5 Ways to Maintain Your Commercial-Grade HVAC Chiller
A commercial-grade HVAC chiller is a key component of many commercial and industrial cooling and refrigeration systems. Chillers are used in applications such as cooling buildings, providing refrigeration for raw materials or important supplies that can’t be exposed to heat, and providing cooling for equipment as it operates. HVAC chillers are also commonly used to provide air conditioning for commercial or industrial buildings. Regular preventive maintenance helps keep the chiller equipment working efficiently and at the lowest possible cost. Here are five ways you can maintain your commercial-grade HVAC chiller.
Keep a Daily Operations Log
Chiller performance should be carefully tracked and monitored using a daily operations log. A comprehensive performance log gives chiller operators a detailed historical record of the equipment’s function. This record can be compared to design and startup data to help isolate problems and determine inefficiencies in control set points. The log should include data such as operating temperatures, flow rates, fluid levels and other important functional information.
By tracking and monitoring the performance of the chiller over time, chiller experts will be able to identify any discrepancies or anomalies in the function of the system. This can be a tremendous help in finding problems that may otherwise be difficult to isolate based on a limited snapshot of chiller performance. Contact the equipment manufacturer for a list of data points that can be used to assess the chiller’s performance. Compare these data points to data in the long-term record to help identify problems or inefficiencies that need to be addressed.
Prevent Leaks in the Chiller System
In low-pressure chillers that operate at pressures below that of the surrounding atmosphere, leaks can allow non-condensables such as air and moisture to enter the system. These non-condensables interfere with performance and reduce chiller efficiency by increasing condensing pressure and power requirements.
Moisture can also contribute to the creation of corrosive acids that damage internal components and create rust that can foul heat exchanger tubes and reduce system efficiency. High-pressure chiller leaks can allow potentially dangerous refrigerants to escape from the system and enter the air around the chiller. Refrigerant leaks can also reduce overall system efficiency. Ensure compressors are tested at least quarterly for leaks and that any leaks that are found are repaired immediately.
Clean System Tubes
The efficiency of a chiller will depend on the efficiency of heat transfer in the evaporator and condenser tubes. Since chiller systems often contain literally miles of tubing with an equivalently large surface area, it’s important that system tubes are kept clean for the entire length of the tubing system. In general, condenser tubes should be cleaned once a year and evaporator tubes in closed systems cleaned at least every three years. Mechanical cleaning involves physically brushing and cleaning tubes to remove contaminants such as mud, algae and sludge. Chemical cleaning gets rid of scale that accumulates on tubes.
Perform Water Treatment Regularly
The water in the HVAC chiller unit must be treated regularly to prevent algae growth, corrosion and scale buildup. Closed water systems can usually be treated by a single chemical treatment. Filters and strainers should be cleaned every three months to prevent the accumulation of sand and other material.
Regularly Analyze Oil and Refrigerant
Have a chemical analysis of the system’s oil and refrigerant conducted annually. This process can help locate problems with contamination inside the chiller so they can be corrected before they become major issues. Oil analysis can also reveal other problems that need attention, such as excess moisture content in the oil or problems with compressor wear.
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