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EVALUATING REFRIGERATION SYSTEMS: TROUBLESHOOTING & IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS Identifying Refrigerants Color Codes For Virgin Refrigerant Drums

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Refrigerants are also identified via their temperature/pressure relationship

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Refrigerant blends are subject to temperature glide.

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When evaluating, troubleshooting and servicing refrigeration systems it is also important to understand refrigerant and oil compatibility issues.

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NORMAL OPERATING CONDITIONS Determining if a refrigeration system is operating properly involves understanding normal operating conditions. The challenge a technician faces in evaluating a system without manufacturer’s information is that the one time that a comfort cooling system using a capillary tube or other fixed bore metering device such an orifice can be effectively checked for a correct refrigerant change is when the outdoor temperature is stable at: __________ Degrees F And the following indoor conditions exist: _________ Degrees F _________ Relative Humidity

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A temperature/pressure chart can illustrate the concept of proper high side operating pressure.

Another factor to consider is the proper air flow through the outdoor coil of a refrigeration system. If there is a problem with the free air flow around a coil such as a condensing unit located directly on a black roof (which would create an actual higher temperature of air entering the coil), or if the air flow is restricted through the coil due to its location, the high side operating pressures won’t be correct.

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The rule of evaluating the high side operating pressure of a refrigeration system applies no matter what type of refrigerant is used.

When evaluating high-efficiency equipment, you can use 20 degrees as the factor rather than 30.

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In the event that you don’t have ideal operating conditions, you can block the air flow over the condenser to simulate the head pressure you would find in a 90-degree ambient temperature situation.

When the high side pressure is correct, the condenser will be supplying the metering device with refrigerant in the correct volume and velocity, which will result in proper low side operating pressure.

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When measuring superheat in a system, precise temperature and pressure measurements are necessary and following manufacturer’s guidelines is the best way to evaluate equipment. On split systems, the superheat will be affected according to the length of the suction line. When a split system such as the one in our example is correctly charged, the superheat, when checked at the condensing unit, should be in the neighborhood of: ______ to ______ degrees F if the line length is between 10 to 30 feet. If the line length is between 30 and 50 feet, the superheat measured at the condensing unit should be approximately: _____ to ______ degrees F. When considering superheat in a system that uses an orifice metering device, keep in mind that while charging the system, the metering device will hunt before reaching a steady state of operation, and you’ll note that the suction pressure fluctuates, which means that the suction line temperature will also be changing from a lower to a higher temperature and back again. If a suction line temperature is varying, a superheat target of 10 degrees F can be used. Discharge Line Temperature: A good rule of thumb to keep in mind about discharge line temperature is that it would not normally exceed: _________ degrees F, even on a very hot day.

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USING MANUFACTURER’S CHARGING CHARTS Using charging charts to evaluate a refrigeration system involves measuring pressure and measuring various temperatures. Example: A high efficiency R-22 comfort cooling system operating in a 90 degree F environment, and the manufacturer’s recommended high side operating pressure is 232 PSIG + or – 10 PSIG.

In this example, 226 PSIG converts to: __________ degrees F. This allows us to calculate a temperature spread: _______ degrees - _______ degrees = ________ degrees. This calculation also allows us to calculate the subcooling: ______ degrees - ________ degrees = ________ degrees.

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Using a manufacturer’s discharge pressure chart will confirm if the high side operating pressure is OK.

This chart requires the measurement of the wet bulb temperature entering the indoor coil, then choosing the appropriate curve line. This example shows that a wet bulb temperature of 63 degrees was recorded, then the 90 degree outdoor temperature is plotted to calculate what the recommend high side operating pressure should be. ___________ PSIG Since the manufacturer’s recommendation was for a high side pressure between 222 and 242 PSIG (232 + or – 10 PSIG), our calculated high side operating pressure would be correct.

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Using a manufacturer’s chart to evaluate the low side operating characteristics begins with monitoring pressure and suction line temperature. The manufacturer’s recommendation in this case is that the suction pressure should be 75 PSIG + or – 3 PSIG.

In this case of an R-22 system, 73 PSIG converts to: _______ degrees F. ________ degrees - _________ degrees = _________ degrees.

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Using a suction pressure chart requires measuring the wet bulb temperature of the air entering the indoor coil. In our example, the wet bulb measurement is 63 degrees F.

Plotting the 63 degree wet bulb reading at the inlet of the indoor coil along with the 90 degree outdoor ambient reading shows the pressure of 73 PSIG to be within the manufacturer’s guidelines of a minimum of 72 PSIG and a maximum of 78 PSIG (75 PSIG recommended)

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A manufacturer’s superheat chart is used to confirm the proper superheat.

The references on this chart show that the 7 degrees of superheat calculated when the suction pressure converted to a temperature was subtracted from the vapor line temperature measured, is within operating guidelines.

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A refrigeration system in a heat pump operating in the heating mode can also be evaluated using manufacturer’s charging charts. This performance chart is for evaluating the high pressure side of the system on a high-efficiency R410A heat pump operating in the heating mode.

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This chart provides information on what the performance of the refrigeration system should be on the low pressure side when a high efficiency R 410A heat pump is operating in the heating mode.

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When evaluating a system that uses a Thermostatic Expansion Valve as the metering device, the superheat method used for fixed bore metering devices can’t be used. An effective way of checking this type of system is by checking the subcooling.

In a typical refrigeration system it is common to find a subcooling of 10 to 20 degrees. If a system evaluation shows a higher subcooling over 20 degrees, the unit is overcharged, and the bottom passes of the condenser are acting as a large subcooling area.

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TROUBLESHOOTING AND DIAGNOSIS When troubleshooting refrigeration systems, factors outside the sealed system can be responsible for abnormal operating pressures.

From a strictly refrigeration system problem perspective, there are some fundamental rules that can be applied to a system that isn’t operating properly: ….A higher-than-normal high side and higher-than-normal low side means and overcharge. ….A lower-than-normal high side and lower-than-normal low side means an undercharge. ….A lower-than-normal low side and higher-than-normal high side means a restricted system. ….A higher-than-normal high side and near normal low side means non-condensables in the system.

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….A higher-than-normal low side and lower-than-normal high side means an inefficient compressor (suction or discharge valve failure). To test for a failed discharge valve in the compressor that is equipped with both a high and low pressure multi-position access valves: ….With the system operating, attach gauges and close (front-seat) the suction valve. ….Allow the system to pull down toward 0 PSIG on the low side gauge. ….Begin to close (front-seat) the discharge valve, but don’t close it all the way until you reach 0 PSIG on the low side gauge. ….Disconnect the power supply while simultaneously totally closing the discharge valve. If a rise in the low side pressure and drop in the high side pressure is noted, the discharge valves on the compressor are leaking.

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