode the windings of the motor if a semi hermetic compressor were to be used. Semi hermetic meaning that the windings, stator and rotor of the motor would be internal to the system. The motor is fitted in the vertical position with the four cylinders opposing each other on the central crank shaft.

Controls for Process Chiller Service

For safety reasons controls are fitted to the unit. These include:

HP Switch

If the recovery cylinder were to become over filled, the pressure would build up to a dangerous level. The TARE and the ullage need to be calculated prior to the job to prevent this from happening. The below mentioned liquid pipes have been designed with pressure issues in mind, but somewhere on the system would be the weakest point. This would burst causing a catastrophic refrigerant leak. The whole charge of the machine and all the refrigerant in the recovery cylinder would leak to atmosphere. The HP switch is set by the engineer on site to the correct level given the ambient conditions. This takes into account the temperature of the refrigerant and the safe operating pressure of the vessel.

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Refrigerant Liquid Pipe

Steel Braided

The refrigerant in its liquid phase is pumped into the above mentioned unit down a steel braided liquid pipe. The steel braiding is to provide additional protection from the pipe being damaged on the outside. Damage like being driven over by a forklift truck, or having sharp objects coming into contact with it. Also, the braiding helps to prevent bursts when pressure builds up on the inside. This can be due to a restriction, malfunction of system components or vessel overfilling.

PTFE

The inner part of the pipe is PTFE. Other types of plastics and compounds corrode due to the toxicity of ammonia. Polytetrafluoroethylene is the chemical name for this compound, it is a fluorocarbon solid and is considered to be non reactive.

Fittings

There are various metric and imperial thread types that can be used. This depends on the fitting size on the machine and the fitting size and type going onto the recovery unit. We carry a wide range of fitting types to step down and step up in size. We can go between male to female types and use male to male and female to female where necessary. We carry adaptors to go from metric to imperial thread types.

Remote Access during Process Chiller Service

We carry an extensive stock of liquid pipes that can be connected end to end to provide remote access. We will always try to get the recovery equipment as near as possible to the plant, but when this cannot be achieved, we can arrange access up cat ladders or the side of a building. We can use our lift and shift team to arrange the hauling of all the required equipment and ancillaries to any location. Just part of what we call the MAXIMUS ADVANTAGEAny Chiller- Any Problem- Any Part- Any Refrigerant- Anywhere. Contact our office for prices for the above mentioned pipes.

Process Chiller Leak Service

The flanged coupling was unbolted and the failed refrigerant seal was removed. The new seal was fitted from our full range of sizes that we keep on the shelf in our stores. Our engineer bolted the flanged coupling back up to the correct torque setting.

Pressure Leak Test

A nitrogen pressure leak test was carried out to ensure the integrity of the system with the result being a pass.

Dehydration Process

As the system was open to atmosphere, air had got into the system which carries moisture content. The moisture and non condensables were removed down to a near perfect vacuum using one of our high capacity vacuum pumps.

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Charging of Refrigerant

The photo shows the charging of a cylinder of refrigerant into the system in its liquid phase. The cylinder has a dip tube fitted for ease of handling. Once the pressure in the system and the cylinder equalized, remaining refrigerant was drawn into the system during the operation of the plant.

Run Testing

The sight glasses and level glasses were found to be at the optimum level under the normal running conditions of the plant. As it is a flooded system, there was found to be a low superheat value. A high subcooling value was achieved with the use of a subcooler. Our engineer monitored a full cycle of an hour and a half: compressor temperatures and oil level were found to be within normal operating limits.

Remote Service Monitoring of Process Chiller

The process chiller can be remotely monitored via a data uplink through the internet. Our office continued to monitor the plant for some days as it went into seamless operation.

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Follow this link to purchase BESA pressure testing technical bulletin Click Here


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