Why refrigeration maintenance should never be overlooked


03 November 2017
Ed Whinyates of Stonegrove Refrigeration highlights the importance of looking after refrigeration equipment and some of the options available.
We all know that if you buy a car and service it at regular intervals, then it performs to the standard that the manufacturer designed and reduces the risk of problems as the vehicle ages.  All mechanical equipment needs periodic servicing to keep it in its best operating condition.  Refrigeration is no different. 
Refrigeration moving parts suffer from everyday wear and tear and regularly need to be refilled, replaced, checked and cleaned.  A well maintained and serviced refrigeration system is designed to perform to its optimum for a number of years, which helps with reducing energy usage and minimises equipment downtime.  Whether it is a new capital investment, or an older refrigeration system, having a pre-planned maintenance contract (PPM) with companies like Stonegrove Refrigeration safeguards your investment. 
Legislation and regulations
There are national and European standards that need to be taken into account when looking at maintenance.  European Legislation EN378 (section 4 & section 5) cover the strict operation, maintenance and repair of refrigeration systems.  This includes (but is not restricted to) inspection, cleaning and leak detection.  For systems that do not contain natural refrigerants, the very minimum level of maintenance any company should have is based around the F-Gas regulations on leak testing.  An end user is responsible for the prevention of leaks from equipment, but refrigeration contractors that maintain your equipment share this responsibility.  There are specified thresholds for leak check intervals.  These are based around the CO2 equivalent which takes into account the quantity of F-gas in the equipment and the global warming potential of the gas.  Your refrigeration maintenance provider will be able to offer advice on this and calculate on your behalf. 
Over and above the legal requirements, within the European legislation and F-gas regulations, an underperforming system will have a dramatic impact on your business - and not in a good way!
What type of PPM contract is best for you?
There are generally three main parts every refrigeration system needs inspected. These are the evaporator, compressor and condenser. These main operating parts need regular scheduled inspections and maintenance checks to ensure that the whole of the refrigeration system functions at peak efficiency. 
The right refrigeration service company can customise a pre-planned maintenance contract based on your equipment, your needs and your budget.  However, as an owner and user of refrigeration equipment, when deciding on the type of PPM to go for there are a number of Key questions to ask yourself.
Can you afford for your equipment to breakdown?  
When your refrigeration system is regularly checked, potential problems can be found and fixed before any major problems occur.  This helps to avoid expensive downtime.  
How long to you want your refrigeration system to last for?
Regular cleaning and maintenance not only makes your industrial refrigeration system work more efficiently but helps it last longer.  Reducing wear and tear keeps critical parts working correctly.  If parts are worn or dirty a system has to work hard to maintain its level of performance, putting even more pressure on plant.  If one part fails it can lead to a chain reaction that causes critical components to fail.  Correctly pre-planned maintenance ensures fewer failures.  
Do you want to minimise the running cost of your equipment?
Poorly maintained refrigeration plant wastes energy by running inefficiently and has a much higher risk of breaking down.  It has been calculated that regularly servicing your refrigeration system can save up to 10% on your energy bills.  When refrigeration plant is operating at peak performance energy consumption is hugely reduced.   For example, keeping condensers and evaporators clean maintains efficient operating pressures leading to a reduced run time and it easier to maintain the set temperature.  A correctly maintained refrigeration system will improve performance and minimise the risk of potentially costly system issues and repairs. 
Types of refrigeration maintenance contracts available
As a critical element of any business using refrigeration systems and equipment, the importance of maintaining a refrigeration system cannot be underestimated.  Maintenance providers like Stonegrove, who employ correctly trained and certified engineers, are able to offer tailored contracts to meet the needs of the end user.  This ensures efficient operation, reduced running costs, a greater working life span and minimising potential system failures and downtime.  Frequency of maintenance can depend on the type, size, age and use of a system.  A clearly laid out maintenance schedule can identify items within the refrigeration system that need to be checked and how often.  Aside from maintenance that complies with legislation and regulations (as well as manufacturers recommendations) there are further avenues that can be explored – all of which add benefit to a maintenance schedule.  These include, but are not limited to, Thermal scans of rooms and control panels, vibration analysis, calibration of temperature probes, calibration of leak detection, calibration of PRV’s and laser alignment.

Keeping records
It is both the responsibility of the equipment operator as well as the refrigeration maintenance provider to keep detailed service and maintenance records.  Not only does this comply with the required leak test legislation, but provides an accurate equipment log and notes all repairs and maintenance carried out.  This offers an excellent audit trail and reference point for future maintenance. 


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