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LH PLC New High-Tech Approach To Chillers Spots Problems Before Breakdown And Cuts Energy Bills 

A new diagnostic test for building chillers – equivalent to a CAT scan for the human body – can spot under-performance in seconds and diagnose problems that could lead to future breakdown.

The Chiller Health Check, introduced by Wimbledon-based LH plc, uses the latest high-tech thermal imaging systems coupled with a new award-winning performance analyser called ClimaCheck.

The technology can spot a range of problems in a working chiller, such as refrigerant loss, control faults and compressor wear or damage, causing serious underperformance and possible chiller failure in future.

“A test takes around an hour, and could save the end user literally thousands of pounds in reduced energy bills and dramatically improve the performance of a building’s air conditioning,” says Andy Boatwright, who heads up the new service.

“In the majority of cases, we can guarantee lower running costs, reduced carbon emissions and a cooler, more productive working environment for building occupants.”

More than half of air conditioning chillers are believed to suffer significant underperformance. Recent research in Scandinavia suggests the figure could be as high as eight out of ten, with plant wasting an average of 10 to 20 per cent of energy consumed.

Some chillers have been found to waste in excess of 50 per cent of the energy used, resulting in excessive power bills.

“With energy prices set to rise for the foreseeable future, this is a colossal waste of money – and entirely avoidable. A quick diagnostic check will tell you where the problem lies, and what needs to be done to put it right,” says Mr Boatwright.

The most common causes of chiller underperformance are the wrong refrigerant charge – the system contains either too little or too much refrigerant; expansion valves incorrectly set; overall chiller controls wrongly set at the time of commissioning or arbitrarily or accidentally changed since; and compressor problems.

“What is different about our approach is that we find and cure the source of the problem, rather than just treating the symptoms. The savings can be astronomical.”

He adds: “A chiller is the equivalent of a human heart in a building. If it is compromised or underperforms, it can seriously affect the functioning and productivity of the whole building. A complete breakdown is like a heart attack – everything stops.”

A nationwide project carried out for a leading UK bank proves the effectiveness of the approach. The organisation had a repair call out rate at its branches of up to six times a year, due to poor maintenance over a number of years.

Following chiller diagnostic health checks and a period of regular preventive maintenance, the average call-out rate has been cut to less than one a year, delivering substantial savings in on-going energy and service costs.

Once identified, faults can be quickly remedied resulting in an immediate and significant impact on performance and running costs.

Thermal imaging cameras are used to spot areas of heat loss or poor insulation. The infra-red images show up hidden problems in the chiller itself or associated pipework.

The ClimaCheck performance analyser is hooked up to key points on the chiller’s refrigeration circuit, in much the same way a patient in hospital is monitored for vital biometric data on their life functions. From four or five key parameters, it works out the chiller’s coefficient of performance and highlights areas in need of attention.

It spots hidden problems such as wear or damage to compressors and malfunctions in heat exchangers and control system, that may not be visible but which, if left untreated, could result in serious loss of performance or sudden catastrophic breakdown.

“The ability to identify hidden problems that could affect plant reliability is particularly important in critical applications, such as food storage facilities, data centres and financial dealing rooms,” he says. “In such applications, breakdowns can result in significant stock loss and building downtime that may cost the user millions of pounds. The Chiller Health Check is a small investment to ensure reliability and optimum performance.”

The check includes a legal compliance survey to ensure clients are complying with the latest legislation. This includes the F-Gas Regulations, Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and relevant health and safety laws.

Andy Boatwright says: “Unlike most general building assessments, the chiller check is specific to the requirements of air conditioning installations; it homes in on the detailed requirements that general surveys miss. It provides real assurance for owners that everything is in order, and all legal bases covered.”

The client report highlights issues that need attention, and makes recommendations for optimising chiller performance. This includes no-cost or low-cost measures for improving energy efficiency.

“With energy prices rising, and evidence that the majority of chillers suffer serious underperformance, a small investment in a Chiller Health Check could result in a substantial return. It can pay for itself in the first few weeks. It’s a compelling argument.”


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Arundel Jones Associates Ltd Registered in England and Wales No. 07334149
Hill Farm, Linton Hill, Maidstone, Kent ME 17 4AL
Tel : 01622 745333 email
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Chiller performance analyser