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Reinstate planned maintenance to avoid compressor failures

UK: With a spike in refrigeration compressor breakdowns post lockdown, refrigeration contractors and end users are being urged to take steps to re-establish regular planned plant maintenance and servicing.

Green Point UK, Bitzer UK’s compressor remanufacturing and support arm, says it is witnessing an increase in refrigeration compressor breakdowns as a result of the reduction in routine maintenance during the extended lockdowns. 

The compressor specialist is urging refrigeration contractors and end users to take steps to re-establish regular planned maintenance and servicing to ensure cooling plant remains in tip-top condition and any problems that developed during lockdown are identified and addressed, before they result in compromised performance or total breakdown.

“A lot of planned, routine maintenance that would normally have been carried out during the lockdowns was suspended, for perfectly understandable reasons. However, refrigeration equipment continued to operate throughout this time and was subject to all the usual wear and tear, with the inevitable consequences for components, wear parts and impact on filters and motors,” explained Green Point UK general manager Will Pribyl.

“We are already seeing the results of this in terms of compressor failures and system issues. If people have not already done so, we highly recommend that contractors and end users reinstate maintenance regimes so that any issues can be addressed and equipment brought back up to scratch.”

The coming winter months provided an essential window of opportunity to carry out this work, he said, before the warmer weather in the Spring puts pressure on systems and exposes weaknesses that have developed.

A key part of routine maintenance for multi-pack systems includes planned rotation of compressors. The issue is said to particularly affect packs with relatively simple control systems whose default run sequence results in extended running hours for certain compressors, while other units remain underused or even idle for extended periods.

It is also an issue where secondary compressors are repeatedly brought into service for short periods to support the primary compressor when additional capacity is required. Such on-off cycling over time causes stress to motors, which can result in overheating and, in the extreme cases, complete burn-out.

“On many multi-compressor packs, a small number of compressors often end up doing much of the work due to the run sequencing control and load profile. This is obviously not ideal and invites trouble. Add to this the cut-back in routine maintenance during the pandemic, and it creates a serious source of stress and risk for refrigeration systems,” said Pribyl.

“It is a lot less expensive to rotate compressors, removing worn units and remanufacturing and replacing them on a planned basis, rather than waiting for the pack to break down and having to replace the failed unit in an emergency,” he added.

Green Point operates a planned compressor rotation service for multi-compressor packs as part of its support for contractors, ensuring plant remains operational and continues to perform efficiently.

“The ideal rotation interval will depend on the operating conditions and running hours for the pack. However, we can advise contractors so they can in turn formulate a sensible rotation programme for their end user customer,” he said.

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