Are your chillers as energy efficient as they could be? Whether you use chillers as part of your manufacturing process or for comfort cooling a commercial building, if you think your energy bills are too high, it’s a good time to book a chiller service and get your system data logged.
If you’re holding back because you’re worried about the cost of replacing an old chiller, there are other solutions. These include optimising and retrofitting your existing chillers to maximise efficiency and extend their lifecycle.
Taking steps now will not only save you money in the long run, but will also make your chillers – and your premises – more efficient as part of your Net Zero planning.
An essential element of industrial systems and modern manufacturing, chillers are also used to provide comfort cooling in commercial buildings, from restaurants and office blocks to hotels and hospitals.
The most reliable cooling medium for manufacturing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air
conditioning) systems, a chiller cools water by transferring heat to refrigerant.
The two main types of chiller are absorption chillers, which have a heat source that sends a refrigerant and an absorbent through the system, and vapour-compression chillers, which use a compressor to drive the refrigerant through the system.
Although the core by-product is chilled water, the process also generates waste heat, which needs to be removed to keep the cycle working effectively.
An inefficient chiller is a waste of energy – and of money. But when looking at ways to maximise the energy efficiency of a chiller, it’s easy to focus on the chiller and to forget about the other aspects of the system and design.
The first step in compiling information about the performance of your chiller system is to book a technical survey with data logging. This condition-based monitoring measures and records information on aspects of energy efficiency, such as the cooling load and controls.
Our F-Gas certified chiller engineers will be able to look at the results and make recommendations on repairing, replacing or retrofitting your chiller.
Like any well-used machinery, chillers need servicing on a regular basis. This not only prevents costly breakdowns, but it also helps to save energy by maximising efficiency.
Chiller servicing will look at a range of potential issues, including:
Refrigerant loss – if your chiller is losing refrigerant it will affect its energy efficiency and you’ll see an increase in the GWP (Global Warming Potential) figure
Fouling – a chiller evaporator needs to have effective heat exchange
Condenser chemical clean – this should be cleaned on a regular basis
Condenser fans – a check to see if your fan is operating at full efficiency
Glycol content – this should be measured to ensure effective heat transfer
A service will also pinpoint any issues with the connected system, such as pumps, leaks and problems with your chiller controls. Your chiller engineer will be able to talk you through the operation of your equipment to ensure that your chiller continues to work at its best throughout its lifecycle.
First the chiller technician will compare the design of your system with the present-day requirements of its operation. No industry stands still, and it’s quite possible that you may need to increase or reduce capacity.
The engineer will also check whether the Setpoint is accurate or whether the controls could be better optimised. A small reduction could add up to a big saving over the course of a year.
Finally, they will look at the operation of the hydraulics to establish whether any gains can be made by changing the pump strategy.
A chiller retrofit is a great way to reduce your energy bills without the cost of new capital expenditure.
With chillers typically representing the single biggest element of power consumption in a building, it makes sense to investigate all the options for maximising their performance.
Refurbishing your existing chillers can bring many of the benefits of replacing them, but for less cost and with much less disruption to your factory or workplace.
Reasons for a chiller retrofit can include:
Legislation – many refrigerants have been outlawed in recent years and may need replacing
Energy savings – inefficient equipment leads to higher energy use – and higher operating costs
Reliability – unreliable machinery and systems can result in costly breakdowns, emergency repairs and factory downtime, as well as increased servicing costs
Environmental factors – an older chiller is more likely to produce noise pollution and will impact your work towards Net Zero goals
Ensuring that your chillers are operating at maximum efficiency clearly makes financial sense – but energy efficiency also makes a positive contribution to protecting our environment.
Advising the government on building a low-carbon economy, the Committee on Climate Change has released a report: Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming. This recommended a new emissions target for the UK of reducing greenhouse gases to Net Zero status by 2050. Net Zero is the balance achieved when the amount of greenhouse gas put into the atmosphere is the same as that taken out, measured over a specific length of time.
As the UK works towards this target, re-evaluating the energy efficiency of factory processes such as the operation of chillers can make a real and positive contribution to this aim.
The question is not can you afford to replace or retrofit your chiller, but can you afford not to? An investment now in a new chiller, regular servicing or refurbishment will reduce your energy consumption and save you money in the long run.