Chiller Efficiency—How to Maintain Top Performance
Whether you’re cooling down machinery, a large warehouse, or a decently-sized office building in the middle of a hot climate, people are depending on you to keep your chiller functioning optimally. This is a big responsibility.
All mechanical units can potentially malfunction or break down at any point in time. However, when you make the effort to maintain your chiller with professional inspection and maintenance services, you greatly reduce the chances of experiencing a breakdown in the middle of the heat. You’ll also save money and reduce the electric load, which conserves energy. If energy efficiency is important to you, don’t skip any part of maintenance.
Here’s What You Can Do to Maximize Chiller Efficiency:
Maximizing chiller efficiency doesn’t mean running your system at full load design all the time. Most chillers run the best at around 75%. If you run a chiller at maximum capacity all the time, you’ll experience a higher frequency of breakdowns.
To optimize efficiency, you need to take several things into account, like energy usage and supporting long-term use with professional help.
1) Get Regular Maintenance
- Most business owners aren’t HVAC professionals, so you probably don’t have the knowledge and experience required to maintain your chiller. It’s not like a small A/C unit that you can look up on YouTube. Getting regular maintenance is your first line of defense against preventable issues.
A professional maintenance schedule will go a long way in protecting your equipment from breakdowns and malfunctions. For instance, your maintenance company will:
- Clean your chiller tubes to ensure a clean heat transfer.
- Ensure the temperature of the entering water is low enough. For each 1°F increase in water temperature, you might see a 1-2% decrease in efficiency. Chillers lower the temperature of a liquid, so it’s critical to start with a lower temperature.
- Manage a higher flow rate to make your chiller work better. Maintenance teams can also install a good flow meter to help you maintain the proper flow.
- Recharge your refrigerant.
- Treat the water to eliminate corrosion, growth, and scale. Not maintaining a proper water treatment program can reduce the efficiency of your chiller by up to 35%.
- Check oil pressure and quality.
- Inspect motors and starters.
- Help you save on energy costs by installing variable speed drives (VSD).
All these tasks play a significant role in keeping your chiller operating at peak efficiency.
2) Document Your Data
Start a daily log book to record data regarding how your chiller is functioning. If you don’t already have a method for this, create one and make it a priority. You can do this automatically, which will save you plenty of time. However, don’t just record data and forget about it. Be sure you have a system for reviewing the data so you can make the proper changes.
3) Be Aggressive With Your Water Treatment Plan
The quality of water you use in your chiller will have a serious impact on performance. One of the biggest threats to chiller efficiency is microbial growth. If microorganisms are allowed to grow in the water, you’ll end up with slime deposits in your tubes that will negatively impact heat transfer efficiency.
4) Make Repairs Immediately
If your chiller needs to be repaired, don’t wait to get it done. Make all necessary repairs as quickly as possible to prevent the problem from worsening.
The Importance of Commercial Chiller Start-Ups and Shutdowns
Proper start-ups and shut-downs are essential for maintaining your chiller’s efficiency. It’s critical to do this correctly from the start.
A proper chiller start-up will help you verify that aspects of the system are working properly, and if not, you’ll know what needs some work. Start-ups will keep your chiller reliable, efficient, and safe.
A proper shutdown requires just as much care. During a chiller shutdown, functions will be evaluated for faults, and that’s the perfect time to perform maintenance and repairs on chiller components like pumps, valves, tubes, and cooling towers. A proper shutdown ensures your chiller will start up properly when needed.
What if a Chiller Runs Year-Round?
Some companies run their chiller year-round and don’t go through the start-up or shutdown process. If this applies to you, refer to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance protocols to minimize the potential for failure. It’s not ideal, but if you can’t help it, following the proper procedures will extend the life of your chiller, reduce the risk of preventable repairs, and keep it running efficiently.
Proper Maintenance for Your Commercial Chiller System
While there are some maintenance tasks you can perform to keep your commercial chiller system operational, the majority should be done by an HVAC professional.
A pro will check every component and verify that your chiller is operating safely and efficiently. They’ll look at water and oil quality, flow rate, and other components that might need repairs or maintenance. They’ll also oil or grease your chiller’s moving parts and tighten the electrical connections to prevent overheating and unit failure.
One of the most important maintenance tasks is cleaning the condenser coils and heat exchangers during shutdown. When you do this, you prepare yourself for a better start-up for next season.
Don’t Put Off Chiller Repair—Get an Inspection ASAP
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a pro look at your system, get an inspection as soon as possible. Make sure you’re operational before summer hits. Don’t wait to find out you need repairs until the last minute when you’re trying to keep your space cool. Give yourself time to fix any issues by running a proper startup and identifying potential problems ahead of time.