Chiller Maintenance — 9 Tips to Keep Your Commercial Equipment in Tiptop Shape
As with any important piece of equipment in your commercial facility, chillers require regular maintenance to sustain efficient and effective operation. A poorly maintained chiller can add 10 percent or more to the cost of operating this system, which is already likely to be one of the largest consumers of electricity in your facility. Whether you use a traditional program of scheduled maintenance or modern technology to monitor your chiller for on-demand maintenance needs, regular chiller maintenance makes sense from the perspective of both performance and cost. Here are nine tips you can use to enhance your regular chiller maintenance and keep this vital piece of commercial equipment working at its best and most economical.
- Keep daily records: A daily log of chiller operations will establish a historical record that allows you to see trends in equipment operation that could affect chiller maintenance needs. Log information such as operating temperatures, fluid levels, flow rates and operating temperatures. Consistent record keeping will allow you to track and identify anomalies that will help you identify components that need to be repaired or replaced. If you use a remote monitoring system, you’ll be able to inspect chiller equipment on an ongoing basis, providing even better levels of information on how your chiller is functioning.
- Reduce the incoming water temperature: By reducing the temperature of the water entering the chiller, the equipment will be able to operate more efficiently. If water coming into the system is already cool, less energy will be needed to bring that water to its normal operating temperature.
- Adjust chilled water flow rate: Keep incoming water flow rates at 3 to 12 feet per second. A flow rate that’s too low reduces equipment efficiency, while a flow rate that’s too high produces potentially damaging effects such as vibration and tube wear, plus increased amounts of noise.
- Clean condenser tubes regularly: Build-up of minerals, scale, dirt and algae can severely degrade heat transfer in the system’s tubes. Effective chiller maintenance should include a program of regular tube cleanings to brush away these materials. Clean tubes at least annually or when required by your normal chiller maintenance schedule.
- Add water-treatment chemicals to condenser water: Proper water treatment will help prevent corrosion, algae growth and the build-up of scale in the condenser. Check chilled water loops and piping at least annually for signs of these problems. If they are found, increase water treatment and overall chiller maintenance.
- Monitor and maintain refrigerant charge: Refrigerant is the substance responsible for heat transfer and release within the chiller. The chiller requires a manufacturer-specified amount of refrigerant to operate properly and prevent damage to the compressor. Refrigerant levels should be checked regularly and, when they get low, more refrigerant should be added. If the level is low, check for leaks or problems that could be causing the equipment to lose refrigerant.
- Prevent the introduction of non-condensables: Non-condensable material such as moisture and air can sometimes leak into low-pressure chillers. Use a purge unit or other appropriate chiller maintenance equipment and techniques to remove these non-condensables and improve chiller efficiency and performance.
- Have compressor oil analyzed regularly: The condition of compressor oil can reveal problems with the compressor and its purge unit. At least once a year, send a sample of compressor oil to a qualified laboratory for spectrometric analysis. This chemical analysis will reveal problems such as the presence of excess moisture that could interfere with chiller performance.
- Install variable speed drives in the chiller’s motors: Chiller motors use considerable amounts of electricity, especially on start-up. Variable speed drives improve energy consumption by matching load and motor efficiency. Variable speed drives also reduce the effects of mechanical shock and other factors that can reduce chiller efficiency and lifespan.
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