Jason Peng considers five steps to assuring successful maintenance of cooling systems.
05 March 2018 | Jason Peng
Helping to improve the operational performance of vital equipment and keep overall energy costs down, coolers and condensers play a vital role in a wide range of applications, from industrial and commercial buildings to retail, healthcare and education.
In all major plants, cooling systems need an effective maintenance programme to safeguard their own performance, efficiency and effectiveness.
For busy facilities managers, a few simple maintenance measures can make the difference between a system that is operating to its full capacity and one that fails to meet the grade. Let's consider some tips to establish a successful maintenance programme.
1. Preparation is key
In reality, maintenance of any cooling system begins at the design stage. Specifying equipment according to the conditions in which it will be operating is the first, and arguably the most important point to prevent poor performance.
That means using climatic modelling to take into account the weather, ensuring that equipment will meet the necessary cooling load in whatever conditions can be expected at the installation site.
There are other considerations too. Specifying for corrosive environments, for example, will require hard-wearing, corrosion-resistant construction materials, while coastal or desert locations benefit from wider fin spacing so that sand can pass through the heat exchanger without clogging.
Likewise, if the system is to be in an area susceptible to airborne debris, specifying leg meshes will improve performance. In other words, pre-emptive planning will make continuous maintenance a lot easier.
2. Read the operating requirements
Despite their size and weight, these machines are not indestructible. Pay attention to your manufacturer's operating and maintenance requirements. Checking to make sure design conditions such as maximum temperatures and pressures are not being exceeded will keep the equipment inside its warranty terms and prolong its life. Making sure the water flow rate continues to match the original design flow rate can avoid damaging tube erosion - where the water velocity is too fast, resulting in increased turbulence - or laminar flow - where the water velocity and turbulence is too low, resulting in a relatively still insulating layer of water within the tubes causing a larger drop in performance and efficiency.
3. Don't ignore equipment during downtime
One common mistake made by many maintenance and facilities managers is to ignore equipment during periods of planned downtime. If your cooling system is only used intermittently it is important to keep it ticking over by rotating the moving fan and pump motor parts. This will prevent the risk of system failure owing to bearing failure and could help to identify any issues before the equipment is due to operate again.
4. Maintain a cleaning routine
This should be a staple of any facilities management programme because a few small and simple steps can make the difference between keeping the system running effectively and experiencing a costly failure.
The most important part of cleaning a cooling system is to monitor air blast coolers and pump sets regularly for debris. A blocked heat exchanger in a cooler or a clogged strainer within your pipe work can have a significant impact on the efficiency of the equipment, not to mention the life span of fans and pumps.
5. Check your fluids
It goes without saying, but if your system needs special fluids such as glycol antifreeze to protect it from frost damage, then check and maintain the required amount. Your manufacturer will be able to confirm requirements if you're not sure.
Frost-damaged cooling equipment can be costly to repair or replace, but like so many of the faults you could experience it is entirely preventable with the right maintenance programme.
Jason Peng is mechanical engineer and maintenance specialist at Transtherm Cooling Industries Ltd